From today's Daily Yomiuri Online:
The Tokyo District Court has ordered Yahoo Japan Corp. and The Sankei Shimbun to pay a total of 660,000 yen in compensation over a photo of a handcuffed man carried on Yahoo Japan's Web site.
Yahoo Japan's public relations department said they believed this is the first time a Web site operator has been ordered to pay damages for news articles or photos originally distributed by media outlets.
The photo featured the late Kazuyoshi Miura, former president of an import company, who was acquitted in 2003 in Japan of charges he was involved in the fatal 1981 shooting of his wife Kazumi in Los Angeles. The controversial photo was taken when Miura was arrested over another case in September 1985. In the photo, Miura was handcuffed and accompanied by police officers.
In October 2008, Miura committed suicide in a Los Angeles jail. He had been detained over the 1981 murder for seven months in the U.S. territory of Saipan before being transferred to Los Angeles.
Miura's wife at the time of his suicide filed a lawsuit against Yahoo Japan and The Sankei Shimbun, demanding a total of 6.6 million yen for emotional distress due to the photo.
"The photo harmed the feelings of the bereaved family," presiding Judge Shigeo Matsunami said in the ruling Wednesday. Regarding Yahoo Japan's responsibility, he said, "The company neglected its duty in preventing the photo from being carried [on the Web site]."
In its report on Miura's suicide, The Sankei Shimbun distributed the 1985 photo along with other photos and articles. The photo was carried on the Yahoo site.
During the hearing, Yahoo Japan said, "We were not involved in writing the articles or taking the photos, so we have no responsibility."
However, the court decision said, "Based on the content of the accompanying articles, we don't see why it was necessary to carry the photo. Yahoo Japan shares the responsibility of making the photo public [with The Sankei Shimbun]."
"We'll consider our next move after we read the court ruling," a Yahoo Japan spokesperson said.
Masao Horibe, professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University and expert in information law, said, "The ruling recognizes the responsibility of Web-based media and takes into account influence of the Internet."
"For Web site operators, it's a huge burden to check every single article, but they need to establish a system to do so considering the influence their sites have on users," he said.
See related link on photo ethics in Japan: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.com/2009/02/ethics-of-visual-anthropology-in-japan_12.html