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Negima's Akamatsu Warns Against Changing Japan's Copyright Law

posted on by Egan Loo
J-Comi's Ken Akamatsu: Modeling Japan after U.S. will 'destroy' dōjinshi, diminish manga industry

Ken Akamatsu, the creator of the Negima and Love Hina manga, warned on Monday that proposed changes to Japan's Copyright Law would "destroy" derivative dōjinshi (self-published) works, and he added that the power of the entire manga industry would diminish as a result. Kensaku Fukui, a lawyer and a Nihon University professor, wrote an Internet Watch essay about the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) talks that prompted Akamatsu's remarks.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative describes the TPP as "an Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement currently being negotiated among the United States and eight other partners" (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam). The agreement aims to make copyright laws uniform across all the signatory countries. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will be attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on November 12-13, and Japan's possible involvement in the TPP will be one of the topics discussed.

Formal Complaints Now Required for Enforcement

According to Fukui, if Japan joins the TPP, copyright violations will no longer be offenses which require a formal complaint from the injured party for prosecution. Under the current Copyright Law, the police and prosecutors cannot act against copyright infringement unless the copyright holders themselves file a complaint. The proposed changes under TPP would also allow statutory damages to be levied against defendants.

The United States had asked Japan to make these changes in its Copyright Law in 2007, but opponents argued that if the changes were made, the culture developed through parody and dōjinshi works would be harmed. Akamatsu further argued that the changes "would destroy derivative dōjinshi" (or dōjinshi based on other creative works). He added, "And as a result, the power of the entire manga industry would also diminish."

Extending Copyright Terms

Fukui noted that the TPP would extend the term of copyright protection on creative works. Japan's current copyright laws protect the copyrights of a work for 50 years after the author's death — except for copyrights on cinematographic works, which last for 70 years after their first release. In the United States, copyright protection lasts for 70 years after the author's death, except for works of corporate authorship which are protected for 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication. The TPP aims to make copyright terms consistent across all countries that sign it.

Parallel Imports

Fukui further stated that the TPP, as proposed, would allow copyright holders to control parallel imports. Parallel imports are genuine, non-counterfeit items which are imported into other countries without the copyright holders' permission. For example, many companies ship anime discs and character goods out of Japan, while other companies ship North American anime DVDs and Blu-ray Discs into Japan to compete with more expensive Japanese releases. Under the TPP, copyright holders can stop or restrict these imports, and some copyright holders successfully argued that they already can.

Besides drawing manga, Ken Akamatsu also runs J-Comi, a site for releasing out-of-print manga online with the authors' permission. He has since added derivative dōjinshi — again, with the permission of both the original creators and the dōjinshi authors.

[Via Hachima Kikō]

Update: Link to Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement updated. Thanks, Lisa.

This article has a follow-up: Artist K. Hachiya: Copyright Law Changes Would Affect Cosplay (2011-11-09 20:30)
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