Anime And Cosplay Fans Could Become Criminals With New International Trade Agreement

We don’t really talk about politics much. Most of it is way above our pay grade, unless it’s spoken to us through Hetalia.


Hetalia © Studio Deen

However, there is one controversial international trade agreement that could potentially have devastating effects on the industry you love and the way you express yourself.

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

It’s a proposed trade agreement involving 12 nations in the Pacific Rim. The biggest controversy is the secrecy behind it; the general public has no idea what the TPP entails. However, some documents released by Wikileaks have health professionals, freedom activists, environmentalists, and organized labor groups all in a tiff. You can find all that stuff at your own leisure, so I won’t bore you with it.

How does this affect the anime and manga industry?

It could potentially turn good, honest fans into criminals.

Mashiro Mitsumine - Engaged to the Unidentified

Engaged to the Unidentified © Dogakobo

The intellectual property provisions, which is headed by the U.S., looks to lower what is  considered criminal and to increase the penalties.

Now, punishing criminals who steal others works for money is perfectly fine, but with the new provisions, the average fan can get tangled into a legal battle. Any derivative work, like fan art, cosplay or doujin manga, can fall under a criminal offensive even if the original rights owner doesn’t file a complaint.


Comiket will soon become seedier than Detroit

A big example is Japan’s Comiket. It’s a massive event that allows fans to get together to celebrate their favorite anime and manga. Fan made content takes center stage, and helps to promote a series.

Technically, it is illegal in Japan for such an event to be held, since people are selling fan works for money. However, the owners of the original series know about a thing called free exposure and forming good relationships with fans. Plus, a number of manga artists have started out as doujin artists.

Kiyohiko AzumaAzumanga Daioh

Kiyohiko Azuma started out as a doujin artist before creating Azumanga Daioh

Under the TPP, it doesn’t matter if the original creators file a complaint or not, fan works are automatically be illegal across the board.

As for the punishment, here is the proposed text:

Penalties that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistently with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity;


Celty - Durarara!!

Durarara!! © Brain’s Base

Basically, the punishment will be too severe for the “crime”

Not only will doujin artists be hit, but fansub groups and those that run AMV channels will also be targeted. We all know about the controversial DMCA, but imagine it on a global scale with more dire consequences.

Like I said, I have no problem with actual criminals being punished. But if the average fan can be hit with a criminal charge just for harmless imitation, that poses a big problem for the community. It’s likely that they won’t go after the average fan but with many Japanese groups, like the Manga-Anime Guardians, who have been heavy handed in the past in calling for online reforms and punishments, we don’t want to say it’s impossible. Let’s just hope our elected politicians listen to the people and actual activists on this issue, and not lobbyists.

While the language in TPP is fairly heavy handed, what matters is how the courts interpret it and what precedent is set. So we’ll know how TPP affects us when the verdict of the first major court case on entertainment copyright infringement comes out.

Until then, we wait.

Update Aug 2nd: Breakthrough on TPP is needed within next month or the deal could collapse. The 12 nations in the treaty are not of one mind on issues like pharmaceutical patent data protection, dairy market access, automobiles, and other forms of intellectual property.

The industries being talked about have huge lobbies behind them and politicians are likely facing opposition at home and in TPP meetings due to this. No deal was reached in talks last Friday so the coming weeks will decide if TPP is implemented or not.

You can read more from the Nikkei Asian Review on this or hear their take on Why Cosplay Fans Fear the TPP.


Aaron Magulick
Aaron Magulick has been a fan of anime ever since being exposed to it in the late '90s. A fan of nearly all genres, he is not afraid to explore the creepier side of the industry.
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