Temple U Prof: “Japan’s Criminal Libel Laws vital for police intervention and arrest” (???)

mytest

Here’s something I don’t quite understand: A Temple University professor is publishing a paper in the University of Colorado Law Review asserting that, quote, “In Japan, however, criminal libel laws have become vital tools in policing injurious speech on the Internet. Defamatory posts lead to police intervention and even arrest.”

Not according to the 2-Channel Lawsuit, which I think proves Dr Mehra’s assertions quite inaccurate. I haven’t read the entire paper (I don’t have it), but the abstract is enclosed below. If he is aware of our case (it came down last January, and we offered an update in September), not to mention the many others cases successful against 2-Channel BBS, yet to this day unpaid and unprosecuted, how can he assert this?

I have contacted Dr Mehra, Temple University, and the University of Colorado Law Review. I hope Dr Mehra can reply with a clarification.

Arudou Debito, Plaintiff, 2-Channel Lawsuit
Full documentation on the case in two languages at
http://www.debito.org/2channelsojou.html

Dr Mehra’s Abstract: (Courtesy http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=802887)
=========================================================
Post a Message and Go to Jail: Criminalizing Internet Libel in Japan and the United States

SALIL MEHRA
Temple University – James E. Beasley School of Law
University of Colorado Law Review, Forthcoming

Abstract:
In the United States, criminal libel is, to paraphrase Ross Perot, the crazy aunt we keep in the basement. American law professors write about it to denounce the continued existence of rarely enforced criminal libel statutes. In Japan, however, criminal libel laws have become vital tools in policing injurious speech on the Internet. Defamatory posts lead to police intervention and even arrest. Because the United States is considering regulation of online speech, including, potentially, criminal penalties, we can learn from the experience of Japan. From a positive perspective, this Article explains why Japan would apply such laws to the Internet. From a normative perspective, the Article addresses why criminal libel is not a good choice for Japan. Finally, from a comparative law perspective, this Article also discusses why criminalizing online libel would be an even worse choice for the United States than Japan.

Keywords: Defamation, libel, cyberlaw, criminal, private ordering, social norms, Internet, police
=========================================================
ENDS

DR MEHRA RESPONDS:

=========================================
From: smehra@Temple.edu
Subject: Re: Civil law enforcement in Japan–Cannot understand Dr Mehra’s argument
Date: October 1, 2006 2:14:14 AM JST
To: debito@debito.org
Cc: shibaike@hg-law.jp, tlawrev@temple.edu, cololrev@colorado.edu

Mr. Debito,

Thanks for your input.

Respectfully, I think you are misreading the sentence you quote.

The point is not that defamatory posts “always” or “universally” lead to police intervention and even arrest. Similarly, I do not say that “ALL 2Channel” defamatory posts lead to police arrest. The point is that THERE ARE reported cases where defamatory posts DO lead ot police intervention and even arrest. I cite these reports and statistics within the paper; they are also publicly available.

I think you are having a problem of perspective. In other developed countries, such as the US and the EU nations, criminal libel is completely dead. For example, in America, nobody gets arrested for criminal libel, Internet-based or otherwise. The divergence of the Japanese experience is interesting. That is the point of the article, and that is why it is aimed at a Western audience.

For an unsatisfied plaintiff such as yourself, enforcement probably looks half-empty of consequences. For someone from a background where libel is no longer a criminal matter, it looks decidedly half-full.

Best regards,
Salil Mehra
=========================================

I REPLY:
=========================================
From: debito@debito.org
Subject: Re: Civil law enforcement in Japan–Cannot understand Dr Mehra’s argument
Date: October 1, 2006 9:17:52 AM JST
To: smehra@Temple.edu
Cc: shibaike@hg-law.jp, tlawrev@temple.edu, cololrev@colorado.edu

Good morning from Sapporo, Japan, Dr Mehra, and thank you very much indeed for your answer!

I am admittedly not a specialist in this topic, as you are of course, and I would indeed be happy to be corrected.

However, in my cursory study of the subject for use in my own case, I’ve not heard of a single case of Internet libel resulting in criminal arrest. If there was a procedure in place (to enforce contempt of court through the police, for example), I’m sure I could have implemented it in my case (and in all those other court victories against 2-Channel which still remain unenforced and unpaid). 2-Channel owner and administrator Nishimura Hiroyuki, as you know, continues to speak, write, and publish without any serious repercussions, let alone arrest. Given that this is Japan’s largest BBS (the world’s actually), employing every existent legal loophole possible in Japanese law, this appears a stark and seriously undermining exception to your assertions (in your abstract, anyway) regarding criminalization of Internet libel.

I’m not sure if your paper is available yet, but please may I read it? I would like to see the reports and statistics publicly available as well. Do you cite our 2-Channel case?

