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Japanese Ruling Against Winny Dev Overturned On Appeal 82

Posted by timothy
from the pass-some-of-that-wisdom dept.
Joren writes "In Japan, in a case that has been five years running, the Osaka High Court on Thursday overturned a lower court ruling that had convicted and fined the developer of controversial file-sharing software Winny of assisting violations of the Copyright Law. Originally charged in 2004, Isamu Kaneko, 39, a former research assistant at the University of Tokyo, was declared not guilty, and will not be required to pay a 1.5 million yen fine levied by a December 2006 Kyoto District Court ruling. 'Merely being aware of the possibility that the software could be abused does not constitute a crime of aiding violations of the law, and the court cannot accept that the defendant supplied the software solely to be used for copyright violations,' presiding judge Masazo Ogura said. Furthermore, in siding with the defense, the appeal ruling stated that 'Anonymity is not something to be looked on as illegal, and it is not something that applies specifically to copyright violations. The technical value of the software is neutral.'"
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Japanese Ruling Against Winny Dev Overturned On Appeal

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  • FYI (Score:5, Informative)

    by TiredGamer (564844) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:58PM (#29688601)

    1,500,000 yen is about equal to $16,000 US.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by clandonald (1652847)
      How many windows were broken?
    • What astounds me is how this even happens. "You made something that could be used to break the law." Yeah, and so do Smith and Wesson etc...

      Of course the odds of winning a case in court against one of the gun makers is nil, though I'm amazed nobody has apparently made that defense.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by VolciMaster (821873)
        Umm... they have. Have you not seen the Mayors group, Bloomberg, etc that have tried suign gunmakers for crimes committed with their devices?

        Cars can be used to kill people. And knives. And airplanes. And bombs - shoot, those are supposed kill people, and yet no one ever sues Picatinny because their munitions wiped out a bad guy.

    • by icebike (68054) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @11:10PM (#29688931)

      1,500,000 yen is about equal to $16,000 US.

      Or in this case, zero.

      Seriously, this represents a fairly substantial judicial bitch-slap of the lower court. The ruling not only rebukes the plaintiff but also the court that bought their theory.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo (196126)

        He probably would not have had to pay anyway. In the Japanese legal system to bring a civial case against someone you have to claim monetary damages. Often plaintiffs specify an amount but have no intention of collecting it, they want some other specific remedy such as having a webpage taken down or to stop the defendant doing something.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 08, 2009 @10:09PM (#29688659)

    I first read this as "Japanese Ruling Against Whiny Dev Overturned On Appeal" and immediately thought "well no wonder they ruled against him. Damn I hate whiny people!

    • I read it the same way, but unlike you I thought the whining came after the initial judgment against him and the new judge overturned it so the guy would shut up.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by macraig (621737)

      "Damn I hate whiny people!"

      Put the cork back in and stop the flow of whine, will ya? Somewhere there's an empty bottle missing its whine....

  • I'm somewhat confused. The ruling was in 2006? Why are we hearing about this now?

    Am I misunderstanding the part that says: "will not be required to pay a 1.5 million yen fine levied by a December 2006 Kyoto District Court ruling."?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The original conviction was in 2006, and it was then taken to the High Court which has only just overturned it.

    • Re:2006? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sodakar (205398) * on Thursday October 08, 2009 @10:30PM (#29688749)

      As the article on Slashdot indicates, the 2006 ruling was overturned recently, which is why it's news.

      You can google for more info, but many articles fail to convey how incredibly popular this program was in Japan. In 2006, it was reported that 1 in 3 computers had this program installed. Add that to the fact that most folks in Japan had very fast Broadband speeds even in 2006, you can imagine the amount of files that exchanged hands.

      I'm glad to see that the correct ruling has been made, finally...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by macshit (157376)

      I'm somewhat confused. The ruling was in 2006? Why are we hearing about this now?

      It seems obvious: the original ruling was in 2006, the appeals-court ruling is recent.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Viper23 (172755)

      It got overturned now.

      Before it was just part of the usual corporate shenanigans. Now, we might very well be witnessing one of the first signs of sanity amongst the human species since the invention of the internets.

    • by godrik (1287354)
      The original rulling was in 2006 but the appeal is recent (the japanese news is from october 08).
  • Criminal vs Civil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @10:31PM (#29688757)

    This is the criminal case. Anywhere else where there is a P2P related case, they are usually civil, like a record label suing for damages. Only in Japan would the cops take you away in cuffs based on a tip from Sony Records. Well, maybe apart from if you were selling pirated DVDs on Hollywood Blvd...

    Of course, this is truly absurd. If he was found guilty, they might as well arrest the inventor of every device that allows data to transfer while retaining the original. Copiers, recorders, VCRs, CDRs, DVDs... They have all been extensively utilized for criminally liable copyright infringing behavior, and surely the inventors would have had a slight clue about their use cases.

