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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Japan's 'digital shoplifting' plague

By Quentin Sommerville
BBC correspondent in Tokyo

Japanese bookstores are set to launch a national campaign to stop so-called "digital shoplifting" by customers using the lastest camera-equipped mobile phones.

The Japanese Magazine Publishers Association says the practice is "information theft" and it wants it stopped.

It is the kind of thing that most Japanese young women wouldn't think twice about doing.

NTT DoCoMos employees demonstrate the 3G cell phone
The Japanese use their phones for much more than just calling

They might spot a new hairstyle or a new dress in a glossy fashion magazine and they want to know what their friends think - so they take a quick snap with their mobile phone camera and send everybody a picture.

But the publishers of those magazines feel they are being cheated out of valuable sales.

Together with Japan's phone companies, they are issuing stern posters which warn shoppers to be careful of their "magazine manners".

Wide-ranging role

People in Japan use their mobile phones to do much more than talk.

When international footballer David Beckam arrived recently at Tokyo's Narita airport, his thousands of screaming fans captured the moment with their mobile phones.

And only this weekend, newspaper ads warned phone users to avoid walking and writing emails at the same time.

But the success of this new campaign is open to question.

Japan's bookshop owners have already said their staff cannot tell the difference between customers taking pictures and those simply chatting on their phones.

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