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Hey, Answerman!
ACTA Aghast-a

by Brian Hanson,

Evening, ladies and gents! Welcome to Hey, Answerman! The internet column where there is no such thing as a dumb question - only dumb answers! And all of those are provided by yours truly. I mean, Yurr Strouley. That guy should be blamed for anything that goes wrong here.

Moving on - hoo boy, this week's batch of questions touch on a lot of interesting grey-area matters about copyright and ownership. You could say they are... grey matters.

Hey, Answerman!

So as I go to conventions one part of the con I like is the artist alley, but something has been brought to my attention. I remember reading somewhere that the artists in the artist alleys who sell anything with anime characters on them (without getting permission from the company or creator) are doing something illegal because they don't have the permission. This set off a few questions in my head: 1. What are companies or creators thoughts on this? 2. What (if anything) are companies doing to stop this? 3. If it is a problem why aren't there any regulations for it at cons (or are there?)

Ah, see - what the artists at artist alley are doing is pretty flagrant copyright violation. And of course the companies know about, how could they not? They go to the same conventions, they know the score. And yet, of course, the intrepid artists over at Artist Alley are not being hauled out of the convention center en masse in handcuffs.

So, running this down by the numbers here. 1: the companies can't really say what they feel about it. Unless they hate it, in which case they are vocal about it and take legal action. Like, I dunno, Sunrise, whenever any intrepid artist has the temerity to draw a Gundam without their express permission. But even if a company or a creator doesn't mind fanart, they can't really say anything about it. They basically have to plead the 5th. Unless they want to go the legal route and sue, which, let's face it, is a terrible PR move. I mean, Marvel right now is earning the righteous ire of everyone because they're seeking $17,000 in damages against the creator of Ghost Rider. And legally, Marvel is totally within their right to do such a thing - but the sympathies of your most ardent fans tend to stay with the individuals in such a case, and not the company. Hence why, typically, such acts are rare - typically the companies that are more protective of their creations are the ones that are aimed at younger kids. A one-way ticket to a Cease and Desist order is to do anything with Pokemon, for instance. There's a fear in these companies that their younger audience might get "confused" by these fan-made works and think that they actually came from within Nintendo, and so they're pretty militant about scrubbing the area clean from any unauthorized likenesses of the characters.

2: So, for Artist Alley specifically; they don't really do much, usually. It's one thing to send out a Cease & Desist email over the internet - it's a whole 'nother can of PR-related worms to actually send out the guys in the suits to slap down a starving artist in person. Remember, if you will, the outrage and the anger that occured when Anime Expo was held in Disneyland, and the Disney police came down swiftly upon any and all artists and dealers whose work was considered "inappropriate." The SPJA had major egg on their face afterwards, and it took a good deal of effort to win back the fans' collective goodwill.

3: Well, there is. Kinda. Different cons have different rules, but they're all mostly the same jive. Here's Sakura-Con's take: "You may not sell any items that violate copyright or trademarks. This includes official logos, alterations or reproductions of official artwork, and bootlegs, as well as items that infringe on the work of independent artists. Fanart is allowed as long as it follows the above rules."

So, that's it right there. The con staff and the companies involved are all more than willing to turn a blind eye to Fanart so long as it is, in some way, your own original work. You can't just slap the NERV symbol on a T-Shirt or sell a tracing of Goku punching a tracing of Superman. So long as there is some kind of artistic interpretation involved, you're not gonna get your Artist Alley booth busted up by a jack-booted group of thugs.

Unless you're drawing smutty pictures of characters having sex. Then that's no good. But! Play by the individual rules of each convention you're going to, and you'll be fine, the companies involved will be fine (except for the ones that aren't, so make sure you do some reasearch on that), and everyone will go home happy and without incident.

Hey Answerman,

Who do I talk to about independent book reviews? I came out with a self-published graphic novel last month and I was wondering if ANN can do a review on it.

No, we can't.

