Robot 6

Akamatsu: Japanese copyright changes threaten fan comics

Doraemon doujinshi

Here’s a quick thought experiment: What would happen to you if you made your own Mickey Mouse comic and sold it online or at conventions? You would expect to feel the wrath of Disney pretty quickly, wouldn’t you?

Yet doujinshi, fan-made comics, are a huge part of Japanese culture, and many of them involve characters from existing manga series. And Ken Akamatsu, creator of Negima and Love Hina—as well as his own doujinshi—wants it to stay that way, which is why he is speaking out against Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade agreement would make copyright laws uniform among the nine signatories, including the U.S. If Japan signs on, Akamatsu says, the new regulations would have a chilling effect on the doujinshi market.

Japan’s current copyright laws allow publishers to tolerate a certain amount of remixing of copyrighted characters, although there are limits: In 2007, for instance, the publisher Shogakukan took legal action against the creator of a Doraemon doujinshi that not only perfectly mimicked the look of the original manga (one of the most popular in all of Asia) but also sold over 13,000 copies.

That’s far off the scale of most doujinshi, which typically sell in much smaller numbers, and on balance, many observers think that the doujinshi phenomenon is good for the manga market, because it builds interest for the series and characters and provides a training ground for new creators—perhaps the best known being Rumiko Takahashi, creator of InuYasha and Ranma 1/2, who got her start creating doujinshi under the guidance of Lone Wolf and Cub artist Kazuo Koike.

While sales of an individual doujinshi are small, the phenomenon is a big one. Comiket, the Japanese comics market that draws over half a million doujinshi sellers and buyers to the Tokyo Big Sight convention center twice a year, may very well be the world’s largest comics convention.

The new rules would allow police and prosecutors to take action against copyright violators without a formal complaint from the copyright holder, which would make such actions much more likely, and it would allow fines to be levied against the violators. The agreement would also have a chilling effect on businesses that import Japanese anime, figurines, and other products without the copyright holders’ permission. While a ban on “parallel imports” seems like a quaint relic of an earlier age, some copyright holders want one in place to keep cheaper imported goods from competing with their own product. The law would also extend copyright terms to match the terms current in the U.S. None of this is good for the thriving fan culture that has made manga and anime such a phenomenon in Japan. As the retailer site ICv2 observes,

Perhaps given the relative success of the manga industry in Japan, American copyright laws should be changed to mirror Japan’s rather than vice versa.

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Comments

5 Comments

I’ll go ahead and be that guy: Thank *God*. Doujinshi is freaking terrible.

Oh, and as far as changing US copyright law to make publishing fanfic and other such abominations legal: No thank you. I’d rather not walk into the bookstore and see “My Immortal” sitting on an endcap, thankyou.

Michael P, you do realize that there /are/ quite a few fanfics better than My Immortal out there, right? Maybe nothing Nobel-worthy, but there are plenty that are just as enjoyable as any original amateur short story. (And at least a handful that, with some proper noun changes, could easily be published professionally – my personal distaste for that “strategy” aside.)

Though I do agree with the “please don’t sell them in stores” thing, for a variety of reasons. Fandom is best handled by fans, not national chains and whatnot!

Michael P: Person Who Has Only Read Very Few Doujinshi.
I was at Comiket back in December of 09 and yes, quite a bit of it was crappy. But holy shit, did some of it look freaking amazing. The main complaint from me was that I didn’t have a whole lot of money and furigana isn’t standard practice in doujinshi manga like it is in corporate manga, so a lot of it was literally unreadable for me.

Pretty sure using other people’s characters to make a profit isn’t legal in US anyway right, so there goes publishing fan fics.

I hate this idea, though at least it’s US law that’s being extended, which means not all fanworks automatically become illegal, just ones you intend to profit off of, which was already illegal anyway. Still, this is a rather bad idea. I don’t think it should be done.

I don’t see how this is supposed to affect cosplay, how in the world do people make money off of cosplay?

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