The “grey zone” into which dojinshi fall may soon disappear, which full legal recognition of the right to fair use, if a new government initiative to reform copyright law reaches fruition. The reform is still under formation, but could very well see the light of day.
The current Japanese Copyright Law is harsh and unyielding in its application, with little flexibility for cases like fair use; the existence of dojinshi relies on an unspoken agreement between copyright holders and fans, under which the copyright holder does not take any action, as dojinshi are generally thought to have a positive influence on sales, but this could soon be replaced by an explicit doctrine of “fair use” which would allow these kind of exemptions:
Whether the use of literary works is intended for commercial benefits
Whether the use of literary works influences the market of those works
Non-commercial “parody” dojinshi clearly fit right in here.
This is all part of the PM led government Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters scheme, the “Intellectual Property Promotion Plan 2008”. The scheme is more concerned with luring IT companies to Japan’s shores and allowing domestic businesses to spring up than ensuring the rights of dojinshi authors, since it will grant a range of legal benefits to search engines and the like.
A heartening development should it get through (and not just because of the dojinshi effect), which seems quite possible given that it will have the full support of IT businesses and simply represents a formalisation of the existing status quo rather than any real disturbance to the copyright lobby.
Asahi has an English report on the law.