The reason why is that, basically, we just don't have the manpower for everything. We're not being jerks here, I promise. Look, here's ANN's take on so-called "world" manga, i.e. manga-style comics originating from parts other than Japan, direct from the official ANN FAQ:

"...Anime News Network's purpose is to cover Japanese animation and comic books. Currently we do not have the resources to review all the Japanese anime and manga that are released in North America. If and when we are able to review 100% of the Japanese anime and manga that are released in North America, we will then consider expanding our area of review coverage to include manga-style comics (world manga) that originate outside of Japan."

See, we barely have the staff in order to cover all the big stuff, even nowadays, when manga releases are a much smaller trickle compared to their ubiquity several years ago. But rest assured, though, that we're not just elitist pricks about this sort of thing; most of the bigger anime and comics review websites out there won't be able to review your graphic novel. Simply because, and I hate to say this... it's self-published.

Look, when you go the self-publishing route, it's basically a trade-off of sorts. You don't have to deal with a publisher, you don't have to worry about any changes, edits, or anything of the sort. You're doing it all by yourself. And simply in regards to the content itself, that's great! You don't answer to anybody. But, here's the catch: You're doing it all by yourself. That means you pay for it yourself, you have to promote it yourself, and it's all on you, man. The perks of having a publisher is that they handle the promotion, they get your book out there in front of the eyes of the reviewers and the tastemakers of the industry, and they spend all the money to make that happen, because the financial risk becomes theirs. A publisher can get you a review. They can get a bunch of 'em. That's their job.

Unfortunately, most bigger websites, such as ours, simply doesn't have the staff at hand who are able to review material that isn't assigned to them by their editors, and in turn their editors don't have the time to sort through all the material that's given to them by the publishers, so unfortunately, self-published work, unless it's exceptional, tends to be ignored.

But, fret not! Just because we here at ANN aren't able to review your graphic novel, others can. You're obviously not the only person who is self-publishing your own graphic novel, you know. I'd say the key to getting your self-published book noticed isn't to necessarily attempt to target a specific website for review; Honestly, you'd have far greater luck in having your book exposed to the masses by targeting specific people. Search around and you'll find a couple of blogs and websites that are devoted pretty heavily to reviewing independently-published comics, and then of those, find the one guy or girl whose personal taste more closely aligns with the tone and shape of your own book. Send in a cover letter and a sample, and there you go.

My heart always goes out to people who disavow themselves of the publishing industry in an attempt to retain creative freedom, but sadly there's still a business aspect to publishing that affects not just the authors, but us as well - as critics, columnists, reviewers, whatever. And until the day where we have enough manga and graphic novel reviewers on staff, that we can properly and sensibly compensate, I don't think we'll be taking any outside solicitations on self-published work.

Hi, I'm Kate and I come from Poland. I heard about ACTA and I'm worried. There are many anime and manga fans in Poland, but all anime isn't available in my country, for example I can watch Naruto only on the Internet, because in shops we don't have Naruto DVD, or on TV. If ACTA will come is there any opportunity that Poland can watch anime?

For those who aren't in the loop: ACTA is to SOPA as the Bubonic Plague is to Bird Flu. SOPA had a lot of people pretty riled up, and with good reason; it was a darkly-clouded runaround of free speech and attracted the ire of some of the biggest businesses on the internet. Namely, Google and Wikipedia. So, SOPA is effectively dead. Hooray! Except ACTA is multinational, and could potentially effect 31 sovereign nations. Including the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan. And ACTA would create a brand-new, ultra-ultra secretive global cabal of copyright protectors, who don't have to answer AT ALL to any other global entity, such as the World Trade Organization or the United Nations. Don't worry, Internet - a shadowy collection of nameless, unaccountable figures who report to NO ONE will be able to make sure we don't drown in a sea of pirated material! And all of this because "...the membership and priorities of those organizations (G8, WTO, and WIPO) simply are not the most conducive to this kind of path breaking project," according to their online fact sheet.

