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Japan: Final Report on Internet Regulation

The idea that a country boasting one of the world's most active net cultures, with possibly the world's largest blogosphere and almost certainly its largest online forum, would attempt to regulate online content within its borders may appear to some not only far-fetched, but infeasible. Plans unveiled (with little fanfare) earlier this year by the Japanese government, however, aim to do exactly this, targeting a broad range of content, including blogs and personal homepages, in fairly vague terms.

In an interim report [ja] on the proposed regulation published in June by a study group under the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the broadest of three major types of online communication to be regulated was expressed in the vaguest of these terms. An article posted in June at atmarkIT explains that:

最後の公然通信は最も対象コンテンツが幅広い。中間報告は「ホームページなど公然性を有する通信コンテンツ」と公然通信を定義する。電子メールなど特定の人とだけ行う私信以外のすべてのネット上のコンテンツが、対象になると見られる。「2ちゃんねる」などの掲示板や、個人のブログも公然通信だ。

The last [type], open communication (公然通信/kouzentsushin), targets the most extensive range of content. The interim report defines open communication as “communication content having openness [kouzensei/公然性] such as homepages and so on”. With the exception of private messages used only between specific persons, in the form of email and so on, it seems that all online content will be targeted. Bulletin board services such as “2-channel”, as well as personal blogs, are also [considered] open communication.


The interim report also recommended that public opinions be sought on the issue, so back in June and July the ministry opened a space on its webpage for people to submit comments. Later coverage [ja] indicated that the government received a total of 276 responses, 222 from individuals and the remaining 54 from organizations. Whereas organizations such as the Japanese telecommunications operator KDDI and Sky Perfect Communications were were reportedly in favour of legal restructuring but expressed reservations about the regulation of content, the Keidanren, Asahi Television, Fuji television, Japan's public broadcaster NHK, and the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association were entirely against the plans. Many organizations, including Yahoo Japan, requested clarity about the range of what exactly constitutes “open communication”.

With the publication early this month of a final report [ja] on the proposed regulations, setting down steps to move ahead and submit a bill to the regular diet session in 2010, the topic has finally entered the spotlight. Blogger tokyodo-2005, who covered the issue extensively while it was in the public comments phase, posted an extensive post on the topic of the final report, translated here in its entirety.

In the post, he began by remarking on the achievement of the 222 individuals who submitted comments against the regulation:

ネットについての規制が政府主導でなされ、ネットの表現の自由が奪われるのではないかというおそれがある、「通信・放送の総合的な法体系に関する研究会」の「中間取りまとめ」に対しては、異例の多さのパブリックコメントが寄せられた(※1)。その多くは規制に反対するものだった。その結果、同研究会が12月6日にとりまとめた通信と放送を融合させる法制度に関する最終報告書には、反対の声を少し配慮したような表現が盛り込まれた。罰則を阻止したようにも読め、大きな成果といえるかもしれません(パチパチ)。パブコメをお願いするシリーズを展開した当ブログとしても少しほっとしています。しかし、規制は一度始まれば強化されます。しかも、致命的な欠陥である「政府による監督」については「独立行政委員会」を設けるべきだという提言はされていません。このまま、法制化させないように、今後も、声を上げ続けましょう。

An “interim report” of the “study group on the legal system for communications and broadcasting,” in which [it was noted] that regulation of the Internet is led by the government, and that [as such] there is a danger that freedom of expression on the net could be taken away, drew an exceptionally large number of public comments (Note 1). Most of these were against the regulation. As a result, the final report of the same study group about the legislative system integrating communication and broadcasting, summarized on December 6th, included an expression which indicates that the voices opposing [the proposed regulations] may haven been taken into consideration. This may be interpreted [as meaning] that introduction of penal regulations was prevented, which could be seen as a major achievement (applause). As a blog which featured a series [of posts] asking [people to make] public comments, [I was] also somewhat relieved by this. However, once the regulations have been initiated, they will be intensified. And on top of this, regarding “government oversight” — the fatal flaw — there was no motion to recommend establishing an “independent administrative commission”. From here on, let's all continue to raise our voices against [this regulation] being legislated.

