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POLITICS

Gov’t to enforce copyright law even without victim’s complaint to conform with TPP accord

  • 2016-02-25 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: February 24, 2016 – p. 39)

 

 The government has decided to implement legal amendments to authorize enforcement of copyright law even without litigation by the injured party, such as authors of pirated manga, to conform with the TPP agreement’s designation of copyright violation as a crime not requiring legal action by the victim. However, this will not cover derivative works based on original works in self-published magazines, in principle. Nevertheless, there will be many borderline cases, so creators are still anxious.

 

 Manga artist Masami Yuki, 58, well known for such works as “Mobile Police PATLABOR,” recalls, “My debut in a commercial magazine was a fan fiction manga based on anime. The company that produced the original work tacitly allowed the publication of the manga.” “Without that period in my career, I would not be where I am today.”

 

 From fan fiction, Yuki moved on to produce many original works. He states emphatically: “A broad range of fan fiction produced through the cycle of ‘creation, expanding on the original creation, and new creation’ forms the foundation of today’s manga culture.”

 

 The publication of fan fiction using existing works as motifs in self-published magazines is widespread in Japan. Such creative works often serve as gateway to becoming professionals. There is concern that such activities may now be considered violation of copyright.

 

 Such activities may indeed constitute violation of copyright. However, under the current system, punishment of copyright violation requires a complaint from the injured party or there can be no indictment unless the copyright holder files a complaint with the investigation authorities. In most cases, the original author tacitly allows fan fiction.

 

 On the other hand, with rampant pirating and illegal copying of manga, films, and music on the Internet, it is also deemed necessary for investigators to be able to enforce copyright laws based on their own judgment. Therefore, an agreement was reached in the TPP negotiations to designate copyright violation as a crime not requiring the victim’s complaint to investigate.

 

 Creators voice their concern. Comic Market Preparatory Committee, which runs Comic Market (Comiket), a twice-yearly fair in Tokyo for self-published works, argues, “Traditionally, the original authors have tacitly allowed fans to create fan fiction on the basis of a relationship of trust. The status quo, in which artists have freedom of creation, should be maintained as much as possible.” The Japan Book Publishers Association is also concerned that “it may become easier to investigate publication and expression of ideas.”

 

 To address the artists’ concern, the TPP agreement also has a caveat that “acts not having any commercial effect on copyright are not considered a crime to be investigated even without a complaint.”

 

 The great variety of work by Japanese artists is also very popular internationally. A subcommittee of the copyright council of the Agency for Cultural Affairs is discussing limiting law enforcement to such acts as “copying original works for profit.” Self-published works will not be affected, in principle.

 

 However, some derivative works actually duplicate parts of the original. There will be tricky borderline cases. It is still possible that techniques of expression that used to be allowed tacitly may now be investigated.

 

 The government plans to submit amendments to the copyright law to the Diet in March. Kokushikan University Professor Masahiro Motoyama, an expert on intellectual property laws, notes that, “The purpose of the copyright law is ‘development of culture.’ Comiket and others have developed as an indigenous Japanese cultural domain. It is important to operate the legal system in a way that will not compromise diversity in creative activities.”

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