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Japan to stiffen penalties for leaks

TOKYO -- Japan will impose tougher penalties for leaking company data to better protect proprietary technologies and corporate secrets, subjecting even failed attempts to criminal prosecution.

     Under the proposal, traces of attempts to steal information by sending email with virus-infected attachments or logging on to personal computers containing confidential data would be sufficient. Current law requires evidence of misuse of information to punish offenders.

     Maximum fines for individuals would rise to 50 million yen ($419,850) from the current 10 million yen. For corporate offenders, the maximum would double to 600 million yen.

     Offenders who leak information outside Japan would be imprisoned for up to 15 years. The maximum sentence in other cases will remain 10 years.

     In addition to primary and secondary offenders -- the parties who originally stole the information and those who initially received it from them -- those three levels down the chain would also be punished.

     Stolen customer information was passed down six levels from the primary offender in the case of correspondence education services provider Benesse. And in an ongoing lawsuit by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal over the theft of information on production techniques for special steel, data had reached three levels down from the primary offender.

     The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to propose regulatory revisions to the ordinary Diet session next year, aiming for implementation in fiscal 2016.


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