Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Today, an associate professor at the most prestigious university in Japan, Tokyo University was arrested today for developing a tool that enables piracy. The program is a P2P system cally Winny. Previously two of the users had been arrested. I got a call from Asahi Shimbun (Japanese newspaper) today asking me for a comment for the morning news tomorrow. I hope the print it. I think it's an absolute disgrace to Japan. While the US is fighting in congress, Hollywood pushing to ban P2P and Boucher et al are fighting for DMCRA, Japanese police go and arrest someone developing P2P software with a VERY sketchy case. The thing is, it's quite likely he will be found guilty.

I once served as an expert witness on the FLMASK case. FLMASK was a program that could be used to allow password protected scrambling of areas of an image so that porn sites could post pictures that passed the Japanese censors, but allowed users to unscramble them. The police were so upset that they cracked down on the hardcore porn sites with the argument that even with FLMASK'ed "clean" images, they would be deemed hardcore. The problem was, this left the developer of FLMASK free from claims that his software enabled anything illegal. So they busted him for LINKING to these porn sites that got busted as users of his software. They deemed linking to a porn site as the same as actually running a porn site. I was the chairman of Infoseek Japan at the time so I obviously had a lot to say about that. The amazing thing is... after overwhelming evidence of the stupidity of the allegations, the guy was found guilty.

Anyway, Japan is yet again leading the world in stupid Internet policing.

more on slashdot


So what you're saying is, I should strik Japan from the list of countries that may be more fun to live in? :-/

No, don't do that. Even stupid places can be fun to live in. And, frankly, most places are run by idiots. But this is shockingly stupid. Then again, we're talking about a government run by people who had the brass to simply not pay their national pension premiums for years while they ran the system into bankruptcy. Then again, again I just received a "So what?" in response when I tried to explain why I choked as I read thi blog entrys. So, that's how the idiots get to run the show.

I'm the one who posted it to /., nice to hear joi's opinion on it. While I think the Winny author was a bit reckless in his words, since I'm making a network software and distributing it on the net, I'm taken aback by this news alot. It's very strange feeling indeed that I'm in such a cruel country. I really hope people outside of Japan help us to clear this gloomy situation.

We were one of Infoseeks competitors. I remember flmask very well: all of a suddenly this very strange word had jumped to the top of the top search word list. Nobody of staff knew what it means. Then somebody just thought to search for it: we discovered what it was.

From boingboing it got this quote:

Mr Isamu Kaneko, a 33-year-old assistant professor at the prestigious University of Tokyo, was arrested on suspicion of developing and offering free downloads on his Web site file-sharing software called Winny, Kyoto Prefectural (state) police said on condition of anonymity.

I find it interesting that the police can claim anonymity but not the public.

I wonder why the Kyoto prefectural police is arresting a Tokyo University assistant professor, instead of referring the case to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Agency. The two cities are about 400Kms apart...

Could this affair be a vendetta by the Kyoto police corps, who have been embarassed and shamed recently and might thus hold a grudge against Winny's author ? One Kyoto policeman is rumored to have inadvertently disclosed some confidential investigation material by running Winny on his laptop computer...

I don't think the professor should have been arrested, but allow me to play the devil's advocate.

Wasn't Kaneko developing software that he knew would be used for illegal purposes? I know the legal issues surrounding P2P are very "sketchy", as Joi said. But intent or no, the professor couldn't have been blind to the fact that he was opening up a can of worms.

Mike B.: Wasn't Kaneko developing software that he knew would be used for illegal purposes? I know the legal issues surrounding P2P are very "sketchy", as Joi said. But intent or no, the professor couldn't have been blind to the fact that he was opening up a can of worms.

Yes, it will be major point in his trial... but software code is, in some way, something like a book. You can associate it with DVD decryptor software, the DeCSS case. DeCSS code was so short, open and nothing but human-readable math operation, that everyone complained about the news of the arrest of the DeCSS author (later he was freed). As Winny is not open-sourced, you may argue Winny is a black-boxed device or a machine and the author is liable for it, but compared to the fact that because of freedom of speech you are not arrested by publishing how to make a bomb, I feel it's excess that arresting someone who published knowledge on the net not by a specific law to punish such act but with generic penalty in the copyright law.

