In many countries, police and anti-piracy agencies are combining forces to target people who pre-release media onto the Internet. Those that put music or movies onto the Internet before their official release dates are treated much more harshly than regular file-sharers, as the music and movie industries claim they are more damaging than those who leak media later on in the product’s life-cycle. We have seen how harshly the pre-releasers at EliteTorrents were treated by the US legal system, and the UK music industry is lining up people who pre-released music on OiNK.
Now it is the turn of Japan to target a pre-releaser, this time of the movie ‘Wanted‘. The movie, starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie, was released early September in the United States and Europe, but won’t enjoy an official Japanese release until Saturday. The movie is, of course, already available for download on P2P networks in its native English, but thanks to the work of Kazushi Hirata, a 33 year-old from the city of Sendai, the movie is also available with Japanese subtitles.
According to the authorities, after adding his own home-made subtitles to an already-released pirate version of the movie, Hirata uploaded it onto the Winny network, which is hugely popular in Japan. Hirata was tracked down on Thursday by the Kyoto Prefectural Police, who were also responsible for the 2004 arrest of Isamu Kaneko, the creator of the Winny software.
The arrest of Mr Hirata is believed to be the first in Japan relating to the uploading of a pre-release movie. According to a report, he faces up to 10 years in jail and a $95,000 fine.
The Winny network has always been touted as anonymous, and indeed functions on this level to a degree. The police were unable to crack the encryption used by the file-sharing part of the software, however, they did manage to exploit a loophole to identify certain users. Winny’s forum feature fails to protect the anonymity of people who start discussion threads. In the past the police have searched for copyright material in such threads and recorded the IP address of the poster. By initiating a file-transfer but denying connections from all IP addresses apart from the suspected infringer, when someone started to upload to them they knew that the original poster was sharing the illicit material.