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.