Japan Looks To Amend Copyright Law To Force Some Cosplayers To Pay To Cosplay

from the you're-not-helping dept

When it comes to copyright enforcement, there is always this tension between protection against true copying of expression of content or characters and the benefits of having wider attention paid to the original content. This tension is perhaps most distinctly exhibited when it comes to works and activities done and enjoyed by fans. Fan-fiction, fan-art, fan-made games: these all tend to ride the gray zone between cost and benefit to original creators such that the reactions to them by copyright holders tend to be all over the place. Some creators recognize that most of this expression is a net benefit, while others go the full protectionist route.

Cosplay is in this same boat. As with the above examples, there is nuance when it comes to cosplay. Most cosplay is pure fandom, labors of love enjoyed by participants and viewers alike. In other cases, cosplayers can make serious money from cosplaying. And it’s for the latter that the Japanese government appears to think new copyright laws are needed.

Currently, anyone in Japan is free to dress as their favorite characters. But it might not stay free for them to do so. The Japanese government is proposing big copyright law changes for those who make money from cosplaying—and possibly, even for those who don’t.

As writer and translator Matt Alt points out, the Japanese government is currently considering changing the country’s copyright laws, so that professional cosplayers would pay for use of characters.

Where to begin? To be clear, this all targeting only cosplayers who are making money off of character costumes for characters created by other parties. The idea appears to be that those original creators should be getting some kind of a cut, through a license, for the cosplayers ability to dress like the character and make money from doing so.

That may sound reasonable to you, but this is also opening the door to yet another encroachment on fan-created works. The long-tail of this is almost certainly further restrictions on cosplayers, on what is defined as “professional” cosplaying, and on what will or won’t require such a license. If you think Nintendo, for instance, isn’t eyeing this discussion while drooling, you just haven’t been paying attention.

And why are these conversations always so one-sided? Sure, one can argue that cosplayers dressing up as famous characters are getting some value from those original works. That’s certainly true. But it works in reverse as well. Widespread interest and participation in cosplaying certainly drives some value back towards the original creator! That’s how expression and enjoyment among fans work. So why is there never any discussion about that value?

The answer is that, for basically ever, the world has operated just fine calling the whole thing a wash and letting cosplayers, professional or otherwise, do their thing. Put another way: what is the marginal value any individual manga, anime, or video game creator is providing to the average individual cosplayer? Whatever that number is in dollar value, I can promise you it will be less than the cost of any of these licenses.

Besides, where permission from original authors makes sense, it’s already happening.

On Twitter (via SoraNews), Enako discussed the issue, explaining that when she goes on television or appears at paid events, she dresses as original characters to avoid copyright infringement. Moreover, she adds that she also gets permission when she cosplays as characters created by others.

So why is Japan amending copyright law to codify what’s already happening organically? And especially in a way that is almost certainly going to drive more protectionism and less cosplay culture as a result.

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Comments on “Japan Looks To Amend Copyright Law To Force Some Cosplayers To Pay To Cosplay”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'... who? Never heard of that character.'

Ah greed and short-sighted entitlement… ‘I made that character therefore I deserve a cut from any money made resulting from it! Screw ‘free publicity’ damnit, I want my money! … wait, why is no-one dressing like my characters? Why are sales taking a dive and people no longer even talking about my stuff? How am I making less money now than I was before?!’

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

What a horrible idea. Comic Conventions the world over (North America’s version of this I suppose), are widely attended. The most die-hard fans make their own costume and wear it to these events. Some of them are works of art (in their own right), others are amazing but you have to wonder about the ‘going to the bathroom situation’ when the lines are so long and a person is dressed up as a Gundam.

Attempting to further profit from (in this proposed manner) these people is going to hurt the entire industry.

These are your BIGGEST customers, who likely own every piece of Merchandise, Every Edition of the series, Every game, & pay lots of money to attend these conventions.

Not only that, they probably tell everyone in their life how great your series/game/tv show is. & have more than likely STRONGLY encouraged everyone around them to watch said show.

You cannot hire sales people who are able to provide anywhere near this amount of impact. Fortunately until you start nickle and diming them for their passion, you don’t have to.

Keep in mind, cosplayers who wear commercially available stuff that these company’s already sell, are usually considered newbs.