まずは、最終報告書(※2)の記述(21頁以下)から。

First, from the description (below page 21) of the final report (Note 2):

He then quotes directly from page 21 of the final report, translated below:

日本国内では現在、著作権法や薬事法等の個別法において違法情報の発信規制が行われているほか、ICT利用環境整備の観点からは、個人の権利を侵害する情報についてプロバイダの責任制限や発信者情報開示請求権を定めたプロバイダ責任制限法が制定されているが、社会的法益を侵害するような違法な情報への法制的な対応は諸外国に比して十分とは言い難い。プロバイダが自主的に行っている対策について、法的根拠等の規律整備を求める声や、迅速な被害者救済を求める声も多い。

At the present time within Japan, the transmission of illegal information is regulated in statute laws of the Copyright Law, the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law and so on, and also from the viewpoint of improving the environment of ICT [Internet Communications Technology] usage, service providers limited liability legislation has been enacted regarding information violating the rights of the individual, establishing a limitation of liability and claims rights for service providers with respect to the disclosure of senders’ information. However, compared to other countries, it is hard to say that legislative measures, directed at information that violates societal interests protected by law, is itself enough. There are a great many voices calling for the improvement of discipline, with a basis in law, regarding the implementation of countermeasures taken independently by service providers, and demanding that aid [be provided] promptly to victims.

しかしながら、違法な情報に対して国が包括的かつ直接的な規制を課すことは、言論・表現活動の過剰な萎縮を招くおそれがあり、また、ブロードバンド網の発展等を背景にここ数年で急速に開花した我が国の自主・自律を旨とする豊かなネット文化と相容れない可能性が高い。パブリックコメント等でも同様の意見が多数寄せられたところである。

Nevertheless, there is a danger that the government imposing direct and comprehensive regulation with regard to illegal information would invite the excessive atrophy of speech and expression. As well, there is a strong possibility that [such regulation] would be incompatible with the rich net culture that has blossomed rapidly in our country over recent years against a background of broadband network development, one that takes as its principle [the values of] independence and autonomy. In public comments [about the regulation] and so on, opinions of this kind were received in great numbers.

これらを総合的に勘案し、情報通信法という包括的な法制においては、違法な情報に対する国による包括的かつ直接的な規制は当面差し控えることとし、情報通信ネットワーク上で情報を流通させる全ての者が本来遵守すべき最低限の配慮事項を、具体的な刑罰を伴わない形で整備することを検討すべきである。同時に、社会的法益を侵害するものも含め、違法な情報への迅速な対応・被害の防止・被害者の救済を図るため、例えば、関係者の法的責任の明確化や、ISP等による削除やレイティング設定等の対応の法的根拠の整備など、行政機関が直接関与しない形での対応を促進する枠組みを整備すべきである。なお、違法な情報の流通状況・被害状況については今後詳細な調査を行い、必要があれば刑罰の付与等の適否についても検討すべきである。

Taking these collectively into consideration, in the comprehensive telecommunications legislation called the Telecommunications Law [Jouhou Tsushinhou/ 情報通信法], comprehensive and direct state regulation against illegal information should be withheld for the moment, and there should be an investigation, in a form not accompanied by concrete punishment, of the minimum items of consideration demanding essential compliance of all users distributing information by means of information and telecommunication networks. At the same time, there needs to be the development of a framework for accelerating a response, in a form which does not involve direct participation of an administrative body, in order to deal promptly with illegal information — including [information that] violates societal interests protected by law — and to prevent injury and attempt to provide relief to victims. [What is needed is] a response with a legal basis, for example clarification of the legal responsibility of authorized people, or, through the ISP , elimination [of service to a user] or establishment of a rating service. Furthermore, in the future, a detailed study should be performed regarding circumstances in which there is a circulation of illegal information, or in which there is injury. If there is a need, the adequacy of punishment, etc., should also be investigated.

The blogger goes on to quote a passage from the interim report (Note 3), translated here:

【具体的には、「公然通信」に係るコンテンツ流通に関して、各種ガイドラインやモデル約款等が策定・運用されていることを踏まえ、違法・有害コンテンツ流 通に係る最低限の配慮事項として、関係者全般が遵守すべき「共通ルール」の基本部分を規定し、ISPや業界団体による削除やレイティング設定等の対応指針 を作成する際の法的根拠とすべきである。「プロバイダ責任制限法」などICT利用環境整備関係法制度についても、可能な限り一元化すべきである】(10 頁)

In concrete terms, given that various guidelines and model agreements regarding the circulation of contents involved in “open communication” have been laid out and put into effect, as minimal items of consideration regarding the circulation of illegal and harmful content, there should be regulation of the basic part of the “shared rules” with which all persons concerned should comply, which will be a legal foundation for creating policy responses, such as [service] cancellation or establishment of a rating system by an ISP or industry group. Regarding legislation related to improvement of the ICT environment such as “service provider limited liability legislation”, where possible there should be unification (page 10).

