Award-Winning Manga Author Opens Up His Work To Be Used By 'Anyone, Anywhere, For Anything,' Royalty-Free

from the your-move,-Disney dept

There’s a rhetorical question that often gets thrown our way here at Techdirt: “If you remove the protection of copyright, how are artists supposed to make a living?” Despite many, many answers having been given, the question persists. Here’s another look at a possible answer in progress.

Via Plagiarism Today comes the news that Shuho Sata, the author of “Burakku Jyakku ni Yoroshiku” (“Say Hello to Black Jack”), is getting set to fly without the copyright safety net. He’s freeing his 10-million selling manga from the limits of copyright as a form of “second use.

This means that after 15 September anyone in the world will be free to novelize, televise, create merchandise, or in any way adapt the original work for either commercial or non-commercial purposes without having to pay royalties. This is the latest move in the writer’s quest to find alternatives to the “outdated” model of intellectual property rights.

Earlier this year, Sato ended his relationship with the original publisher of the Black Jack series and started his own publishing website, where his works are currently uploaded. That was the first step in Sato’s quest to discover how artists might make a living without relying on exclusivity and enforcement.

“The traditional model of making profit by holding onto a copyright is gradually going stale” he said. “I want to explore the possible benefits to authors beyond this system.”

To this end, Sato will also be displaying his work at the pixiv Zingaro in Tokyo and providing a copier for visitors to use to “replicate whatever they want.” A few more details of his plan are available at the pixiv Zingaro site. Sato will not actually be renouncing his copyright. Instead, he has chosen to not enforce it, in essence granting the entire world free rein to use his work to create foreign language adaptations, applications, commercial films, TV series, produce merchandise or anything else the “second users” can come up with. 

The fine print on the deal reads as such (translation a bit wonky — via Chrome):

Terms of Use: do not need to contact us in advance.
Royalty others: we do not require any reward.
You are happy if you can use the work freely.

Sato admits he has no idea how this will turn out, but is clearly interested in observing the results. His feeling seems to be (again, translation issues) that there has to be a better system than the current one and the only way we’ll find something better, or one that fits more in line with today’s technology, is to head in the opposite direction and see where that leads us.

Someone is sure to point out that Sato is only doing this after selling 10 million copies thanks to existing copyright laws, as if that somehow negates the effort he’s making. I invite those particular someones to observe all the other artists out there who have sold millions but still clutched that copyright close to their chests for the remainder of their lifetimes and well into the lives of their heirs. 

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Award-Winning Manga Author Opens Up His Work To Be Used By 'Anyone, Anywhere, For Anything,' Royalty-Free”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
52 Comments
Mike C. (profile) says:

Part of the problem...

Someone is sure to point out that Sato is only doing this after selling 10 million copies thanks to existing copyright laws, as if that somehow negates the effort he’s making.

Part of the problem with changing copyright is that we don’t yet truly know what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t. It seems like people that would make comments similar to the one above want “new” creators to do all the heavy lifting of figuring out the new business models. Of course, back here in reality-land, the rest of us recognize that it will take both newcomers and established creators to help chart a course forward. Creators like Sato should be cherished for their willingness to step up and help.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Part of the problem...

If anything, this looks suspiciously like old school copyright.

The dude has made his money and now has chosen not to be a jerk. He likely understands his place in the grand scheme of things and realizes the main value of his work is now inspirational rather than financial.

The “profit window” has pretty much closed. All that’s left for him is the “long tail” now. Perhaps he realizes that his interests aren’t served exercising his “right to exclude”.

The “financial gain” part of the process is over and he realizes it.

Vog (profile) says:

Sato will not actually be renouncing his copyright. Instead, he has chosen to not enforce it, in essence granting the entire world free rein to use his work to create foreign language adaptations, applications, commercial films, TV series, produce merchandise or anything else the “second users” can come up with.

This is commendable, but the cynic in me can’t help but suggest a more appropriate title for this article: Award-Winning Manga Author Greenlights Doujinshis That Were ‘Pretty Much Going To Happen Anyway’

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

That isn’t accurate. The doujinshi market is comprised of amateur artists of all types. Usually some artists take an apprenticeship with a much more renowned artist to build up their resume. Some artists you may know are Oda of One Piece who began with Rurouni Kenshin. I recall that the maker of Air Gear started in doujinshi. What isn’t being talked about is how popular self publishing is in Japan. While Japan is heavily regulated, no one is really consuming now because of their recession since 1995.

