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  • 執筆者の写真Takumi Furusato

Controversy on the necessity for updating legal system on Cosplay culture

After the first infected person who came back from Wuhan was confirmed on January 3rd, COVID-19 changed some Japanese customs and traditions completely. Too many business meetings, noisy year-end parties, jam-packed trains in the morning, incredible long waiting line and decent people at events… they are all gone, or changed into different forms. Numbers of companies recommend employees to stay and work at home, college kids enjoy online-parties. Otaku events also turned into its online version and they attracted many fans and exhibitors. According to the official statement, about 120K people joined online Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Festival which is held on October 31st, 2020. ]

ikebukuro halloween cosplay festival 2020

It is needless to say that Cosplay is one of the most widely spread pop culture in the world. In these days, local governments and Agency for Cultural Affairs are trying to use it as contents for tourism. However, the legal position of Cosplay has not settled so far.

On January 23rd, Kyodo news reported that Japanese government was on preparation for legal development. The government categorized Cosplay as one of the main components of Cool Japan strategy. Therefore, they want to minimize the risk of trouble which is related with property rights on Cosplay, Kyodo said. The report is based on the statement of Shinji Inoue, minister of state for “Cool Japan” Strategy in last December. On the press conference, Inoue mentioned the necessity of legislation for Cosplay in some occasions such as uploading selfie on SNS and joining events for payment because they could be violation for property Copyright law.

Shinji Inoue and Enako, Japanese professional cosplayer at cabinet office

Taro Yamada, a member of the house of councilors and the deputy chairperson of intellectual property rights study group of LDP tweets that “It is necessary to develop the legal side of this topic to protect the ecosystem for mutual benefit of Cosplayers and property rights holders.” Meanwhile, Yamada also said “I have not confirmed that Agency for Cultural Affairs started making a new role on this topic so far.”

tweet of Taro Yamada on property rights law amendment

As mentioned on the post before, the legal standing point of derivative work in Japan is unique among other countries. Infringement of Japanese copyrights law require a complaint from the victim for prosecution in principle. However, as long as the creators and performers of derivative works are following “unwritten rules”, their activities will be overlooked. This strange system would be based on the common understanding among creators and consumers that derivative works contribute to the sales of original contents. Thus, the system has been survived for decades in Japanese Anime, Manga and Game community and numbers of new cosplayers were born one after another, even in overseas.

Cosplay venue at Comic Market

It is an irony that the internationalization of Cosplay brings new legal controversy on this culture. As the importance of entertainment contents increase in the world’s economy, the new rule they need. On Berne Convention, an international agreement for governing copyright which came into effect in 1887 lays down the rule that all property rights in member countries shall be protected to the same extent as the ones in each country. It seems obvious that more complicated trouble will happen under Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) in future if the U.S. come back. What would happen if publishing companies and movie studios sue cosplayers one after another? It is certain that Cosplay culture will be vanished and the lawyers will change their cars from Toyota CAMRY to Ferrari 458.

It must be the time to change the legal system on contents business. An appropriate arrangement on the property rights law will accelerate the culture even if it could bring some confusions among Cosplayers at first. It is important to use internationalization as an opportunity for updating the system.



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