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Japan: Undertaking by Non-Attorneys of Requests to Delete Online Content Can Constitute Legal Representation

(Feb. 24, 2017) Under the Attorney Act, legal assistance from non-lawyers is restricted in Japan, as it is in most jurisdictions. (Attorney Act, Act No. 205 of 1949, as amended by Act No. 87 of 2005, art. 72, translated in JAPANESE LAW TRANSLATION.) According to news articles, on February 20, 2017, the Tokyo District Court decided that undertaking requests from a client to delete content on websites was legal representation. Therefore, the contract between the plaintiff, an individual who requested that a non-attorney agency take action to delete content, and the agency was invalid, and the agency must return fees that were received from the plaintiff. (Ryuji Nakagawa, Tokyo District Court Decided Illegal Nature of Net Article Deletion Business, ASAHI SHINBUN (Feb. 20, 2017) (in Japanese).)

As the number of persons and organizations that want their information on the Internet deleted has increased, the number of agencies that undertake deletion requests has also increased. (Ryuji Nakagawa & Hideki Murakami, Widespread Net “Deletion Businesses” Advertise Their Skills and Undertake Procedures, ASAHI SHINBUN (Feb. 21, 2017) (in Japanese).) Also, the number of disputes between clients and such agencies has grown. In the present case, the plaintiff wanted 13 websites to delete descriptions that would negatively affect him and paid about 500,000 yen (about US$4,500) for the deletion service. Because only ten websites deleted the descriptions after requests were made through the agency, the plaintiff was unhappy with the outcome, and sued the agency. (Nakagawa, supra.)