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Police on Tuesday raided the office of a Japanese professor who was arrested a day earlier on copyright-related charges for developing and offering software that allows people to swap movies and video games. Detectives searched the office of Isamu Kaneko, a 33-year-old assistant professor at the prestigious University of Tokyo, and left with two boxes of documents and other evidence, a university spokesman said on condition of anonymity. Kyoto prefectural (state) police, who arrested Kaneko on Monday, refused to comment. Kaneko’s case has attracted headlines here as the first arrest in Japan of a suspected developer of file-sharing software. It has also sparked debate over protecting intellectual property rights amid widespread Internet piracy around the world. Winny, the software Kaneko developed in 2002, has become a headache for movie and software makers in Japan, and the industry has been lobbying police to rein in suspected copyright infringement for months. The rise of free file-sharing networks on the Internet over the past several years has made it easy for millions of individuals to distribute music, movies and software worldwide. The recording industry last year began a wave of lawsuits against file-sharers in the United States. Kaneko, who taught software development, was an outspoken advocate of Internet file-sharing. His software was popular, partly because of its claim that it protected users’ anonymity, attracting as many as a million users here, according to Japanese media reports. Winny was even being used by police officers. That came to light earlier this year when police files at some departments such as wanted lists and crime reports were leaked to the Internet after some officers’ computers were affected by a virus called Antinny that only targeted machines on which Winny was installed. In March, a warning was issued to police departments across the nation for officers not to link any personal computers used on the job to the Internet, according to police. “For the countless people who have been using this software to enjoy movies and games, this arrest is not something to be shrugged off easily,” an editorial in the Asahi newspaper said Tuesday. “Exchanging works with copyright is against the law. Let’s be careful.” If convicted of violating copyright laws, Kaneko faces up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 3 million yen (U.S. $27,000). On Tuesday, the University of Tokyo denied responsibility for the software’s development. In a statement, it said Winny was something Kaneko created personally, and that other professors did not work on it. The university set up a team of six professors to carry out an internal investigation, it said. There have been a small number of arrests in the past of people accused of using software like Winny to copy films, games and other content, but it is unusual for a software developer to be arrested. Police say Kaneko is accused of helping two Japanese men arrested in November on charges of using Winny to disseminate movies and games on the Internet. “If someone illegally copies a book, magazine or other copyrighted work on a copying machine, does it mean the maker of the machine violated copyright?” asked an editorial Tuesday in the nationally circulated Mainichi newspaper. “It is questionable whether the social potential of a new technology should be assessed by the vested interests of today.” Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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