Be Careful What You Say …… or Print …… In Japan

Scandal erupted back in 2007 when Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Gendai reported that grand champion sumo wrestler Asashoryu had bought his way to the top, paying off opponents in exchange for winning matches. The Japan Sumo Association conducted an investigation, but found no evidence of match fixing, and took Shukan Gendai’s publisher, Kodansha, to court for damaging the JSA’s reputation. The court sided with the JSA to the tune of 40 million yen ($293,782.82). There’s just one catch: Matches were being fixed — but that didn’t matter. In Japan, defamation laws allow you to sue someone for publicly damaging your character, even if what they said is true. In Japanese libel and slander cases, the truth won't necessarily help you. Instead, it all comes down to reputation, and that means “damaged honor.” Even if a published statement is 100% true, it can still be considered defamatory if it irrevocably hurts the subject's reputation, and oftentimes the question of truth doesn't really enter the equation. So, what happens if you’re sued? If you’re a publisher, it really isn’t so bad. However, if you’re an individual, you could be facing a jail sentence of up to three years. In the United States, defamation cases are considered civil cases, with no jail time for the defendant. Instead, just be prepared to write a big fat check.