    • I am not sure whether piracy is a criminal offense or not in Japan, but I do know that if you go to watch a movie in Tokyo, you almost always get the advertisement on piracy before movie starts. In the ad, a guy with a video camera for his head is sitting in a movie hall, and shooting the movie. Few shots later, police comes in and shoots the camera-head guy; blood is splashed on the screen.
      • That is the most awesome anti-piracy ad I have ever heard of... I mean, of course it's excessive, but at least it's interesting and attention grabbing, and not a bunch of lawyer-speak by high school students, and is entertaining it its own rite...
      • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:09AM (#29689161)

        Well then the pirates should add a counter ads to their pirated copies, mocking the original (like they already do with the MPAA ads in some torrents in the West). I see it something like this: The camera guy starts shooting, the cops bust in with guns drawn, the camera guy's lens flips up and a rocket launcher engages the cops, who back out, return with a tank, at which point the camera guy extends an antena and calls Gojira, the cops call Mothra, Tokyo gets flattened ... you get the idea ...

        In fact, who needs the movie they were pirating?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Joren (312641)
        Here it is [youtube.com]

        ...there doesn't seem to be a gunshot or a blood splatter though.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Joren (312641)

          Here it is [youtube.com] ...there doesn't seem to be a gunshot or a blood splatter though.

          ...and here's a rough translation. IANFIJ (I am not fluent in Japanese). Furthermore, it seems Slashdot is going to mangle the Japanese transcript. Also, I'm skipping the last screen at the end.

          / /
          In a theater, taking pictures of or recording a movie is a crime.
          / /
          By law, jail time of up to ten years, fines of up to 10,000,000 yen ($113,050), or both are handed down.
          / / /
          If you see suspicious behavior, please notify the theater staff. [We will] report to the police immediately.
          NO / MO

      • by reiisi (1211052) on Friday October 09, 2009 @01:40AM (#29689499) Homepage

        Just read about it in the newspaper. (Daily Yomiuri [yomiuri.co.jp], for me.)

        Unfortunately, the on-line version leaves off a few things.

        For instance, Kaneko's lawyer's pointed out that auto manufacturers would not "be punished if speeding became rampant." (Reported in the print news.)

        Also, the on-line version doesn't mention that, "A revised Copyright Law that prohibits users from downloading such peer-to-peer file sharing software will come into force in January." (The last line of the print article.)

        • by Joren (312641) on Friday October 09, 2009 @02:45AM (#29689763) Homepage

          Just read about it in the newspaper. (Daily Yomiuri [yomiuri.co.jp], for me.)

          Unfortunately, the on-line version leaves off a few things.

          For instance, Kaneko's lawyer's pointed out that auto manufacturers would not "be punished if speeding became rampant." (Reported in the print news.)

          Also, the on-line version doesn't mention that, "A revised Copyright Law that prohibits users from downloading such peer-to-peer file sharing software will come into force in January." (The last line of the print article.)

          I think the print version of the Yomiuri may have been slightly off on that point... the sources I have seem to say the law is dealing with copyrighted works, not programs that can be used to download them. Copyright act amended [managingip.com]

          Japan Strengthens Copyright Law [billboard.biz] Basically, the new legal ground seems to be that downloading works protected by copyright without permission is now officially a crime, but they have to prove the defendent knew the file was not distributed legally. Up until now, prosecution has been mostly (if not completely?) uploaders. Nothing is being said about downloading the software itself.

          If you want it from the original source, and you can read Japanese, this link has the text of the bill itself in PDF format. [mext.go.jp] I have not translated it so I can't verify whether the English news sources are correct in their interpretation or not.

          • thanks for the links (Score:3, Informative)

            by reiisi (1211052)

            Read the outline and looked at the other five PDFs. It appears that, in addition to the outline (1251916_1_3), we have a statement of goals (1251916_2_3), a summary of changes (1251916_3_3), a statement of reasoning (1251916_4_3), a side-by-side comparison (1251916_5_3) (in vertical text, hey), and a copy of the affect elements of the current law (1251916_6_1) (not real sure about the last one).

            I've read the outline. The rest of this is going to take a little time to digest (80 pages).

            The outline, at any ra

        • "A revised Copyright Law that prohibits users from downloading such peer-to-peer file sharing software will come into force in January."

          I'm curious how they define the type(s) of software that are illegal. I don't need my door kicked in by federal marshalls executing an extradition order because an FTP client I downloaded happened to come from a Japanese server...

        • Hmm... most of the Linux distros have some or other p2p software installed. Will downloading fedora or debian become illegal in Japan after jan? Btw, does the law make distributing them on a CD illegal? :)
          • by reiisi (1211052)

            I'm hoping to have some time to read the links joren posted, so I can analyze the situation properly.

            It looks like there is specific legal language forbidding setting up a manufacturing process to illegally replicate copyrighted works, and this law would explicitly extend that to the internet and to digital copying without specific media.

