Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

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 Japan
Immediate 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, starts supporting activity ( CPSR Japan chapter (CPSR/Japan) has been supported 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)

-- Comment by Isamu Kaneko December 13, 2006 (Originally in Japanese, available at )

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.



This is like arresting the manufacturer of a knife because the person who purchased the knife used it to commit a murder.

they might find, even, youtube illegal in Japan.

Agreed. Otherwise, Blizzard engineers should be arrested for causing job losses and divorces.

1) sad, but not surprising
2) Japanese law means nothing worldwide.
3) Japan is ruled by law, not a nation of laws. Thus these rulings come as no surprise.

Obviously Kaneko could not bribe all the vested interests enough on his own. Thus we have problems like this.

Reminds me of the video I saw of the Livedoor CEO being interviewed on Japanese TV. He insisted that the prosecutors had cajoled his colleagues into testifying to things that didn't ever happen in order to get off easy.

Law in Japan is old, but justice is still in its infancy. It appears to many that Japanese courts sometimes care more about enforcing social harmony than enforcing the rule of law... However, times and people are changing. New lawyers and new ideas will hopefully start pushing back against bad decisions.

I blogged this before but the conviction rate in Japanese courts is 99%.

This sounds like legal harrassment. I mean, you don't see the Japanese courts holding Microsoft accountable for software piracy, copyright violation, pornography or hacking because their software enables people to commit these crimes.

I'm sure a large part of the argument is intent--Microsoft doesn't produce software whose primary purpose or intent is to commit any of those crimes. But, the same can be said of P2P filesharing software--the most common use is not necessarily the primary intended purpose.

Ugh. The world has consistently been ruined by lawyers.

I have to disagree with Shiobara on that last point. Lawyers are the ones, at least under common law systems, who help to improve the law when it has problems.

It's not most 'lawyers' in Japan who are doing this anyway - it's the government (although the prosecutors are lawyers).

If the law is unjust, it needs to be fixed, and lawyers are the ones that help to argue those points.

As i see it P2P file-sharing is still ok. But i`m sure we got a global problem in case of worldwide trade and sharing. In differet countrys we got different lawyers and rigths so its hard to stick that.