The absolutely hardcore cosplaying fan does not wear an off the rack costume so maybe you loose out on a licenced sale of a rarely purchased itchy costume. However some of these fans put hundreds of hours into making their own amazing costume.

Why would any business be willing to risk alienating these fans? It’s insanity. The money would have to rival that of the total sales of the original series to be worth the risk of alienating thes fans. And we are not talking about anything close to that kind of money.

On the other hand, the article is definitly onto something when they mention Nintendo. Nintendo must have an entire department dedicated to "Creativly Monitizing Our Brands". The ways in which they could probably use a law like this, I have no idea. But I have a feeling they do. And when we find out, we will all be disgusted.

Seem to recall a Comic-con (Salt Lake) perhaps, Fan party, Pokemon, C&D letter, event cancelled (or negotiated royalties/ticket?) So the empire has had an eye on this sort of extreme fan culture for years now.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Why would any business be willing to risk alienating these fans?"

Because copyright is a religious cult where self-mutilation in the form of cutting off your nose to spite your face is seen as the one righteous way guaranteed to provide you the grand end-game profits?

People have been told – repeatedly – that anything copyrighted is unique, sacred, holy, ineffable, and priceless. That there is no higher end of the pricetag which will discourage consumers from purchasing the expensive copy. And the maximalists themselves have actually come to believe the garbage they’ve been spouting.
By now the idea that gouging the consumer will only mean higher profits and drive sales of the modern day letters of indulgence is so entrenched that it might as well be one of the pillars of the faith.

The idea that the sheep will balk at increased prices and lower quality and turn their snouts away from the poisoned well hasn’t crossed their heads even once. If sales drops – for any reason at all – they’ll just blame pirates.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

If people have to pay to play as a character, there’s an opposite side to this. Those people who have invested their own time in gathering and making these costumes, spent one heck of a lot of time as well as money doing these costumes.

Why are they not being compensated for furthering the fan base and they are driving interest back to the creators to sell yet more? Isn’t that what commercials do? Basically it is free advertisement someone else paid for.

Like That One Guy mentioned, they are robbing the golden goose’s egg and that will come back to rest with those being so greedy in trying to charge for these characters.

It’s a good way to kill all these Cosplayers driving convention interest, not to mention everyone making money off the conventions.

Anon says:

Inevitable on the Internet...

Who owns the copyright on swastikas in a white circle on red? Hitler moustache? SS costumes. If Mickey Mouse is still copyright, surely someone still has the rights to Nazi party and Third Reich insignia and costumes. Or can claim to.

You know when this sort of discussion hits the internet, Godwin can’t be far behind. After all, why should anime be the only character depictions protected?

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Inevitable on the Internet...

"Who owns the copyright on swastikas in a white circle on red? Hitler moustache? SS costumes."

Well, the swastika is basically the old teutonic solar wheel so it’s covered under "prior art" the same way the christian cross or star of david is. Hitler’s moustache is essentially an old world war 1 fashion where soldiers had to crop their moustaches to a small dot under the nose so the gas mask could seal tightly. Again prior "art". The bohemian corporal just saw fit to retain his facial coiffure as a kickback to his army days.
And the most likely inheritors of the copyright on the SS uniform would be the estates of Walter Heck and Karl Diebitsch. Or failing any survivors of those estates willing to claim credit, Hugo Boss.

"Godwin can’t be far behind."

Godwin himself had to abandon his law during the Trump times, and any copyright discussion does in fact invoke a lot of old nazi mechanisms, especially so given that GEMA and Ifpi, for instance, are largely unchanged survivors of the third reich and mussolini’s fascist italy’s attempts to determine what sort of art was allowed or not.

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Japanese creators taking a page from the Nintento playbook.

Beat the shit out of your most devoted fans & punish them for liking your shit.

I look forward to yet another rights agency checking every cosplayer to make sure if someone mashed up characters everyone involved gets their cut (well if they can find the creators & they earn enough to make it worth sending a check & they don’t just adopt the model of lets just pay the top 10 creators instead of the actual creators).

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: I can see it now...

"Spiderman gets arrested for visiting cancer patients without a license."

You forgot the logical followup, where some inhuman asshat from Rightscorp or other gang of copyright trolls start extorting those cancer patients for money for watching an "unlicensed" performance.

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Anonymous Coward says:

So the corps want their cut from professional cosplayers, big whoop.

