Copyright Infringment + Fraud = BIG Trouble

Copyright Infringement leads to BIG trouble in Japan.
Fraud leads to BIG trouble in Japan.

Someone should have told this to music producer Tetsuya Komuro, who was not only able to combine these two evils together but magnify them to an enormous scale.

For those of you who do not know (probably all of you), Mr. Komuro is a former billionaire who made his riches from creating corny J-Pop songs that were popular in the 80's and 90's. However, the music scene changed and by 1998 his songs that used to sell millions of copies would only sell several thousands. He tried to expand his empire overseas to Paris, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong, but lost a lot of money on these enterprises, and by the mid-'00s he was so deep in debt that in order to borrow funds to maintain his operations and lavish lifestyle he had to put up with 60 percent interest rates.

Two years ago, his second wife was threatening legal action because of his failure to pay alimony and child support so he came up with the scheme to sell his music catalog to an investor. Although he wrote most of the songs he did not actually own them. This however did not stop him from trying to sell the rights to the songs (about 800) to an investor for 1 billion yen (about 10 million USD). The investor paid him up front 500 million yen (about 5 million USD) when he realized that Mr. Komuro didn't actually own the copyrights. They went to court and the judge ordered Mr. Komuro to repay the 500 million yen plus an extra 100 million yen.

Komuro must be completely out of his mind because to pay off that money he not so cleverly decided to pull another scam.... which was actually the exact same scam just on a different person!
Needless to say, that didn't work out so well.

Now he faces 5 years in prison for his actions.

If any of you are thinking about doing something similar to this I would recommend that you cease your actions immediately! Not only could you end up spending 5 years of of your life in prison but you will probably start looking like this from all of your stress....

For those that want to read more about the juicy details, you can check out the fine articles at the Japan Times here.


Self Destruct USB Drives

Fujitsu just made a press release of their new Self Destructing USB Drive!

After a set period of time or if the USB drive gets plugged into an unauthorized computer, it will erase itself.

Although I have doubts about the security and foolproofness, it is somewhat interesting.

However, if people just encrypted their data securely in the first place they wouldn't have to worry if their USB drive gets lost nor have to worry about their USB drive deleting their precious data on accident!

Needless to say, I won't be the first in line to get one. I think I'll just use truecrypt instead.


Privacy Woes

There has been many incidents on local and national news that I have been seeing lately.
It is mostly people loosing USB drives with personal information on thousands of people, and then the heads of the company publicly apologizing, etc...

Privacy is taken extremely seriously here for whatever reasons and is probably the strictest in the world. Perhaps a little overkill even... Most of these incidents just leak information such as the address and phone number of a person. No passwords, SSN's(which doesn't exist here anyways), CC#'s, etc... Although it is just an address and phone number it is still considered a privacy breach and many people get very angry. These incidents of a company's loosing information with only addresses, etc... get as much press or more than the amount of press that company's in the U.S. get for loosing thousands-millions of credit card information...

When the heads of the company apologize, they usually say "no worries, we have not heard of any cases where this leaked information has been abused". My question is how exactly is this information going to be abused? You can't apply for a credit card with only this information. If a bad guy could do something nefarious which only a mailing address and name is needed, all they would need to do is snatch someone's mail from their mailbox before they get it. That is incredible easy to do! That would give them all they needed that nefarious act and with almost no effort.

As an American, I don't know what all the fuss is about since I grew up with such privacy killing services like the phonebook. Nowadays, you can go to whitepages.com and find out not only the mailing address and phone number by only knowing someone's name but you can also find out the names of other people in the household and even their approximate age!! Such a service in Japan would be completely illegal and there would be many arrests and public outrage if someone tried to do that here.

Although I have heard residential phonebooks do exist here and have even seen a place online to buy one for certain regions, I have never actually seen a Japanese phonebook despite my searches nor has any native Japanese told me they have ever seen a Japanese phonebook in their life whenever I ask them.
I find this somewhat inconvenient as I wanted to look up a friend who I had lost contact with but only knew her name and where she lived but couldn't... I guess that's the price you pay for better privacy.

As for social networking sites, they also have much better privacy here. On facebook, myspace, orkut, etc... about 90% of the time (from my experience) people will put their real photo of themselves and real names on their profile page and share embarrassing personal photos of themselves and friends for the whole world to see. On mixi, the biggest SNS in Japan, almost 100% of people do not put their real photo on their profile page and only half or so use their real names. Also, almost everyone restricts pictures so only their friends can see and if there is anything really embarrassing they will usually put a password on it so only a few select people can access it.

I can't say which is better. In Japan many people do not feel they can post things freely so it is kind of a shame. However, in the U.S. and probably other parts of the world there has been many problems arising from privacy issues of these SNS sites.
Such as people getting fired from their job for posting bad things about their work, people not being hired for having a SNS profile which contains pictures of them dead drunk or partaking in illegal substances, and even incidents where companies got hacked by social engineering through SNS sites.
I have not once heard of anything like this happening yet through mixi.

There is also recent talk of privacy concerns through Hatena Bookmarks, a Japanese version of Delicious. There is a claim that because when you save a bookmark it saves and shows the timestamp, that cyber stalkers are able to watch your every move and analyze your behavior by knowing what you are looking at at what time. (However the person claiming that there are actually cyber stalkers out there doing this wasn't able to give proof of this happening in real life, I suppose theoretically people could be doing so....)

