Japanese Government Discussing Stricter Copyright Laws For Cosplay

Images used are for illustration purposes only.

On the 23rd of January 2021, the Japanese newspaper Nikkan Sports reported that the Japanese government will be creating laws to alleviate ambiguities in current copyright laws regarding cosplay.

While cosplaying for non-commercial/non-profit situations will remain unaffected, uploading cosplay photos to “membership-based exchange sites such as Instagram” or earning a profit from events, may violate copyright. It is still unknown as to what is considered a “membership-based exchange site”, but many hope that this will be clarified moving forward.

Currently, nothing is set in stone yet as the Japanese government is still in discussion regarding these laws. They are listening to the opinions of both copyright holders and cosplayers, the latter being represented by celebrity cosplayer Enako.

Enako and Cool Japan Strategy Minister Shinji Inoue. Source: news.livedoor

Enako is a professional Japanese cosplayer who is well-known for her significant income from cosplay. She also recently became an ambassador for Cool Japan, an initiative from the Japanese government that aims to promote Japanese culture worldwide. She has also given her take on the news, citing Nikkan Sports as a reliable source.

“I think there are some misunderstandings on the information being spread out there about the changes to cosplay copyright, but this article is easy to understand.

I had a discussion with Minister Inoue, and we’re searching for a way to protect copyright without interfering with current cosplay culture.”

Statement from Japanese cosplayer Enako (Translation from Soranews24)

The main points of Nikkan Sports’ article are as follows:

  • The Japanese government will be updating their current copyright laws by making more precise cases on where copyright royalties are required.
  • Cosplaying as a hobby or for non-profit situations is not a problem. It will only become an issue if you are profiting from it, even on ‘membership-based exchange sites’ (SNS).
  • The government is aware of the cultural impact cosplay has gained internationally and is finding ways to uphold the copyright law without alienating cosplay culture.
  • They understand that getting legal permission to cosplay is a difficult task as there aren’t proper channels for cosplayers to obtain permission currently.
  • The Deputy General Secretary of the Intellectual Property Strategy Study Group has proposed to develop a database that allows copyright holders to be easily identified.

To read the full translation of the original article, continue reading below.

Is a copyright fee required for cosplaying anime and game characters?

In order to reduce the copyright problems from the internationally growing cosplay scene, the Japanese government has begun to update its laws.

If profit is involved, there is a certain ambiguity in the Japanese copyright law. The government expects cosplay to be a strategic pillar for Cool Japan to sell Japanese culture overseas, so they are actively supporting it.

With the increase of overseas anime fans, there is an increase in cosplay events too. If the cosplay is for non-commercial purposes, it will not violate the copyright law. However, uploading the photos to membership-based exchange sites (SNS) such as Instagram or getting compensation from events, may violate copyright.

Shinji Inoue, Minister of Strategy of Cool Japan pointed out these issues at a press conference at the end of last year. “Cosplay, as a culture, has grown very popular. We have to show how the country thinks of this culture, ” he said, regarding settling on a guideline.

The government has already begun to hear the opinions from the copyright holders’ side and also from the popular cosplayer Enako, who was appointed as the ambassador for Cool Japan.

The government is looking for ways to uphold the copyright law without alienating cosplay culture. If the copyright law is applied too strictly, the cosplay culture might face issues.

In the first place, it is difficult currently for cosplayers to get permission from the original author as there is no contact person provided.

At the moment, they will not be making amendments to the law yet, as they will be making more precise cases where copyright royalties are required.

Even Taro Yamada of the Liberal Democratic Party, who is Deputy Secretary General of the Intellectual Property Strategy Study Group, said “There has to be a plan that both parties can enjoy with peace of mind.”

He has also proposed to develop a database that allows copyright holders to be easily identified.

(Original article by Nikkan Sports. This translation belongs to THE MAGIC RAIN.)

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