Japan police arrest piracy suspect

Copyright association estimates 1.8 mil people used software

SYDNEY — Japanese police have arrested a Tokyo U. worker alleged to be the developer of file-sharing system Winny.

Police charged Isamu Kaneko, an assistant researcher, on Monday with copyright offenses. The Tokyo-based Assn. of Copyright for Computer Software estimates that as many as 1.8 million people have exchanged pirated movies, music and gaming software using the Winny system.

Japan’s National Police Agency established a cybercrime control division last month to strengthen measures against Internet-related crime.

“The Internet has become an incredibly important battleground in the fight against intellectual property theft and piracy,” said Mike Ellis, Motion Picture Assn. senior VP and regional director, Asia-Pacific. “The Winny system was designed to cloak user identities, allowing them to illegally share copyrighted files. However, the Japanese police have demonstrated that such users can be identified and prosecuted.”

The MPA estimates video piracy in Japan resulted in losses to copyright holders of $147 million in 2003, with 9% of all video sales believed to be pirated versions. The number of Japanese Internet piracy cases handled by the MPA tripled between 2002 and 2003.

Last March, a man was found guilty of illegally distributing game software on Winny and sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years. The MPA hailed that as the first successful prosecution for Internet-related copyright theft in the Asia-Pacific region.