Why Getty Images Cannot Sue You For Damages in Japanese Court and Win; Why Japan Doesn't Allow For Damages Claims in Court
The article about Getty Images and being threatened by their lawyer got lots of reaction and lots of reads and comments. Thank you.
Japanese businessman (use this image freely!)
There is something that some people wrote to me privately and asked about and that is the tactic that Getty Images uses to claim that monies are owed for "damages."
Folks, Japan doesn't allow for "damages" claims in court. Getty cannot sue you in court for millions of yen and win.
Japanese courts only allow for claims consistent with a loss of income. Now I am no lawyer but I do know for a fact and have confirmed this with several professional Japanese lawyers; Japanese law does not allow for damages claims.
In the USA, a woman can spill a cup of hot coffee on her lap while driving a car and sue McDonald's and win $2.8 million in court in punitive damages. That could never happen in Japan. A person can only sue for loss of income.
What that means is that Getty Images can only sue you in court for the regular licensing fees for unauthorized use of images. If, say, you use a Getty licensed image for a year and they find out, you are legally obligated to pay for the standard one year fee. They cannot arbitrarily claim a massive amount of damages and win in court against you.
In many cases in Japan, Getty has claimed that licensing an image was, say, $200... But with penalties and fees, they claim that a users owes $5000 for that image. They could never win this case in court.
That's why they use lawyers that sound like Yakuza to try to scare people.
Flowers (use this image freely!)
Why doesn't Japan allow for damage claims in court? There is a historical reason for it and it's never going to change. Not, at least, in our lifetime it won't.
In World War II many Korean women were captured and used as sex slaves, called "comfort women," by the Japanese Imperial Army. After Japan surrendered, she made war reparations with the then government of South Korea. It was a part of the deal that this payment to Korea ended Japan's obligation and all responsibility for war damages.
Years later, many of these former comfort women became old and needed care. The former corrupt government of South Korea took these payments from Japan but did not distribute them to the victims and instead pocketed the money. In order to obtain payment, many of these former comfort women and their families sued the Japanese government.
The official Japanese government line and law stated that all reparations had been made and no claims for damages were recognized by the post war government of Japan and her people. The United States supported Japan on this.
It was a devastating blow for these poor victims of Japanese Imperial aggression and who were cheated by their own government's corruption.
This is why Japan cannot and will not ever allow for damages in court. It is why, after massive government coverups and scandals, that people were paid paltry sums for environmental damage caused at Minamata and other incidents that caused deaths and horrible birth defects. And it is why, today, Japanese courts are not tied up with long litigations concerning damages.
One can only sue for loss income. Damages are not recognized in Japanese courts.
Getty Images cannot win against you in a Japanese courts for "Damages." They can only sue for income not realized.
Don't be scared if they come threatening you that they will.
If Japan changed the law, and allowed damages, you can image how it would open her up for hundreds and hundreds of millions in damages claims from World War Two victims ranging from Australia to China and Korea and beyond. Like I said, this isn't going to happen.
Getty Images cannot sue you in court for damages and win.
NOTE: This came in from an anonymous reader:
"I can back up what Mike says about the comfort women. The English/Korean economist (University of Cambridge) Chang, Ha-Joon tells how South Korea used the funds for industrialization in his book, '23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism'. He talks about the Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO) *
"Undeterred, the Korean government managed to persuade the Japanese government to channel a large chunk of the reparation payments it was paying for its colonial rule (1910–45) into the steel-mill project and to provide the machines and the technical advice necessary for the mill."
*Chang, Ha-Joon "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism", "Thing (Chapter) 12,"Governments can pick winners", Paragraphs 4-9, Bloomsbury Publishing, USA, Jan 2011."