Sadly, it will take time for Japan to recognize how the digital world had changed the regular world. I’m excited for what the future holds but it will there will be an interesting time ahead.

william (profile) says:

Re: Re:

We all know doujinshi is in legal grey area anyways.

In Japan they are allowed because most if not all mangaka (manga artist) either grow out of doujinshi or is related to doujinshi market/artist in some way. In the tradition of encouraging/allowing younger mangaka the opportunity that establish artists had when they were doing doujinshi too, mangaka turns a blind eye toward doujinshi and does not talk about it.

However, that being said, from time to time you COULD have an outlier who is willing to shut down doujinshi of his/her work. Sato is essentially making it official that he is allowing this instead of just let it be.

So your alternative title is appropriate, but that does not make the action less meaningful.

Vog (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Right, and I said this in light of these facts. I’m supportive of these doujinshi artists, because they’re building on and contributing to a work.

It’s nice that the comic creator is making it official, as you say; I’m sure such a statement will encourage artists to create derivative works based on his material, but I have to wonder if such a statement really changes anything for the doujinshi market as a whole.

Then again, perhaps I’m being too harsh, especially since this is also recent news. I guess good news is good news.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m a little confused, honestly, about why he plans to maintain the copyright over the work when he is relinquishing all of the rights it grants him. What purpose is there left for it to serve?
I suppose he might be keeping it as a safety net, so he can undo the decision by once again pursuing royalties if he decides he doesn’t like the results of his experiment. Let us hope it doesn’t come to that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Holding onto his copyrights while promising not ever to enforce them inspires zero confidence. Why would I risk remixing something into a project I might toil over for quite a while, only to have permission revoked after the fact? Sounds like a fool’s errand to me. If he were really serious about not enforcing he would just relinquish copyright — end of story. Therefore I just don’t trust him and will regard anything related to this story to be bullshit until proven otherwise.

Carlos Sol?s a.k.a. ArkBlitz (in the rest of the I (profile) says:

What about CC-BY?

Somebody who speaks Japanese should tell him about Creative Commons. It seems that Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) is what he’s wanting in this case. Also, it would be much safer to use in copyleft works. In other news, I would have never thought that Black Jack would be free-as-in-freedom in this century.

Hima (profile) says:

Re: What about CC-BY?

I can speak Japanese and I’m thinking about contacting him. If I could reach him I’ll definitely ask him what he thinks about Creative Commons.

Also, I think you’re thinking about Tezuka Osamu’s Black Jack? This is ‘Say Hello to Black Jack’, a comic about politics in medical field in Japan. It’s really good 🙂

Ninja (profile) says:

It’s an interesting experiment. I do believe he may receive less for what he has already produced but he will see an increase in the profits from his future endeavors.

But I’ll make a prediction here. What will be more interesting will be the life that will flourish from his work. Fan fiction already thrives even with copyright but once ppl are given green light to create on top o it it’ll become more organized and “official”. His attitude will create both a much larger legacy related to his works and more loyal fans that will replace the revenue he’s losing by letting copyright go. And maybe it’ll be even greater now.

Worth following his experience.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Someone is sure to point out that Sato is only doing this after selling 10 million copies thanks to existing copyright laws, as if that somehow negates the effort he’s making. I invite those particular someones to observe all the other artists out there who have sold millions but still clutched that copyright close to their chests for the remainder of their lifetimes and well into the lives of their heirs. “

Tim, I guess you just don’t understand the idea of the artist having the power to MAKE THE CHOICE THEMSELVES. Copyright isn’t an all inclusive, one way street where the artist signs up and his or her work remains that way, untouchable for a million years. The artist can (and sometimes does, as in this case) decide to put things out there for free use earlier.

Heck, creative commons and such really is just the same thing, variations of copyright open license.

If an art sells 10 million copies and feels that is enough, they made their money and they are happy, and they no longer want to restrict use, that is THEIR CHOICE. More power to them. Don’t club those who choose to retain copyright over the head with it, they have made their choice too.