Requiring content creators to have rights for the characters they use in professional content they produce and publish is already established standard.
I’m more interested in how they plan to differentiate between a fan playing dress up and some egirl whose job title is "cosplayer".

Also. didn’t Disney come up with similar monetization scheme their furry suits a few years ago?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"I’m more interested in how they plan to differentiate between a fan playing dress up and some egirl whose job title is "cosplayer"."

Why would that be relevant? They already have ample precedent to show that infringement on their precious copyright – heresy, that is – isn’t mitigated just because there was no profit involved.

That’s why, the world over, copyright cultists have tried to sue smartphone owners for public performance fees over ring tones, ran pre-teens and senior citizens through the legal wringer over unfounded allegations, and have made an entire industry around the "business model" of mass-mailing extortion letters to anyone with an ip address.

These people don’t give a rats ass whether you make money from putting on a lookalike suit. Only that the law may allow them to extort someone.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Because modern copyright law is 99% the product of corruption. An unending parade of subsidies to Big Entertainment whose only link to art or creativity is the myriad ways in which it allows corporations to screw over artists.

Fans? Culture? Freedom of expression? F that, they don’t give "campaign contributions."

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Because modern copyright law is 99% the product of corruption. An unending parade of subsidies to Big Entertainment whose only link to art or creativity is the myriad ways in which it allows corporations to screw over artists."

For anyone inclined to peruse history I’d recommend comparing modern copyright licensing with 13th century letters of indulgence. There’s really nothing new under the sun and the only surprising thing about the modern copyright industry is the way it has survived only because it keeps being a surefire source of campaign contributions for politicians.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Not Just Nintendo

While I don’t doubt that Nintendo may benefit from this law, there are other beneficiaries of this law: Bandai Namco, Square-Enix (who also distributes Full Metal Alchemist in Japan), Shonen Jump, etc. just to name a few.

While Nintendo is indeed ruthless in their copyright enforcement, don’t think that they’re the only ones who are looking at this proposed legislatioin and salivating…

Anonymous Coward says:

Tax your biggest fans what a great idea,
Is Japan a free society?
Only Nintendo asked for money from people playing their games
Game devs know game players on twitch is free promotion and advertising
Most cosplay is done by fans
This is copyright maximalism to the extreme
The way you dress is a form of expression
Cosplaying is a form of showing your love
For a character or anime or game franchise
This a a bad idea like putting a tax on blank discs to pay for music piracy
Maybe players will dress as a generic wizard
Warrior mech as a form of protest
Even Nintendo gave up on charging for game streaming
There was not alot of money to be made versus the admin cost etc
Even the money made from Pro streamers
Would be tiny versus money earned from selling dvds TV rights etc
Pro actors cosplayers already pay tax on income like any other actor singer on tv

Anonymous Coward says:

This is the end game for copyright,
Any image or audio clip or short video clip
You post on the Web that uses any part of
Ip owned by Disney Sony old legacy media
Will have to be paid for or blocked
Eg 3 hour videos on YouTube are removed
Because they contain 3 seconds of music
There is no snippet of Ip that can’t be monetised by corporations if we can just
pass the laws to clamp down small fans or creators

Anonymous Coward says:

Its about control of the brand

First of all,

I get the feeling this is not directly money related. How much do they really expect to make with this scheme when compared to overall sales. This is more about control of the Brand. Also, this sounds like it would fall under Trademark law rather than Copyright law.
These companies are afraid of any part of their product being taken over by the public domain. There have been court cases where if a company did not vigorously defend their trademark the name might become a generic desciption for a whole class of products…BandAid, Xerox, Aspirin. Once these ruling were made companies became much more vigorous in protecting their copyrights/trademarks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Its about control of the brand

I wouldn’t be surprised if it is corporate internal politics related as the marketers feel salt at fan interest promotion devaluing their services while not giving a shit about the company as a whole or an even more petty social issue like some minor slight over a decade ago.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Its about control of the brand

"I get the feeling this is not directly money related. How much do they really expect to make with this scheme when compared to overall sales. This is more about control of the Brand. Also, this sounds like it would fall under Trademark law rather than Copyright law."