The blogger then comments:

両者の違いは、どうやら罰則の有無のようだ。中間とりまとめ段階では、明記されていなかったが、罰則が設けられる予定だったが、最終報告書では罰則をはずす方向で明記されたということらしい。

The difference between the two seems to be the existence/nonexistence of penal regulations. At the stage of the interim report, this was not clearly specified, and although there had been plans to establish such regulations, it seems that what was specified in the final report was [oriented] in the direction of removing them.

もし、そうだとしたら、これはパブコメによるかなりの収穫だと思われる。罰則を伴うということは強制捜査を伴うということで、その場合、いやがらせ逮捕などによって、表現の自由を封殺することができる。しかし、罰則がなければ、強制捜査はできない。

If this is the case, then this seems to be a substantial achievement of the public comments. That there would be accompanying penal regulations means that there would be accompanying compulsory investigations, and in that case, it would be possible, through arresting someone in order to harass them, etc., to suppress current freedoms. However, if there are no penal regulations, then there are no compulsory investigations.

…とはいえ、もし、パブコメでの反対表明がなければ、罰則がつく方向で最終報告書が作成されていたのかと思うと、ぞっとする…。

… even so, when I think that, had there not been public comments expressing opposition, the final report would have been framed in terms of moving these penal regulations ahead, it makes me shiver…

もちろん、【行政機関が直接関与しない形での対応】(最終報告書22頁)といっても、放送に関する独立行政委員会のない日本では形式的には間接的であっても実質的には直接的な関与となることが十分に考えられるため、油断できないし、【なお、違法な情報の流通状況・被害状況については今後詳細な調査を行い、必要があれば刑罰の付与等の適否についても検討すべきである】(最終報告書22頁)とまで言っているのだから、なおさらだ。

Of course, even though they write “in a form which does not involve direct participation of an administrative body” (page 22 of the final report), in Japan, where there is no independent administrative committee on broadcasting, even if formally this is indirect, in substance it is conceivable that there could be direct participation. Because of this, we cannot drop our guard, all the more so as they went as far as to write: “Furthermore, in the future, a detailed study should be performed regarding circumstances in which there is a circulation of illegal information, or in which there is injury. If there is a need, the adequacy of punishment, etc., should also be investigated” (page 22 of the final report).

なお、有害情報(違法な情報とは必ずしも言い難いが、公共の安全や秩序に対する危険を生じさせるおそれのある情報や特定の者の権利や福祉にとって有害と受け止められる情報)については、中間とりまとめでも最終報告書でも、ゾーニング規制を採用するべきだと述べており、この点は変更がない。

Furthermore, regarding harmful information (I hesitate to necessarily say illegal information, but information that may possibly give rise to a danger to public safety and order or information perceived as harmful to the rights or welfare of a specific person), in the interim report as well as the final report, it is stated that a zoning ordinance should be adopted.

ところが、最終報告書(23頁)によると、【具体的にはフィルタリングの提供の在り方について検討すべきである。また、民間事業者による有害か否かの具体的判断を支援するための第三者機関を制度化することについても、その必要性も含め検討すべきである】とされており、危険性が顕在化した格好だ。

However, according to the final report (page 23), it says: “In concrete terms, there should be an investigation about ways of offering a filtering [service]. Also, the investigation should include the necessity of institutionalizing an independent organization to provide aid in judging concretely the harmfulness, or lack thereof, of private business.” There is the appearance of danger having been exposed.

つまり、第三者機関を設けて有害性の判断をする方向へ持って行くようだが、その第三者機関は、政府主導のもの となりそうなのだ。なぜなら、同じページに、【具体的な有害性の判断について、ISP等では現実的には個別に判断することが困難だという問題点が指摘され ており、現行の自主的な対応では十分ではなく国の積極的な対応が必要との声もある】と明確に書かれているからだ。

In other words, while there appears to be a move in the direction of establishing an independent institution to judge harmfulness, it also seems that this independent institution will be under the direction of the government. Because on the same page, it is clearly written that: “As has been pointed out, the problematic issue is that, realistically-speaking, it is difficult for ISPs to individually make judgements regarding concrete harmfulness, and there are voices that [argue] that the current voluntary response is not enough, and that there is a need for an active effort from the government.”

