Oricon wins suit against writer

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The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday ordered a freelance journalist quoted in a magazine article to pay ¥1 million in damages to Oricon Inc. for stating that its music charts are fixed and inaccurately rank the tunes.

Oricon sued music journalist Hiromichi Ugaya, 45, for ¥50 million in damages and an apology. The case has drawn attention because Ugaya did not write the article and was merely quoted in it.

In handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Yutaka Watahiki said the well-known writer’s remarks were “not acceptable as being true.” He also said Ugaya’s comments caused considerable damage to Oricon’s reputation and “had more than a small effect on the public.”

Watahiki also dismissed Ugaya’s countersuit against Oricon, in which he had demanded ¥11 million in damages from Oricon for violating his freedom of speech.

“This is a dreadful ruling,” Ugaya told reporters after the verdict. He said he would appeal.

During the trial, Ugaya had suggested that the lawsuit was Oricon’s attempt to intimidate him and argued that his constitutional right to freedom of speech had been violated.

“I fear this verdict is the beginning of a dark age for journalism,” he said.

The dispute concerned comments attributed to Ugaya in a story printed in the April 2006 edition of Cyzo, a monthly magazine published by Infobahn Inc. The story investigates the relationship between Oricon — the Japanese equivalent of Billboard magazine — and Japanese talent agencies.

Ugaya was quoted as saying that Oricon was secretive of its ranking methodology and used questionable techniques to compile its music charts. Oricon filed suit against Ugaya in November 2006.

Ugaya said during the trial that he found some of his quotes had been misinterpreted by Cyzo, but his attempts to get them corrected failed because the magazine had already gone to print.

Oricon released statements saying that it sued Ugaya not to censor freedom of speech but because his quotes constituted an “apparent misinterpretation of facts.”

Ugaya filed the countersuit against Oricon in February 2007.

Oricon did not sue the editors of Cyzo or its publisher, Infobahn.