Oricon Defeats Ugaya

Oricon wins suit against writer

I have a lot of other stuff going on right now, but I just wanted to bring this to your attention.

The Japanese legal system has ruled that, yes, companies can successfully sue individuals quoted in magazine articles for libel. Even though Ugaya neither wrote or published the offending Cyzo article on possible Oricon chart-fixing for advertisers and had a certain amount of evidence to back up his statements, the judge agreed with Oricon that Ugaya had committed libel. Oricon did not sue the publisher Infobahn for publishing the article, did not sue the magazine that printed the article, and did not sue the writer of the article. They only sued the person quoted in it (whose quotes were edited).

This is obviously a very bad precedent, and even worse that the Japanese mass media has not uttered a peep about this possible threat to media freedom.

W. David MARX
April 23, 2008

14 Responses

  1. Don Says:

    Cyzo have issued a statement on the decision:

    http://www.cyzo.com/2008/04/post_508.html

  2. Matt Says:

    Thanks for the link, Don. Pretty strong stuff:

    “Suing Mr. Ugaya alone, who merely responded to our magazine’s request for a telephone interview, is a suppression of free speech masquerading as litigation, nothing more than an attack and attempt to harass an individual…. We are supporting Mr. Ugaya in his plans to appeal, already underway, and we will continue to denounce Oricon’s attempts to quash free speech, and of the impropriety and legal inappropriateness of the case, in the pages of Cyzo and this site. It is Oricon who should be punished!”

  3. Matt Says:

    (Also, for whatever it’s worth, there is an article on the ruling in today’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun, although it’s buried on page 42.)

  4. Aceface Says:

    “and even worse that the Japanese mass media has not uttered a peep about this possible threat to media freedom.”

    It was on NHK news.

    Yeah,this is one of the series of f**ked up judical judgement.
    I presume the reasons Ugaya didn’t get much support like that “YASUKUNI” director(even Sankei ssupported him on the editorial)are since
    a)He is free-lance.And we don’t give a damn about those who are out of the league.

    b)Ugaya wrote a book about criticizing his own former employee,Asahi Shimbun in 「朝日」ともあろうものが。(徳間書店)

    c)No one wants to mess with ORICON because of business relations

    d)There were two major national news(Yamaguchi-Hikari-city murder suspect got death sentenced and Nomura security insider trade revealed)and legal club guys were scrambling to cover these.

    BTW,Last night,I had a small fight with one of my superior who did not want to cover a story that Sumiyoshi-kai related three yakuza had mistakenly killed Korean student in 2001 and his family sued the boss for 60million yen and SUmiyoshi-Kai agreed to settle with 70million yen.
    And this superior guy(who’s been in the office for more than 20 yrs)said he doesn’t want put this article,because he is scared.I had to say “Scared of what?! Our bureau guy had already wrote the wrticle.” and he said” Yeah,but he only covered the lawyer comment of the victim,none from Yakuza”..

    It took me more than 20 minuites to put that article into the news.

  5. whatever-kai Says:

    Aceface keepin’ it real!

  6. whatever-kai Says:

    Oh My news is doing full coverage and giving Ugaya a forum to comment about the ruling: http://www.ohmynews.co.jp/news/20080422/23819

    From what i’ve seen mainstream Japanese media won’t put spin on a relatively small case like this as some kind of worrying precedent for future rights the way it would be reported in the American press. Is this generally true?

  7. Aceface Says:

    Yes.
    And that probably comes from insenstivity of J-media people on relation of freedom of press and media environment.

    For example,the issue of “YASUKUNI” is getting full coverage now,because it is represented from the angle of traditional left/right struggle and matter involves to Shakai-bu(Society department),not as the problem within the entertainment industry that multiplex overrding independent theaters and becoming more tennant minded than the film goers.

    Ugaya’s case is considered as minor issue,because it’s dealing entartainment industry and he wrote for fringe media(Cyzo,that is).
    There were certainly bigger outcry when consumer finance giant,Takeafuji had a rumble with free-lancer in 2000 and editorials were written in the name of the freedom of speech,because this was Keizai-bu(economy department) guys turf.

    I think this Ugaya’s case has fallen into the pocket of vertical structure of J-media corp.

  8. Aceface Says:

    I thought this was pretty intersting thought on Ugaya case.

    http://d.hatena.ne.jp/lovelovedog/20061221/mondai

  9. W. David MARX Says:

    Maybe this makes up in Schadenfreude?

    http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/main/20080423AT1G2301G23042008.html

  10. wee Says:

    >the Japanese mass media has not uttered a peep about this possible threat to media freedom.

    Saw it on Asahi and Nikkei shimbun although Asahi seemed to just report the surface.

  11. Chompsky Says:

    I’m a little confused about this post: why wouldn’t a company be able to win a libel suit against a person quoted in a news article, if the court decides that what the person says is in fact libelous? Why would the company HAVE TO sue the magazine? Leaving aside the issue of whether the guy’s argument was accurate or not or libelous or not.

    Just hypothetically, if a news article quoted a person saying, ‘person X is a pedophile’, if it’s untrue person X could choose to sue just the media organization, the media plus the accuser, or just the accuser, no?

    Or is there some legal issue I’m missing?

  12. W. David MARX Says:

    Your commenting on this now??

    The court actually said exactly what you said: Oricon is not forced to sue the magazine. It’s their choice on whom to sue.

    Non-legally speaking, it sure makes Oricon look like they are just trying to silence the guy instead of making a principle stand against the story itself. If you really cared about the issue of libel, why not sue the publisher, writer, or editor? The entire story alleged an unfair relationship between Oricon and Johnny’s. But they only sued Ugaya for his part of the story. They did not want to sue a company that would actually have the money to mount a legal defense.

    Also, they tried to enter as evidence an old article that Ugaya wrote to show a “pattern” of libel. But the judge through it out on the statute of limitations. It was too old.

    So yes, legally, you may be right. But if you want to get a sense of Oricon’s motives, I think they look like they wanted to silence one guy, not an organization.

  13. Chompsky Says:

    Yeah, realize this post in ancient history in terms of blog time, but just attended a talk on libel-related issues and was reminded of this case, so…

    I don’t know much about Ugaya’s article, so it’s hard to judge what this court decision means. Generally, journalists try to avoid getting nabbed by the law unless they think a story is important enough and they are sure they have the facts. I’m not sure if that’s the case this time. It’s certainly an interesting case anyhow.

  14. W. David MARX Says:

    But remember, Ugaya neither initiated nor wrote the article.

    In his appeal, he is currently trying to make the claim that the writer/editor twisted his quotes and he never was able to fix them. There is a question of how much responsibility someone “quoted” has for the final product.