People interested in copyright and P2P will have already seen the news but the developer of the P2P file-sharing software called Winny was arrested in Japan. A Japanese court recently found him guilty because his software "assists" people in committing crimes. This reminds me a bit of the FLMASK case where the developer of reversible "mosaic" was found guilty of operating a pornography business for linking to his pornography customers. (I testified as a expert witness back when I was chairman of Infoseek Japan.)
This time it is about copyright.
This trend of charging the developers of software for crimes of their users is very dangerous. While I'm not sure how important Japanese legal precedent is at a global level, if not checked, this trend will undermine the basic architecture of how we build software and the Internet.
CPSR JapanImmediate Release
Comment on Copyright violation assistance case Shinji R. Yamane, CPSR/Japan president December 17, 2006 version 1.1
[History] Mr. Isamu Kaneko was the first file-sharing software developer arrested in Japan. He developed and posted Winny, quasi-anonymous P2P file-sharing software(*) still runnung on more than 400,000 nodes today. He was claimed to 'assisted' two users who illegally uploaded copyrighted materials using Winny. As soon as Mr. Kaneko arrested, FreeKaneko.com starts supporting activity (http://www.freekaneko.com/en/index.html). CPSR Japan chapter (CPSR/Japan) has been supported FreeKaneko.com and its successor, Lesgue for Software Engineers (LSE).
[Problem] The judgement passed down on him was guilty. As the ruling statement will be published some days later after the judgement in Japanese criminal court and no recordings allowed, nobody has the ruling statement yet. So some commentators in news/blog talks uncertain information.
According to the ruling, Mr. Kaneko has no willing to support copyright violation and Winny is "significant" technology that can be applied to various uses and characterized "value-neutral." However, it became guilty by expanding the concept of "assist" in criminal law and Mr. Kaneko fined 1.5 million yen.
[Future concerns] As the court recognized that Mr. Kaneko is NOT malicious developer, Winny ruling shocks Japanese industry including hobbist programmers. The border of guilty and innocent software developer is not clear.
CPSR/Japan will also support and co-operate Mr. Kaneko and LSE. CPSR/Japan will held a chapter's conference in Tokyo to discuss the effect of Winny ruling on January 13 Saturday 2007.
* Research paper on Winny network contents is available in English: Tatsuo Tanaka Does file sharing reduce music CD sales?: A case of Japan Hitotsubashi University IIR WP#05-08 (2004/12/13) http://www.iir.hit-u.ac.jp/file/WP05-08tanaka.pdf
-- Comment by Isamu Kaneko December 13, 2006 (Originally in Japanese, available at http://danblog.cocolog-nifty.com/index/2006/12/post_2bee.html )
Today, I have been found guilty as an accessory to copyright violation. Winny's usefullness is somthing that will extend into the future. Therefore, I believe that it's true value will be recognized in the future. I am dissapointed with the present ruling.
I have repeatedly warned, "do not exchange illegal files" when releasing Winny. And I have repeatedly warned against illegal file exchanges in my commnets to 2-channel and other forums. I am not sure what more would be needed to further make my case.
My biggest concern about this ruling is the chilling effect that many software developers may shy away from developing useful technologies, fearing prosecution based on this vague possiblity of becoming an accessory. This saddens me the most. Times are changing, and we need to cope with that.
I am going to appeal this ruling, in order to raise awareness on the role of technology in these times.