Winny creator denies abetting piracy


The creator of a program for anonymous file-sharing over the Internet pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday to charges that he developed the software knowing it would facilitate Net piracy.

Isamu Kaneko, 34, who developed the Winny peer-to-peer file-sharing program, is the first person in Japan to stand trial for creating software that can be used for the unauthorized reproduction of movies and video games over the Internet.

“The development and release of Winny was a technological experiment, and I had no intention of abetting copyright violations. I will fight to win an acquittal,” Kaneko told the Kyoto District Court.

“I believe I am innocent.”

Kaneko, an assistant at the University of Tokyo graduate school, allegedly said on a popular Net bulletin board that he would develop a program to allow users to trade files anonymously, possibly making it hard for authorities to track them down, a month before he made the program available on his Web site in May 2002.

Prosecutors said two computer users — a store employee in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, and a boy from the city of Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture — used Winny to provide copyrighted materials, including movies and video games, to other users for free upload off the Internet last September.

Winny allows users to swap files without revealing their IP addresses, which identify the locations of their computers on the Internet.

Commercial software makers and copyright protection organizations have said Winny is a tool for illegally reproducing software.

Prosecutors said Kaneko was fully aware he had developed a program to enable Internet piracy, quoting an e-mail that he allegedly sent to his family after releasing Winny in which he reportedly said, “software that can be put to wrongful use spreads without an advertisement.”

They also charge that Kaneko himself used Winny to reproduce large numbers of copyrighted materials, including animated films, and store them on his personal computer.

But his lawyers have argued that punishing Winny’s creator would infringe on the freedom of expression.

Kaneko’s counsel told the court that prosecutors failed to specify how their client helped the two computer users violate copyrights.

They also described Kaneko as a computer programmer with a “world-class brain” and argued that prosecuting him for developing Winny would discourage software development in Japan and encourage programmers to go overseas to pursue their careers.