Learn to respect people, it’s something that is sorely lacking around here.

RadialSkid (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Have I missed something? Has anyone here ever denied anyone the ability to keep their work under copyright restriction?

Personally, I look forward to stories like this one, since I believe there should be less restriction to the dissemination and building upon of creative works. But if anyone else decides not to do similar with their own output, then that’s their entitlement. Just as it’s my entitlement not to read/watch/listen to their output as a consequence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hey, great idea. Let’s tell anyone who thinks they can make art and actually sell it under license that they should just stop. Yup, there is another great example of Techdirt style innovation and marketing:

“Give it to me for free or stop making it”.

You should make a t-shirt out of that one Mike!

Gobbledygook says:

I’m pretty sure that the completely retarded ebook licensing system in Japan has something to do with his decision. (Seriously, after trying to get ebooks in Japan, Amazon’s DRM seems like a generous old lady. An ebook can have a maximum of ‘two installs’ before you have to contact the vendor to reset your account? Seriously? Spore was more generous than that! Or, if you’re using a vendor that allows many devices simultaneously, a book can only be on one device at a given time? Also, having like five different proprietary, encrypted formats with no way to convert between them? Fuck that, Japan, I’m pirating all your books and this is sad because I LOVE buying books. All this because the dinosaurs at the top of management in Japan are more dinosaur-y than all the rest combined, which even the Japanese complains about. No wonder they co-wrote ACTA.)

Nevertheless : Say Hello to Blackjack really is one of the better drama mangas out there. I own the books, and I’ve enjoyed the guy’s previous works, too; he seems like the sort of mangaka who puts real thoughts into the questions he ask in his work instead of the usual ‘society is rotten, humanity is rotten, but we’re capable of doing something nice every once in a while’ trope usual in seinen manga. I’m glad he’s gone this route and he has gained 10x more of my respect this way.

Terri main (user link) says:

I give gifts, but don't repeal burgularly laws

Whenever anyone experiments with open source type of publishing, the same thing comes up. WEll, we don’t need copyright laws to protect the writer/artist. See this guy is giving away his intellectual property and doing fine.

However, the key word is “giving.” Look I give gifts to my friends. I give money to my church. Hey, I even toss a couple of bucks in the guitar case of the guy playing in the subway. But that doesn’t mean I want all personal property laws repealed. I mean it’s a big difference between me giving the guitar player two dollars and him holding me at gun point and taking those two dollars out of my pocket.

Julian Perez (user link) says:

I give gifts, but don't repeal burgularly laws

I think you’re missing the point entirely.

The reason this guy’s placing his comic books out of copyright is because he doesn’t need the protection of copyright to make money.

Likewise, it’s a refreshing acknowledgement reality, of what already happens whether you like it or not: Japan has a thriving fan-produced comic world who will make adaptations whether you like it or not, whether your lawyers like it or not. You can be snitty and craven and greedy, or you can embrace your fans and their enthusiasm to create fan made work.

The second is smarter because enforcement not only goes nowhere (just look at Paramount’s attempts to crack down on Star Trek or how TSR’s crackdown on any website that even mentioned Dungeons and Dragons gave them the nickname “They Sue Regularly), but also alienates people.

Your comparison to mugging makes no sense for the same exhausting, rote list of reasons comparing intellectual property to real property doesn’t work (“you wouldn’t download a car!”) but also for the unique reason that once a work is out, the ability to control what others do with it no longer exists.

People WILL write sequels, will write fan works, make fan art, dress up as characters at conventions. People will take inspiration from your work, and either make direct lifts. None of this is bad. It just means you’re important, and people will find the original and pay for it. Look how many hardcover versions there are of public domain works at bookstores.

Don’t like it? Tough. The best way to control totally what you create is to never release it.

Sheogorath (user link) says:

Some clarifications

The mangaka’s name (Westernised) is Shuho Sato, not Sata. The correct link for the article on Plagiarism Today is http:// http://www.plagiarismtoday. com/2012/08/23/ count-over-exposed/, and they link to the original article at http:// en.rocketnews24. com/2012/08/22/ award-winning-manga-to-be-freely- used-by-anyone-for-anything- anytime-author-will-not-request- royalties/.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...