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I was delighted to be featured in Huffington Post Japan, interviewed by their excellent writer, Chiaki Seito. In a wide-ranging conversation, we discuss the surprising reasoning behind why #MeToo is not spreading in Japan, highlighting the differences in Japanese and American laws as the primary factor. Chiaki was interested in learning my thoughts on the effect of the #MeToo movement on the Academy Awards, noting the change in representation within the governing body during my tenure on the general counsel.

The English translation of the article is provided below.


Is Japanese Law Preventing the Spread of #Metoo In Japan? Interview With a U.S. lawyer, Litigation Powerhouse

From the ever-changing Academy Awards to “SLAPP Lawsuits” that muzzle accusations:  Learn about Japan’s challenges by comparing it to the U.S.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is a large and well-known law firms in the U.S. Quinn Emanuel is currently known for their pro bono representation of Ukraine before the European Court of Human Rights and they have handled a number of high-profile international cases.

One of the co-founders, John B. Quinn, is one of America’s leading and prominent trial lawyers.  He is also known for his many years as outside general counsel of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing body of the Academy Awards.

Mr. Quinn, who has a number of accomplishments, especially in the area of intellectual property, has watched the industry undergo major changes in the wake of the #Metoo and #OscarsSoWhite movements.  When we spoke with him during his visit to Japan on November 4, our discussion revealed a surprising reason why perhaps #MeToo has had difficulty spreading in Japan, given the differences between Japanese and U.S. laws.


How The Academy, Once Criticized As “Full of White People,” Has Changed.

Drive My Car has moved me more than anything else I’ve seen in a decade.”

Mr. Quinn’s face broke into a smile when talking about films.

The Academy Awards are the highest honor in the film industry, and Mr. Quinn served as outside general counsel of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, its governing body, from 1986 to 2020.

In recent years, the Academy Awards have become a focus of attention not only for the artistry of their films, but also for their social significance.  In 2016, when all 20 Oscar nominees in the acting categories were white for the second year in a row, an accusatory hashtag “#OscarsSoWhite” spread on social networking sites.  

The #MeToo movement, which has been going on since 2017, also began when women in Hollywood accused a big-name film producer of sexual violence.  The Academy’s state of affairs was questioned in award speeches, and efforts to improve itself have been seen since then.  A film about the New York Times’ investigative reporting that led to the #MeToo movement is set to be released in 2023.

Mr. Quinn has been a longtime observer of such changes within the Academy.

To begin with, the Academy has about 6,000 members, which includes actors, directors, and many others involved in the production of films.  The majority of the Academy’s members are white males, and there has been a history of a lack of diversity in society and in the film industry.  I think our efforts to make the Academy more diverse are beginning to bear fruit.  As of 2022, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is Janet Yang – an Asian woman – and the board of directors are becoming more diverse in terms of people of color.”

Drive My Car: A film adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s novel of the same title, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi.  It was the first Japanese film to win the Best Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival and the International Feature Film Award at the Academy Awards, and was also highly acclaimed overseas.


What Is A “SLAPP Lawsuit,” That “Muzzles” Accusations?

In regards to #MeToo in the U.S., a series of media reports on the accusations of victims brought the issue to the attention of many people.

Japan, on the other hand:  While some courageous accusations have been made, suggesting a similar composition in the film industry, it has yet to spread as far as the #MeToo movement in the United States.

Reasons that have been cited for this include the significantly higher psychological hurdles for victims in Japan, such as secondary damage and slander of accusers, and the fact that the media handling such news is a male-dominated society.

However, when we talked to Mr. Quinn, it seems that one of the reasons is the “difference in law” between the U.S. and Japan.  One obvious example is the how each country treats accusations and “defamation.”

For example, in Japan, when the media reports on sexual violence by celebrities, it is common to for the celebrity named in the report to sue the media for “defamation.”  It has been pointed out that this has led to atrophy of the media coverage.

“In the U.S., if a Public Figure such as a politician wants to sue the media for defamation, it is not enough to prove that they made a false report, but they must also prove that they had actual malicious intent to defame that person when they made the false report.” 

When a prominent person or company with social influence or financial resources brings a lawsuit against an individual, journalist, or civic group in order to “muzzle” them, it is also known as a “SLAPP Lawsuit.”

Some states in the U.S. have established “Anti-SLAPP statute” as a way to maintain freedom of speech, but there are no laws or regulations in Japan yet.

Mr. Quinn said, “That is perhaps why the hurdle for accusations such as #MeToo is lower in the U.S. than in Japan.” 

In the U.S., there is a strong belief that people should be able to speak and debate freely about policies and ideas without being sued by anyone.”

Mr. Quinn emphasized that there are significant differences in the speech environment between U.S. and Japan. 

When people refer to the U.S. as a litigious nation, they often have a negative connotation.  However, because the U.S. has developed around litigation, laws have evolved to ensure that the accusations of the weak are heard, and a culture of solidarity among victims has emerged.