And the infuriating part of all of this, is that it's simply a red herring, a MacGuffin if you will, to get nations like China and Russia to agree to ACTA. Because, of course, China and Russia take a pretty laissez-faire attitude regarding things like "copyright," and companies like the MPAA wish to be able to take a more proactive stance against that. But China and Russia don't exactly have the highest of opinion regarding much of these global governing bodies like the WTO and the UN, so! Simply cut them out of the picture, draft the ACTA legislation in secret, with no accountability and zero transparency, under the guise of "national security," and simply wait until the chips fall.

Ooh, and the worst part about ACTA? It essentially criminalizes "generic" drugs, because one of ACTA's key proponents has been the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, because how dare those "generic" drugs exist and eat into a drug company's profit margin. Just, ugh.

Luckily, though, ACTA hasn't gained much traction since last month, when the European Union finally signed off on the official agreement. Of course, a signature by the EU doesn't mean much by itself - each of the EU member states has to ratify it via their Parliament. And that, of course, is where you come in.

Much like SOPA here in the 'states, there's a veritable wealth of anti-ACTA material out there, and plenty of ways to get involved if you're so inclined. And for Kate specifically, you'll be happy to know that Poland has officially "suspended" their ratification, after a series of vocal and well-timed protests over the past several weeks.

In a way, I feel bad that I didn't get to this question sooner - the wheels for legislation like this are turning rather quickly, and I'm very lucky in that I have such wonderful readers from all over the globe. Something like ACTA could really affect them and their countries, and it sucks all around. Let's hope common sense prevails over ignorance, and let's hope that some of the online activism that flourished here in the US last month can be spread around to our buddies overseas in order to stop this flagrant abuse of power.

And, of course, in regards to anime... yes, yes indeed ACTA could be pretty fatal if you wanted to, say, watch a Polish-language fansub. At that point, your only logistical options would be to import an English-language copy of whatever anime you hoped to catch either from here in the US or abroad, or any of the dubious methods of IP-blocking in order to catch up on simulcasts and streaming. A completely un-ideal situation.

Tired of my lugubriousness? Who wouldn't? That's why it's time for Hey, Answerfans! That time of the week where I set down my indignant megaphone and allow you all the opportunity to answer MY questions! Last week, I was thinking about this oft-describe chasm that exists between older anime fans and younger ones, and how that changed or colored people's perspectives on a certain, recent high-profile title:

Starting out, Robert essentially gives a statement that's sure to upset Daryl Surat:

As a younger fan, I had no idea what Redline was until everyone started making such a ruckus about it being released stateside. In fact, until you posted this question, I had never actually paid much mind to the movie even when it was put up on the front page. Based on these observations, I can safely assume that I am minimally impacted by this release.

Flipping the script, Campbell is as young as they come, but had a much different reaction:


As a presumably young fan - I am still only 17 years old - who has been watching anime for four years, I have to admit being excited when I heard the buzz about Redline. Seeing the reviews, I even persuaded my two younger brothers to sit down with me and watch it. Although one of my brothers gave up halfway through, the other persisted and enjoyed the thrilling ride. I too was blown away.

It is hard to talk about Redline now without seeming clichéd or derivative, but here goes. The beauty of this film, despite criticism for its supposedly simple plot, is precisely that: the narrative. Sure, the visual artistry is phenomenal, a treasure to behold on a full high-definition screen. But in the end, the greatest strength of the animation is that it engrosses you in a compelling sci-fi story. Redline thrusts its audience into the action, with the first race sequence immediately setting the tone of speed and danger which characterizes the film. In a simple matter of minutes it has drawn you into a fantasy universe, and matters of background seem irrelevant to the on-screen action. The most engaging aspect of the film, for me, is that it does not solely dwell on the racing, but also spends time developing the central characters, to the extent where the climactic final race becomes all the more important because of the viewer's level of connection. In my opinion, Redline presents a stunning visual style which complements the well-paced and interesting narrative to create a definitive anime masterpiece that fully delivers on its promise of an incredible and exhilarating time.

