Earlier this year, the announcement by Suga Cabinet Minister of the State Shinji Inoue that the Japanese government intended to review the laws regarding copyright and fair use in regards to cosplay led various cosplayers to fear legal retribution for engaging in their craft.
Now, as the review deadline approaches, a member of the Japanese government has clarified that “the government’s aim is not to restrict any cosplay activities.”
In an interview with Manga Planet published on March 8th, an unnamed member of Secretariat of Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters Cabinet Office explained that the panic surrounding Inoue’s announcement was the sole result of a single report published by a Japanese publication, wherein the piece’s author “connoted that the government would build new rule on copyright laws for cosplay and might restrict some cosplay activities.”
“Many media outlets and influencers shared this sensational news along with their thoughts, and various speculations spread out,” said the staff member.
When asked by Manga Planet about their thoughts on the resulting reaction, the staff member admitted, “Honestly, we were perplexed/puzzled, as it was the government’s position on cosplay was “to encourage [it] to expand more to the world as one of the most interesting aspects of Japanese pop culture.”
“Minister Inoue would love to support the cosplay culture and encourage cosplayers,” clarified the staff member. “The government’s aim is not to restrict any cosplay activities.”
Turning to the situation at large, the staff member would tell Manga Planet, “Generally, most cosplayers enjoy cosplay without worrying about any copyright issues but some experts have pointed out that cosplayers might violate copyright laws under certain circumstances.”
“For instance, while our law requires cosplayers to obtain permissions in certain cases, our laws and regulations can be so complicated that cosplayers find it hard to decide whether they should apply for permissions or to whom or how,” they continued.
They would add, “It is also worth noting that some of the popular cosplayers are often asked whether they hold official permissions to cosplay or not by third parties, which might make the cosplayers feel insecure that they are doing something wrong and start feeling scared, losing the fun in cosplaying.”
Telling Manga Planet that the government was in the process of “conducting hearings and trying to understand potential issues,” noting that they had already “connected with some anime production companies, publication houses, cosplayers, and lawyers”, the staff member then admitted that “one of the facts we know is it is a complicated issue for content holding companies too.”
“They do understand the passion of those cosplayers toward specific characters. However, some content holders are in a position to refuse the permissions as representative of content creators,” he said “On the other hand, some have official guidelines for secondary creation, including cosplay. At the end of the day, whether or not to permit the cosplay characters depends on an individual company’s decision.”
The staff member would then note, “At the same time, we recognize several unclear points from the copyright infringement perspective. Trying to mitigate such an uncomfortable environment for all stakeholders including cosplayers is what we are aiming at.”
“In general, it is ideal to establish an environment where all parties (content creators, contents holders, cosplayers and funs) cooperate to make cosplay culture flourish,” they added. “Respects, ethics and manners are the vital components of such an environment.”
As the interview drew to a close, the staff member asserted, “When you think about the love the content creators put into their work, is it right for you alone to make profit out of a piece that someone else has worked hard on? The answer to the question could show you where you should stand.”
“Hopefully, overseas cosplayers could also keep in mind that the content creators and holders should not deserve unpleasant feelings due to cosplay activities,” they concluded.
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