Cases before laws regarding responsibility on the Internet were passed (1)

There are only a few cases in which 2ch was held responsible for a post on the website, before the law regarding the responsibility of service providers took place in 2002. One case took place between 2ch and a veterinary hospital. The judgment to this case was given on June 26, 2002 at the Tokyo District Court.

In this case, the owners of a vet found that their hospital was accused of being a “fraud” in the “thread for revealing immoral animal vets” on the “I love pets” board. The owners of the vet told 2ch to delete the posts that were defamatory, but because their method of requesting for the delete was not in line with the 2ch delete policy, the owner of 2ch could not find all of the relevant posts, and only deleted part of the defamatory posts. The owners thus proceeded to sue 2ch in request of having more than 50 blog posts deleted, and paying them compensation for damages.

              The court stated that, it is the website owner’s responsibility to judge whether a post is defamatory of not. In this case, the posts were clearly defamatory, and thus, the court stated that 2ch should have deleted the posts after being notified. Thus, 2ch was held guilty for defamation, and was ordered to pay 4,000,000 yen in compensation to the vet.

Because the decision was given out before the Provider Responsibility Restriction Act took place, the judgments was given on the basis of two criterions: whether 2ch was responsible for a crime of omission, and whether 2ch was responsible for a crime of aiding and abetting due to omission. Both of these crimes are defined on the Civil Law Act, and have existed for a long time. The effort of Japanese courts was shifted towards using conventional methods to judge a case that seems irrelevant to these old laws.

For the former, the court assumed that the internet forum is an “object,” in order to rule that the owner of 2ch did have the responsibility to delete defamatory posts from his website. The law states that a crime of omission could take place if the person is a owner of a location or an object. In this case, it is apparent that the law was stretched to fit the needs of the judges.

Furthermore, in order for the crime to apply, the act of omission had to have the same value as the actually doing the crime. Thus, in this case, the act of writing a defamatory post had to have the same value as the act of refusing to delete the post. It seems that intentionally writing a post on the website would be considered a much more heavy crime than just refusing to delete the post. In addition, in the past, one judge explicitly mentioned that “it is apparent that the owner of the website is not the main character in the crime” and did not punish the owner of the internet forum. However, the court ended up judging that the act of omission was of same significance as the crime of actually doing the crime. We can see that in this case, the court expanded the interpretation of the law, and made statements that directly conflict past cases.

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