Except for the bit about this not being directly money related, all true. The primary driver for the desire to control the brand is money, after all. In this case, there is an urge to monetize derivatives. There are markets around cosplay, conventions, doujinshi etc which approach or in some cases exceed the value of the direct merchandize markets. Of course these companies want as big a cut as they can possibly grab for.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
McGyver (profile) says:

Free plot for your next indy flick...

Hapless character accidentally gets super powers, goes around saving people and thwarting crime but accidentally reveals secret identity and then receives multiple cease and desist orders and theft of intellectual property lawsuits from multiple mega corporations because the concept of being a super hero was their idea first and is confusing their customer base… character is sued into oblivion and retires a broken person… until a crisis arises… will they rise to the challenge?
Who cares, not my problem…

Also I fully expect someone to cite multiple stories and comics where that was the plot.

Corporate greed- Why we can’t have nice things.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Free plot for your next indy flick...

"Corporate greed- Why we can’t have nice things."

More like "Corrupt politics". Even the most basic exchange of goods is ultimately rooted in greed. We rely on democratically elected governing power to ensure corporations are unable to pursue that greed to the point where it causes harm to society as a whole.

It’s just that that primary duty of arbitration and regulation has been utterly abandoned in any nation where campaign funding comes from private sources – which makes the politicians the servants of the corporations rather than of the citizenry.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cosplayers have been active since the 70,s , not one company has lost the trademark on a character due to some people wearing a costume,
or going on social media with images of a costume.
cosplayers make costumes from tv characters, star trek, film franchise,s ,eg star wars ,video games etc

the laws on copyright are very strict in japan.
asian cosplayers could just switch over to western cosplay,
and simply avoid anime, japanese characters .
no western company has ever asked anyone for money for permission to
wear a costume .
We have seen this in the west, with the music industry, suing fans .
taking financial action against your biggest fans is pointless and ultimately harmful in economic terms.
i think 95 per cent of creators ,artists, and manga creators love to see fans
making beautiful creative costumes out of their characters .
this would be like a record company suing fans for making t shirts
or tattoo,s featuring the names or likeness of their favourite singers .
this is part of copyright /permission culture ,
eg you need to ask permission to do anything with ip owned by corporations even if you make no money from it .

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Their cut of the candy

They want their cut of the fingers holding the candy.

To be fair, I’m pretty sure store-bought official franchise costumes come with a license. As my grandson wears his after Halloween until they fall apart, I wonder if he’s breaking a TOS.

Maybe soon we’ll be dressing out toddlers as sexy generic archetype for trick-or-treating when license requirements assure us proles can’t afford to be a favorite character.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some are saying it wouldn’t ever apply to the act of cosplay itself, but rather to those cosplayers selling products or services involving likenesses of copyrighted characters also creators can only request fees from professional cosplayers so its not a outright ban on cosplay.

Some are saying its likely to pass but there likely going to be huge backlash in Japan over this, Is it likely to pass?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hypocrisy

Because Japan is also a society that promotes slavish loyalty and obedience to leaders and large groups, under the assumption that any suffering or inconvenience experienced by the individual means contributing to a vague umbrella definition of "the greater good".

It’s all Astolfo onaholes and lesbian schoolgirls until the copyright starts coming into play.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Hypocrisy

"In Nippon society teach about group and community is important, selfish behavior is bad, share is good, why allow this greed from companys?_"

Actually…what japanese society is all about is a society which contains no deviation, where everyone does their part, where no conflict exists. Where every rule is blindly followed.
Look at the #MeToo-movement in Japan. The massive outrage was primarily directed at the victims for upsetting everyone. They were just supposed to suffer quietly, in private.
Most schools in japan of note still have a uniform code which often goes so far as to include details on hairstyle and color.

The japanese upper crust has always had a dubious eye cast towards the "otaku" culture which keeps bucking norms. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find this little nod towards licensing cosplayers a way to punish them for not being "properly" japanese.

Lucy Ral says:

you people like lying a lot

All of you going about how Japan is evil and the cosplays are free advertising and why is Japan being so mean to them…fans are doing it for love..right. more like love for money. Lets take a look at some cosplay on devianart.
Both of htem have a patreon and one has a print store. They are earning money from the art design of a popular character which the company worked to make famous. They are milking capcom for money, so no, when your exploiting the intellectual property of someone, u don’t get to use love or fan as an excuse, ur an exploiter.

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