It is the first time that a software developer in Japan has been held responsible for the illegal activities of others.
Isamu Kaneko, a 36 year-old former teaching assistant at the University of Tokyo’s graduate school, was ordered by the court to pay a 1.5-million-yen ($12,500 USD)fine.
Following the court’s decision he commented that “I regret, more than anything else, that the verdict could cause Japanese software engineers to fear accusations of possibly assisting (in criminal activities) and prevent them from developing useful technologies.”
Apparently prosecutors had sought a one-year prison term for Kaneko, which seems odd considering the relative leniency of Japanese prosecutors in comparison to their law and order counterparts here in the U.S..
In his judgment of a fine versus jail time, the Presiding Judge, Makoto Himuro, noted that “The defendant cannot be exonerated from criticism for continuing to provide the Winny program despite being aware of the risk that copyright holders’ profits would be damaged but, he did not intentionally bring about the state of copyright infringement, and did not gain any economic benefit.”
Previously, 2 men were each given suspended 1 year prison terms for allowing Winny users to download copyrighted material from their PCs.
Prosecutors tried to argue that “… Kaneko’s motive was to destroy the foundation of the current system of copyright protection, citing comments Kaneko posted on his site andother Internet pages.”
This case makes for an interesting disparity between Japanese and United States copyright laws as no creator of P2P file-sharing software has faced jail time for allegedly seeking to “destroy the foundation” of copyright protection. Fines yes but, jail no.