フィルタリングソフトによって遮断すべき情報の選択に政府が絡むなんてとでもない話だ。到底容認できない。

That the government is going to get involved in selecting, by means of filtering software, what information should be blocked, this is completely outrageous. This absolutely cannot be allowed.

しかも、個人のブロガーの問題だけでなく、いわゆる報道機関にとっても、問題の残る最終報告書となっている。毎日新聞(※4)によると、【新法が制定されれば、影響力の大きいメディアによってネット配信されたコンテンツが政治的に偏っていたり、有害だと判断された場合は配信者(事業者や個人)に対し削除や訂正を求めることができるようになる】という。確かに、その趣旨のことが、最終報告書17〜20頁にかけて掲載してある…。

On top of this, this is not just a problem of individual bloggers; for so-called media outlets as well, there remain problems in the final report. According to Mainichi Shimbun [newspaper] (Note 4): “If the new law is established, when contents distributed on the net by influential media are judged politically biased or harmful, it will become possible to cancel [service] of the distributor (businessperson or individual) or demand corrections.” Certainly, this is the substance of what appears in pages 17-20 of the final report…

政府が、メディアに対し、「政治的な偏り」を訂正するよう指摘できる国…それって共産国とか独裁国なみの自由しか与えられないってことではないだろうか…。放送については電波の有限性から説明がなされうるが、そもそも、日本では放送行政を政府が携わっていること自体が問題なのだ(※5)。

A country where the government can indicate to the media to make corrections of “political bias”… doesn't that mean that they are going to give as much freedom as communist countries or dictatorships do?… The explanation of broadcasting begins with the finiteness of radio waves, but from the start, the fact that in Japan the government is engaged in the administration of broadcasting is itself the problem (Note 5).

 本報告書の決定的な問題点は、通信と放送を融合した法制度を設けるに当たって、監督機能を政府から「独立行政委員会」に移すべきだという提言をしていないことなのだ。政府による監督を許す限り、日本の表現の自由は、共産国や独裁国なみだというほかない。

The decisive problem of the report is that, in the establishment of a legislative system that fuses communication and broadcasting, there is no proposal from the government recommending that the supervisory function be transferred to an “independent administrative committee”. As long as government supervision is permitted, Japan's freedom of expression will be nothing more than that of a communist country or dictatorship.

 この点、パブコメでも多くの方が、指摘していたが、「通信・放送の総合的な法体系に関する研究会」は、これを無視した格好だ。

This point was also mentioned by many of the people who made public comments [about the proposed regulation], but the “study group on a comprehensive legal system for communication/broadcasting” appears to have ignored [the point about the supervisory function].

 上記毎日新聞によると、総務省は来年1月にも情報通信審議会(総務相の諮問機関)に制度の見直しを諮問し、新法の具体案を詰めるたうえ、2010年の通常国会に提出する構えだという。

According to the above-mentioned Mainichi shimbun [newspaper] article, in January of next year, the Ministry of Home Affairs will consult the Information and Communications Council (advisory organ of the Minister of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications) regarding review of the system, and once details of a concrete proposal for a new law have been worked out, there is a plan to present it at an ordinary session of the National Diet in 2010.

 それまでに、独立行政委員会の必要性をより多くの市民に理解してもらわなければならない。みなで、情報流通させましょう!

Until that time, we need to make more citizens understand the necessity of an independent administrative council. Everybody together, let's spread this information!

Notes for the blog entry are listed below:

  1. http://blog.goo.ne.jp/tokyodo-2005/e/9af67d642137296e32de93bb1908fcc5
  2. http://www.soumu.go.jp/s-news/2007/pdf/071206_2_bs2.pdf
  3. http://www.soumu.go.jp/s-news/2007/pdf/070619_3_bs2.pdf
  4. http://mainichi.jp/select/wadai/news/20071206k0000e040043000c.html
  5. http://blog.goo.ne.jp/tokyodo-2005/e/59df2623d2dbe2c0c3569bd9862508df

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