            Many people assume that it is obvious that file sharing programs must be nothing more than an effective manufacturing process for materials that (under current law) are now

      • by ag0ny (59629)

        ...few shots later, police comes in and shoots the camera-head guy; blood is splashed on the screen.

        That is not true. Yes, the annoying camerahead guy appears on the screen doing silly mime-like gestures, then there come the police sirens and flashlights, but you can't actually see any police, and of course no shooting or blood are involved.

        Please don't repeat like a parrot everything you hear.

        • ...few shots later, police comes in and shoots the camera-head guy; blood is splashed on the screen.

          That is not true. Yes, the annoying camerahead guy appears on the screen doing silly mime-like gestures, then there come the police sirens and flashlights, but you can't actually see any police, and of course no shooting or blood are involved.

          Please don't repeat like a parrot everything you hear.

          It's the difference between the Japanese release, the Australian and finally the U.S. release.
          The Japanese release is how you describe.
          The Australian version shows the shooting and the blood but the blood disapears before hitting the floor and the wounds are magically sealed so nothing gruesome is shown.
          The American Version shows all the gory bits and blood hitting the floor however miracously other than the neck up there is no bare skin to be shown.

    • The difference of course being that the device that you list have abundant uses *other* criminally liable copyright infringing behavior. While P2P software reminds me of the brick of grape solids and sugars sold during prohibition with the label "warning, do not ferment, bottle, and age the product resulting from dissolving this item in water. Doing so will result in producing an illegal alcoholic beverage". ("Nudge, nudge, wink, wink" comes along decades later, but the manufacturers of the product would

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      This is the criminal case. Anywhere else where there is a P2P related case, they are usually civil, like a record label suing for damages. Only in Japan would the cops take you away in cuffs based on a tip from Sony Records.

      It is also interesting to note that, in Japan, the criminal conviction rate is 99.8%. [legalaffairs.org]

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        1. You are invited to the police station for a long chat.
        2. You sign a confession and the chat is over.
        3. The court looks over the paper work, reads the transcript of your chat and your sentenced.
        4. The prison guards have "official duties" (warning graphic)...
        http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070331a1.html [japantimes.co.jp]
      • It is also interesting to note that, in Japan, the criminal conviction rate is 99.8%.

        And as everyone knows, the 0.2% that are acquitted have Phoenix Wright as their attorney.

    • Japan is also a country where the cops can manipulate you into producing a confession, then hand you over to the courts with said confession, saying, "look, he admits guilt."

      Right to legal representation? Right not to self-incriminate? They're not the US, with their vaunted Bill of Rights.

      It's as if the rest of the world copied the democracy part of the US but missed the major reasons why the US declared independence in the first place.

  • It's about time people are held responsible for what their legitimate software does. I'm actually quite curious though. Does the judge really have sense, or is he tired of hearing about cases like this?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Winny was interesting as it was hard to trace.
      Not like the "log in real time" p2p ip and file name in plain text.
      Like with Skype and the German gov, someone may have found a way in?
      Did a contracted gov developer find the hole?
      Was a deal done?
      All the chat about MS developer tools, gov tracking and the source code- stops?
      Like this Winny becomes p2p history rather than a tech cause celeb in court.
  • Impressive! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by plastbox (1577037)

    First, let me just say: YATTA! [youtube.com]. With that out of my system.. I, for one, am impressed by this turn of events! Was this appeal processed high enough in the Japanese court system to set precedence for similar cases in the future?

    It doesn't really come as a surprise that this crap isn't considered passable in Japan though. Don't the Japanese people generally pride themselves in being sensible, logic folk? They have the worlds strongest work morale, longest life expectancy and best quality of life for the elder

    • by Joren (312641)
      Sorry for OT. I wanted to send a private message but I couldn't find out how to do that on Slashdot.

      Plastbox, your website is spewing out errors as fast as available bandwidth will let it, and I don't think you want to get billed for all that bandwidth. Here's a sample:
      .

      Warning: fsockopen() [function.fsockopen]: unable to connect to 81.191.94.248:10000 (Connection refused) in /var/www/org/plastbox/root/index.php on line 24 Warning: fwrite(): supplied argument is not a valid stream resource in /var/www

      • by plastbox (1577037)

        Ah, heh. There isn't really any content there at the moment. Just some remnants of an old silly php project. The script can't connect because I'm not running any software for it to connect to right now. Anyhow, thanks for the heads up, it's fixed now.

        And btw, I don't know where you live but I don't get billed based on bandwidth usage. ;)

  • Kudos to the high court.

    Chop sticks can feed people, or be poked in people's eyes. Chop sticks don't violate laws, people violate laws. Technology is neutral.
  • Since it fostered a community of covert P2P in Japan. Winny's successor, Share, and its successor, Perfect Dark, are both programs that use Freenet-like encryption and ensure anonymity of the user. IIRC the dev only posts new versions on Freenet and Share to begin with.

    While the encryption isn't perfect, it is much more secure than torrents; with Share or Perfect Dark you can't even reliably tell who uploaded or downloaded what and when.

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