I just checked Asahi Shinbun. They do print a comment by you, however not that about a "disgrace to Japan" or "leading the world in stupid Internet policing."

You are quoted as saying (my translation): More and more amateurs are using computers to produce music or pictures. If they want to show their works to many people, this kind of technology is effective. Technology can be used for good or for bad purposes."

Well, better that than nothing I guess. ;-) Thanks Karl-Friedrich!

I also folloow the story on my blog in french about law, P2P and so on.

This arrestation is a huge stepback for the development of internet as a whole and it is a strong indication that the copyright policy is on the merge of a strong change today : a real war between copyright's owner and the public!

BTW, it's important to note (at least for those in Japan) that it was the Kyoto police. In the FLMASK case, it as Osaka. I spoke to police in Tokyo who were quite embarassed about the FLMASK case and said that they would not have taken that approach in Tokyo. The different districts have widely different levels of technical understanding. This doesn't make it any worse, but just a note. It all comes from a sort of "he's bad, let's git 'em" attitude of policing in Japan. Very little due process or respect for the technicalities of the law and much more about "is he good or bad"/"let's punish him if he's bad" atttitude.

This case is incredibly important to me. Just now, in Europe, we are translating several european directives that could lead to exactly the same effect : to sue people who do and exchange fair use copies, to forbid indenpendant developpers to go on developping softwares compatible with commercial systems, to use technologies to control people.

As a scholar, just last week, I worked on an appeal for the french constitutionnal court. The law to be enacted was called "law for confidence in a numerical environement" and the first article was about the constitutionnal right of liberty of communication that we inheritated from the 1789 Declaration of Human Rights (article 11). The new law states : "the liberty of electronical communication is a fondamental right that can only be limited by public considerations, national defense, blablabla... and THE INTEREST FOR MEDIA INDUSTRY TO DEVELOP THEIR INDUSTRY"...

Can you believe such a thing? We are now waiting to know how the constitutionnal court will decide about it but I really wonder how a democratically elected parliament can really vote such a thing!

Mentality are changing these days and what was considered normal recently is not any more.

Joi: It all comes from a sort of "he's bad, let's git 'em" attitude of policing in Japan. Very little due process or respect for the technicalities of the law and much more about "is he good or bad"/"let's punish him if he's bad" atttitude.

It can be a mean, ugly world and we ask the police to wade hip-deep in it. For that, we owe them greatly. However, I have noticed this good-guy/bad-guy mentality in cops here in the US as well. This over-simplified view troubles me deeply since the police need to think on their feet and occasionaly make life and death decisions. Medical doctors share a similar responsibility, but they are generally capable of construing fine shades of meaning.

If the Kyoto police arrested a man on technical grounds whose particulars they didn't fully understand, could they be liable to criminal charges themselves?

Mike. Japan has a very archaic court system based on civil law (don't know if this is the right word) instead of common law. We don't have juries and judges are bureaucrats and public prosecutors are also bureaucrats. Their judgements are very important for their careers and they rarely rule against the government. I am currently suing the Japanese tax office for over-charging me on my taxes and they had the balls to tell one of the accountants "don't you know you can't win against the government?" The tax office is breaking a bunch of laws by trying to interview a bunch of my business associates during the trial. Over 95% of criminals are found guilty when tried. It was only a little while ago that the prosecutor used to sit next to the judge facing the defendant instead of on the side as a participant. I distinctly remember during the FLMASK case, looking at the junior judge and thinking how he was making a very political decision finding the guy guilty. I'll write more about the dysfunctional Japanese judiciary with more facts soon. ;-)

WOW. I had no idea about any of this.

I am currently suing the Japanese tax office for over-charging me on my taxes and they had the balls to tell one of the accountants "don't you know you can't win against the government?"

Holy s#!+. I can't begin to imagine the amount of frustration that might have caused, but I'm glad to see it really just added fuel to the fire! Good luck with your suit. Sounds like it could even be precedent setting.

These 2 links develop the problems of the japanese legal system. As I worked in Japan as a patent attorney and as I used to know a lot of junior lawyers and judges there, I completely share Joi's point of view!

But I am even more pessimistic than he is. The french system may be bad but french students and judges are aware of it even if politics are not. Japanese judges and students are not at all : they are PROUD of their system because, as bengoshi or judges they had to pass a very difficult selection after university. Then, people tend to respect them much more than what they really deserve.