When I think of my own personal anime journey, which began with Avatar the Last Airbender and Bleach, and how it has eventuated in my exposure to such a great wealth of anime and an entire new world, I cannot help but be excited. My first thought, when I came down from the excitement high that Redline left me in, was that it is such a pity that most of my family and friends would reject the chance to see something like this, or not appreciate its quality. So I guess, the answer from me as a young viewer, is that Redline depicts the absolute possibility of Japanese animation, and makes me feel privileged to have discovered this universe that some others will never know.

And now Max flouts his good taste with pride:

Let's get this out of the way, Brian. I'm a tender 19 years young. I'll tell you that despite my youth, I don't enjoy anime as we know it as "anime," but just as animation from Japan. I don't have a standard I hold anime to because it's so amorphous at any given moment; would you believe the teenage-aimed Haruhi Suzumiya TV adaptation came out in the same year as the solemn yet accessible The Girl who Leapt Through Time? It just goes to show how you can't judge an anime as being too deep or shallow; you need to judge it as part of a broader group. Redline certainly is a refreshing change in Japanese animation, as the over-commercialized elements the industry has at the moment really dampens its range of creative output. But more importantly, Redline isn't just a good anime, but it's simply good animation. Arguably, the biggest reasons we watch animation in general, from Japan or not, is because the only limit in creating animation is literally your imagination. It allows us to create and view things that are impossible in reality. An interest in animation easily overlaps in an interest in art, and if you enjoy art, Redline is fantastic. If you think Redline (or alternatively, Gurren-Lagann) being flashy and colorful is bad and makes Redline overrated, then you don't watch anime because you enjoy art and animation itself; you enjoy anime because the narrow-minded idea - that only Japan can make deep and meaningful stories - paints you into a itty-bitty corner of what you choose to see, and I suggest you see for yourself how numerous other nations can produce fantastic films and series alongside Japan.

Ben H. is pretty spot on in the "insanity" department:

Well, I've been consistently watching anime for only about two-three years, but one of the things I love about anime is that it tends to go over-the-top in radically different ways than most American media. So when I heard about Redline from a friend of mine, ("It gives Gurren Lagaan a run for its money!") I looked it up, and I was interested enough that I pre-ordered the North American blu-ray. Wasn't a waste of money. It's absolutely insane in a way that Hollywood can't do, and their only attempt, Speed Racer, was a box office failure.

My final thought? Redline is an absolute blast, and it should be put in the same category as Cowboy Bebop, i.e. every anime fan should watch it at least once.

I shudder to think of the phrase "Our Generation's Ninja Scroll" and the truth it invariably contains, but nonetheless Brandon makes a salient point in this, our final response:

Perhaps older fans have been rejoicing about Redline, almost connecting it with a sense of nostalgia from watching such anime as Ninja Scroll. At my age I may not get the same connection, but the movie has far more than just nostalgia to give the viewer a reason to watch. The second that I saw the trailer from when it would play at the Toronto Film Festival and read a few reviews I knew that I would watch it. Even my generation can get excited to see a movie that promises that your body will not be ready to watch it. I haven't yet seen it, my friend Anthony is going to drive up in a month or two and we are going to watch it together, but I am certainly very interested. I am certain that it will find a permanent spot on my anime shelf. Perhaps it will be my generation's Ninja Scroll.

Great job, as always! Next week's question is much, much more open-ended, so I certainly hope to see a ton of responses to this! Unless you hate me. Because that's all it boils down to, really. Next week, we're obviously going to miss Valentine's Day by a few days, but that's no reason NOT to celebrate it here! So I thought it would be cute and fun to toss this question your direction:

Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.

Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I have so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers
. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.

We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.

Things To Do:

* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.

Things Not To Do:

* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.

* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.

So long from me, everybody! Don't forget, though, to stop by and drop off a question or two, or mayhap an Answerfans response, to my inbox at answerman[at]animenewsnetwork.com! Dasvidaniya!

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