When Goolge Earth launched streetview in Japan a year or two ago there was massive outcry of privacy concerns, however, that seemed to die down and I think alot of people now think it is a cool and useful service, albiet somewhat scary. However, last month a Japanese company that was providing the same kind of service stopped shop for undisclosed reasons. I would guess it was financial or something along those lines but many people are guessing that it is due to privacy concerns.

So in conclusion, there are many privacy related issues going on in Japan almost every day and will probably only get worse in the future. Personally, I think they go a little too crazy with privacy requirements but I suppose it is better than the U.S. which has relatively terrible privacy requirements/awareness.


Patriotic Hacking

This happens every now and then...

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism homepage was defaced a few days ago and replaced with a Chinese flag and in English "Don't forget history"

This is a screenshot to a defacement of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. (Sorry, i couldn't find one of the one mentioned above..)
For being seen as the symbol of the Japanese militant past, it is the by far the biggest target and has been defaced several times by Chinese and Korean patriotic hackers.

(On a side note, Yasukuni is a very beautiful shrine and has an incredibly nice pond and Japanese garden hidden towards the back. (Check it out if you can!) According to one of my teachers who grew up around the shrine and would frequent there for festivals as a child, his image of Yasukuni is as a peaceful place to fall in love.)


Can't Trust Anyone

While in the past the advice was usually "don't go to *suspicious* or *bad* sites and you won't be hacked", there are plenty of examples out there in recent years that prove this advice to be flawed. Malware gets hosted on legit sites all the time so users now have to browse the web with the assumption that they are going to be attacked no matter how safe and trustworthy they think the sites are.
If you are reading this blog, i am sure you know this already.

I just wanted to point out that this is happening in Japan as well as a recent popular online shop for PCs (GENO) has been hacked recently and was actively exploiting anyone who stopped by...
This is surely not the first time nor will be the last of this activity.

One other interesting thing was that malware found its way on to SSD drives of a Japanese maker...

I don't like it when I have to analyze hardware I buy for malware before I plug it in...
I would like to be able to trust the vendor to at least not put or let viruses get in their hardware.

I know this is not the first time viruses got shipped out on harddrives to some lucky consumers but for a country that provides such amazing quality in their services I was expecting a little better QA here...



Plagiarism in Japan

I thought I talked about plagiarism in Japan before somewhere, but I forget where..
Anyways, plagiarism is viewed pretty differently than most Westerners outside of Japan know it. I remember being highly advised to make sure I do not plagiarize anything I write from back in grade school and I think I've heard the same thing every year after that until I graduated from college.

For whatever reasons, this sort of lecturing and strict enforcement does not happen as much in Japan. (Note that this claim is only from personal experience and asking friends so I would love to hear if someone says otherwise!)

One thing that supports my claim though is that there is not even a word for "plagiarism" in Japan! It indeed is starting to become a problem here as this was the theme for one day on "Close Up Gendai", an investigative news program from NHK that I think is somewhat comparable to 60 minutes in the U.S.
However, since there is no word for plagiarism, they spent the whole time warning the masses of the new problem of "Kopi Pe"!! ("Kopi Pe" (コピペ) is the Japanese abbreviation of "Copy & Paste")
These irresponsible no goods kids are apparently using technology for evil purposes such as finishing homework and reports by merely copying and pasting what others have written and passing it off as there own!

Yesterday, there has been more attention brought to this issue thanks to some net-savvy TV viewers of TV Asahi when they called them out. TV Asashi recently broadcasted a show called "Lie Busters", a sort of rip off of Myth Busters but with less explosions, that gave a sort of pop quiz game show to bust the myths that many Japanese have about various subjects. They apparently referenced 6 different online blogs as proof (because we all know we should believe whatever someone writes in a blog as facts, right?), however they forgot to mention that these blogs were fabricated by the TV show's staff members!

Whoops! Apparently, people in Japan know how to use google as well as the rest of the world and are able to search for given strings to find the original sources. Somebody should have informed that to the show creators beforehand!

Anyways, they were found out when angry viewers reported that these blogs didn't exist and TV Asahi apologizes deeply for this. They even replaced the Lie Busters' homepage with an apology letter expressing their sorry as well as how they received a "strict warning" as punishment from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

In the Lie Buster's staff's defense, they say they only fabricated the blogs because they could not receive copyright permission in time to show screenshots of the blogs. (Yes, copyright laws in Japan have not been updated for centuries now and does NOT include fair use. This causes a whole bunch of problems which i will one day write about in more detail, but for now that means that yes, simply posting a screenshot of a person's blog even if you black out everything except for one word and keep everything anonymous will still result in copyright infringement.)
However, it didn't sound too good when they said that they reproduced the blogs from memory and they don't know where the links to the original sources escaped to....

Now that this is getting media attention, people will surely start cracking down on this issue.

The picture of The Rock body slamming a panda does not have anything to do with this but it was the funniest picture I found when doing an image search for "lie buster".

The second funniest was this ad for a sleeping bag that you can walk in!! Ingenious!!! The Japanese know how innovate anything!
Yeah, I think I am breaking Japanese copyright laws for posting a screenshot of the apology from Asahi TV but since bloggers's (google's) servers are in the U.S., I will fight for my fair use rights!!! Hopefully I will win and not be subjected to a public lashing for my heinous crime...

Have a nice day!