I perfectly know the way people look at you in Japan when you tell them that you are a lawyer! The power of this diploma is absolutely amazing and it completely annihilate any self-criticism sense they could had.

I don't even need to add that most lawyers and judges come from todai, chuo or keio... too many children from rich, powerful and self-loving families don't make good judges and lawyers!

911 in the US gave many governments the go ahead to run riot with thier Anti-Terrorism laws as well as trying to kerb internet rites.

In Australia we have a government telling us that thay have the rite to strip search and detain for interogation any person that they 'suspected' of asssociation with suspected terrorists with powers to the police even greater that the US and this just slipped in without any comment or resistance.

Now we have anti spam laws that stop Australian business emailing other Aus businesses but does nothing about all spam coming in from overseas.

Another case of big business telling the government that their business will suffer if spam is allowed to continue.

What happened to our history of giving the small guys a chance?!

nice approach we are apprciating and want to link this with our flower site :

Winny is a Japanese peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing program which was made as a poor imitation of Freenet network and which claimed to keep user identities untraceable not for freedom of speech but for hiding crime. The developer of Winny had never said about freedom of speech.

The software takes its name from WinMX, where the M and the X are raised one letter in the Latin alphabet, to N and Y. As of September 2003, there were 250,000 users of the program according to the Tokyo-based Association of Copyright for Computer Software. According to P2Pnet, it is the most popular file-sharing program in Japan, with eDonkey and WinMX in second and third place respectively.

The software was developed by Isamu Kaneko, who is a research assistant in graduate course of computer engineering at the University of Tokyo in Japan. Kaneko originally anonymously announced his intent of developing the software on the popular 2ch Japanese bulletin board site, but this board named 'Download Software BBS' was filled with many copyright violation criminal users. As one of 2ch's cultures include referring to anonymous posters by their post number, Kaneko became to be known as "Mr. 47" ("47-Shi", or 47氏 in Japanese), or just "47".

On November 28, 2003, two Japanese users of Winny, Katsuhiko Kimoto, a 41 year-old self-employed businessman from Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, and an unemployed 19-year-old from Matsuyama, were arrested. They were accused of sharing copyrighted material via Winny and admitted to their crimes. The police tracked the users via Winny's transfer,since the cipher for anonymity was decoded.

The police searched home of Kaneko and his university, because he had also developed and experimented about Winny at university. On May 10, 2004, Kaneko was arrested for aiding and abetting copyright law violation for arrested two Japanese users of Winny of many copyright violation criminal users in 'Download Software BBS' by the High-tech Crime taskforce of the Kyoto Prefectural Police.

His developing of Winny at the criminal board is main reason for having be regarded as aiding and abetting copyright law violation. This police act doesn't mean general developer's crisis. The developers of other P2P of Japan aren't accused by any crime. They released their P2P software on general website, but Kaneko released Winny at the criminal board of copyright law violation.

I don't think the professor should have been arrested either. Anyway it's an invention, an achievement in science, and we should try to control its use in society but not arrest the professor. Who knows, perhaps it will be the base for a greater invention.

If my memories serves me right, there's a function in a peice of sound editing software called Sound Forge that lets users rip tracks off their CDs and convert them into MP3 files, which can invariably end up in the upload folder of someone's P2P software. And guess who publishes this software> Sony.

Now if that someone's arrested for illegally distributing MP3 song files, what would happen if he testifies that he made all those MP3s using this software? Sue Sony as well, perhaps... (yeah right, fat chance).

At the end of the day, guess it's not whether you dvelop software technology that might help others infringe on copyright that matters. Rather, it's whether you the developer has the money and clout to cover your rear that decides if you've broken the law or not.

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Scary. Just saw on the TV (NHK) arresting of the japanese professor, for him work on P2P software (Winny). From Freenet pages: Freenet is free software which lets you publish and obtain information on the Internet without fear of censorship. Use... Read More

Slashdot has the story: The Japanese police has arrested a scientist for the crime of developing a computer program called Winny. Read More

ウィニー開発者を著作権法違反の幇助容疑で逮捕。What is this? The Soviet Union? - Developer of Japanese P2P system arrested - 東大 P2P 軟體作者遭警方逮捕 - Winny P2P Software Creator Arrested - どこまで問えるソ Read More