New Troubles of Our Time
Yasutaka Machimura , Professor
Graduate School of Law(School of Law)
High school : Seikei High School, Tokyo
Academic background : Graduate School of Law, Hokkaido University
- Research areas
- Civil Law
- Research keywords
- trial, information laws, consumer laws, gender
How does your current research relate to modern society?
We are very busy in the present age. Society is rapidly changing.
The human lifespan is about 80 years, whereas the lifespan of dogs is about 20 years. Assuming that time passes faster for dogs compared with us humans, a rapid passage of time is called a dog year. However, now society is changing so fast that it may be more adequate to say “rat year” rather than “dog year.”
Experiments involving the Internet that you are now using started relatively long ago, but we started to use the Internet about 20 years ago. Since then, networks have developed incessantly. We have started to use the Internet also via mobile and smart phones and it has become more and more accessible. The development also changed our lifestyle.
In the past, it was practically unthinkable for the general population to purchase goods directly from overseas stores, but now it is common to purchase books and clothes from abroad. Today we can purchase music and movies as data from disks and listen or view them within several minutes after buying them. There have been drastic changes in space and time constraints.
Furthermore, SNS is significantly changing social relationships. You can talk with people you meet again after several years as if you had met them yesterday if you find their updated life information frequently on the Internet. Similarly, you can have a friendly chat even with people you meet for the first time.
These new relationships may be called a society through information networks. With this development, a new field called Information Laws was born, in which troubles also take new forms. If an ordinary consumer purchased a brand product directly from a store located abroad but received fake goods, it will be far more difficult to make a complaint with the store and get refunded compared with if it was a domestic transaction. New services using the Internet and computers (including search services themselves) as well as business use of big data, which is recently much talked about, provide big business opportunities, but at the same time involve the risks of violating existing laws and infringing on the rights of others.
Civil trials will be used as the final solution of such new types of troubles, but can we solve them with the traditional trial system which dates back to King Solomon and ancient Rome? In order to solve new types of troubles, it is necessary to renew the rules that define the content of the solution, but it may be also necessary to rethink the methods and procedures of the solution.
What are new trial systems?
New procedures to solve troubles were established recently for collective recovery from damages in consumer laws. They are Japanese-style procedures by reference to the method called class action used in the United States and also with reference to the legal systems of Brazil and France.
For example, if a large number of consumers bought goods via the Internet believing them to be brand goods which were found to be fake, each of the consumers may have suffered damages equating to tens of thousands of yen, but it is difficult for them to file a suit for recovery. In this case, a consumer organization may file a suit for confirmation of the distributer’s liability of having sold the fake goods. When the final judgment confirmed the liability, the organization will perform the procedures to realize the interest of the consumers, allowing them to receive refund of the purchase price through the activities of the organization.
Because such new procedures are different in many aspects compared with conventional procedures, it is necessary to consider many things to ensure smooth operation of the procedures. My research involves exploration of new types of methods to handle troubles.
Are there new types of troubles between husbands and wives?
Apart from the Internet, there are new waves in marital troubles. There is an old saying: “One should not interfere with lovers’ quarrels,” but this never means that a husband may beat, injure, or, in the worst case, kill his wife. Husband and wife are equal partners. Controlling the partner by force and fear is domestic violence (DV) and that is not acceptable. From the viewpoint of gender law, husband and wife are different in terms of physical gender and their roles in delivery and child rearing, but are equal in all other aspects.
If an incident of DV unfortunately occurs between a husband and wife, who should be equal, how should we solve the problem? There are various problems. If they have children, what way of solving the problem is desirable for the children? The assailant is also a parent for the children, but may we handle the case like usual divorces?
As the procedure to solve troubles between people, civil trials also handle those between husband and wife. There is a mountain of issues to think about and study concerning this old and new problem. With new problems appearing one after another in modern society, my research themes also arises one after another.
(1) Edited by the Law Enforcement Study Group, Legal Support for Victims of Domestic Violence (Hou ha DV higaisya wo sukueruka) Shojihomu (2012)
(2) Yasutaka Machimura, How to Use the Act on Special Provisions of Civil Court Procedures for Collective Recovery of Property Damage of Consumers (Syouhisyasaibantetsudukitokureihou no tukaikata) LABO (2014)