Again, thank you very much for your answer, Dr Mehra. The reason I even heard about your report was because of a student who contacted me to ask why my lawyers hadn’t contacted the police and had them enforce our court decision. I replied that I’m sure my lawyers, being professionals, had thought of that, and knew that it was meaningless–which means the information on the ground over here in Japan seems to contradict your paper’s thesis. If I am in any way misreading it, I would enjoy the correction, as I would certainly like to have Nishimura arrested, the court award paid, the offender’s IP address released, and all the libelous statements (which remain online to this day, proliferating) deleted, as per the court decision.

Sincerely yours, Arudou Debito
(Arudou is my last name, and if you had heard of me and our case, you might have known that.)
Sapporo, Japan
http://www.debito.org
=========================================

NO IMMEDIATE ANSWER FROM DR MEHRA. (he answers later at the very bottom)
CLARIFICATION ON THE ISSUE FROM SOMEBODY IN THE KNOW:
=========================================

In regards to the concepts discussed, I believe there may be a misunderstanding regarding the meaning of enforcement of criminal libel. You had an successful experience in winning a civil libel suit brought by a plaintiff (yourself) but have had difficulty in seeing enforcement of that civil judgment against the defendant.

Criminal libel, on the other hand, can only by handed by the police and by a public prosecutor in a very similar way to a crime of theft. The most a citizen can do is to point it out and ask them to investigate (just like for any suspected crime). The result might be that the case is dropped or, if it goes to trial, the defendant might get a prison sentence, have to pay a fine, or have his sentence declared to have been met by the prison time he has already endured (after arrest).

Essentially, these are two completely separate and non-exclusive avenues towards addressing libelous speech (one initiated by a citizen and another initiated by the government). The police never have anything to do with a civil case unless the plaintiff can get them to enforce a judgment against a deliquent defendant. My understanding is that criminal libel cases are still rare, but the fact that there are some is a marked difference from the United States.

========================

I REPLY:
========================

Yes, quite. I appreciate very much the clarification. I wished that Dr Mehra could have been bothered to explain that to me, or better yet send me a copy of his paper (or at least explain why he cannot) so I can see exactly what information the thesis is based upon.

Instead, I got from him what I felt to be a half-baked response about glasses being half-full, and the insinuation that I was just a sore loser with a limited, unimportant experience. I do not like incorrect information being perpetuated about Japan in US academia (lordy knows, I’ve seen enough of it over the years!), and Dr Mehra’s response struck me as diffident and irresponsible.

I have not invested more than a year and 360,000 yen in this case (so far) just to be told by an overseas academic (who seems so unfamiliar with the case that he gets the Plaintiff’s name wrong), when it seems that evidence contrary to his thesis is dismissable as a problem with the Plaintiff’s perspective!

I have done plenty to bring this case to the fore, including putting all original documentation and commentary in two languages online to show how Internet libel goes unpunished in Japan. When a thesis states exactly the opposite without any mitigators, I would like to know how that conclusion was arrived at. Here’s hoping that Dr Mehta will kindly share his research with a person who would like to know more. –Arudou Debito, October 2, 2006.
===============================

ANSWER FROM DR MEHRA:

===============================
From: smehra@Temple.edu
Subject: Re: Civil law enforcement in Japan
Date: October 3, 2006 1:00:51 AM JST
To: debito@debito.org
Cc: cololrev@colorado.edu, shibaike@hg-law.jp

Hello Prof. Debito,

The full text of the paper is available at the link below.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=802887

There have been a number of cases involving arrest due to online libel in Japan. Probably the most famous (in the sense that it got news coverage) involved an individual in Kochi who was arrested in 2003 after maligning a local politician on a local government message board.

I had heard of your case. If I understand correctly, I think it is a civil case and not a criminal case and that you are pursuing the Nishimura, the founder of 2-Channel because he provides a forum where you are defamed. Also, if I understand correctly, you are not alleging that Nishimura himself makes defamatory statements against you. Based on Criminal Code 230 and the Internet Service Providers Law in Japan, he probably escapes criminal liability because there is no “contributory criminal libel” and because the ISP law may limit 2Channel’s exposure since, like an ISP, it does not actually have prior knowledge of what participants will post.

Also, if I understand correctly, you have a civil judgment in your favor which Nishimura ignores. You may already know that there is a debate about how weak Japanese judges’ injunctive power is — weak or very weak.

Best regards,
Salil Mehra
===============================

MY QUICK RESPONSE:

===============================
From: debito@debito.org
Subject: Re: Civil law enforcement in Japan
Date: October 3, 2006 1:08:45 AM JST
To: smehra@Temple.edu

Hello Dr Mehra. Thank you very much for your response, and for clarifying your point. I will enjoy reading your paper and look forward to learning something, which I hope will help me bring Nishimura to bear for the forbearance he’s shown for years now regarding online libel. With best wishes, Arudou Debito in Sapporo
===============================

ENDS

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