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Japanese Music Chart Company Sues Writer Who Questions Their Methodology

TOKYO (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) – Oricon, Japan's equivalent to Billboard in the United States and top music industry ranking chart provider, filed a civil suit against freelance writer and music critic Ugaya Hiro in Tokyo District Court for damaging the ranking chart's "honor and credibility" through a quote used in an April 2006 issue of Cyzo (Saizou) magazine.

Oricon is demanding 50,000,000 JPY ($416,666 US) in compensation from Ugaya. They're not suing the magazine that published the article. They're not asking for a retraction of the article. They're just suing a person, the author of the article called up for a quote, who gave his opinion, questioning the ranking methodology of the Oricon charts. In fact, Oricon even admits that they only want Ugaya to "shut up" and issue an apology. Perhaps Japan should look into passing a SLAPP law to prevent this kind of thing.

In Japan, Oricon was the only hit chart to exist for a long time, so their statistical accuracy has been excessively valued. Some have said, Oricon puts reservation copies in its count. There is a high probability that there are dummy reservations in there – that somebody reserved a copy and then later canceled the reservation. If the words "Oricon Debut #1" get used, you can later use that as promotion. I have also heard from multiple record company employees that "you can manipulate the Oricon numbers to a certain degree." Oricon is a mysterious organization to start with. They assert that they use "Oricon's unique statistical methodology" but almost never clarify those methods. In a normal statistical survey, you detail the methods publicly, so it's natural that you emphasize that there is no room to insert doubts about the survey's credibility. If you don't do that, it's like as I am saying, the statistical reliability is low.

Oricon is not suing Cyzo or its publisher Infobahn, only the freelance writer quoted in the piece.

Ugaya is claiming that this lawsuit is an intentional intimidation for the following reasons:

1) Even if he wins, he will owe around 7 million JPY in legal fees. This is enough to financially ruin a freelance writer.

2) This is the first case of this kind where the company did not sue the writer or the publisher of the piece. Ugaya had no role in creating or writing the article. He was merely interviewed by the Cyzo editors, and his statement was summarized into the quote.

3) Oricon has not responded to the allegations in print, despite the fact that Oricon publishes more than five magazines. They also have yet to demand correction or retraction of the article.

4) The President of Oricon – Koike Suguru – has publicly announced that he would like for Ugaya to "shut up" and would drop the case if Ugaya publicly apologizes and admits his mistakes.

5) The actual contents of Ugaya's quote are an "open secret" within the music industry.

Ugaya is the author of several books on Japanese music, including the very informative (What is J-Pop?). He is asking supporters to write to Oricon here (Step Roppongi-nishi, 6-8-10 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo 106-0032, Phone:81-3 (3405) 5252, Fax 81-3 (3405) 8189