Ridwan Khan

Publication Date

Winter 2012

Document Type


First Page



In 2011, Japan’s Supreme Court decided its first contributory infringement peer-to-peer case, involving Isamu Kaneko and his popular file-sharing program, Winny. This program was used in Japan to distribute many copyrighted works, including movies, video games, and music. At the district court level, Kaneko was found guilty of contributory infringement, fined 1.5 million yen, and sentenced to one year in prison. However, the Osaka High Court reversed the district court and found for Kaneko. The High Court decision was then affirmed by the Supreme Court, which settled on a contributory infringement standard based on fault, similar to the standard announced by the United States Supreme Court in MGM Studios v. Grokster, though the two situations differ in many key respects. This article examines the Japanese decision through the lens of the U.S. regime developed in Grokster and Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. This article also explores a common complaint of those who oppose broad copyright rules: the idea that contributory infringement judgments and litigation hamper technological innovation. While critics note that the Winny litigation has had a chilling effect on Japanese Internet and software development, it is likely that Japan’s Internet “lag” can be attributed to other factors.

Included in

Law Commons