Efforts by Ken Akamatsu and the Creative Commons to promote a system for authorising doujin works are proving controversial, with critics claiming their scheme could result in the destruction of the “grey zone” surrounding the doujin world and poses a clear threat to its survival should it be widely adopted.
The “Doujin Mark” is being promoted by Commonsphere, a Japan-based and Creative Commons managed NPO, to establish a way for creators to explicitly authorise derivative works by way of a simple logo.
Commonsphere Doujin Mark committee staff include famed Love Hina mangaka Ken Akamatsu, an editor of Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine, and three lawyers and academics – though strangely not anyone involved with doujin publishing or events.
The newly unveiled logo, said to be modelled on the nib of a pen, would be placed on copyrighted works to signify they agree with an as yet unspecified set of guidelines for allowing derivative works (largely envisaged as manga carrying the mark to signify they allow or encourage doujin works).
The present status quo sees almost all such doujin works existing in a “grey zone” under Japanese law, technically constituting illegal copyright violation but published freely under the commonly understood practice of copyright holders turning a blind eye almost without exception.
With publishers presumably forced into granting explicit authorisation for past and future doujin works with unknown content of a sexually explicit, controversial and not infrequently commercial nature, there is some concern about just what possible upside there is for publishers over simply ignoring doujinshi as they do at present.
That the mark strongly implies by its presence that should it be absent the doujinshi it pertains to are explicitly unauthorised (there is no equivalent ‘doujin NG’ mark) has also been widely pointed out – making the grey zone effectively a “black zone” of illegal works, presumably contrary to the wishes of its promoters.
One of the more dubious concerns the mark is said to address is the fear that Japan’s eventual TPP membership will result in it being forced to adopt evil foreign copyright laws which would allow police to prosecute copyright violation without a complaint from the copyright holder (a legal distinction known as “shinkokuzai”: presently police require a complaint to prosecute copyright violation).
This would supposedly lead to a situation where the authorities could freely crack down on the “grey zone” of doujinshi and even cosplay without the assent of copyright holders whilst placing the doujin trade in the dangerous legal position of abetting massive copyright violation, and also provides a convenient foreign scapegoat.
However, this appears to owe more to the sort of shrill anti-TPP propaganda almost universally believed on 2ch than to realistic concerns (although Akamatsu evidently believes it as well), as the USA itself does not criminalise derivative works in this way and has long enjoyed far stronger fair use and parody rights than Japan – and the only other countries to even embrace the concept of “shinkokuzai” are Germany, Taiwan and Korea, none of whom are even TPP aspirants.
Both the admittedly horrendous mark itself and its potential implications for the carefully maintained copyright “grey zone” surrounding doujin works are not proving well received online, to the extent that Ken Akamatsu seems to have sacrificed most of the recent goodwill he won in defending loli manga:
“The design is atrocious!”
“Really ugly thing.”
“Unless someone told you, you’d never recognise this is supposed to be a pen tip.”
“Who exactly gave them the right to decide any of this?”
“Nobody has ever heard of this ‘Common Sphere’ – they have no legitimacy to be doing this sort of stuff whatsoever.”
“They have Akamatsu, a Shonen Magazine editor, a lawyer and some CC staff. Did the publishers put them up to this as they can’t do it themselves? They are an NPO so they must have some financial backing.”
“Looks like they are trying to squeeze the rest of the industry.”
“It is CC. I don’t think they are trying to shake down the industry, more that this is a proposal for a regularised system for offering permission.”
“It doesn’t look like they have any actual connection to the circles they are proposing to regulate though.”
“They also attach a bunch of conditions to its use which they haven’t even announced yet.”
“That’s probably where they’ll try to extort some protection money from creators.”
“Are they trying to create another money-grubbing bureaucracy to give jobs to retiring civil servants?”
“If you have to get permission, or lack of explicit permission now implies it is forbidden, it is rather strong discouragement to doujinshi creators. Who’d want to write them like this?”
“That’s probably the idea.”
“They should just do a ‘doujin NO’ mark instead of OK…”
“Nobody would use it so these guys wouldn’t be able to get any money out of them.”
“I can see why some people think it is just an imposition, but there are some circles making huge amounts of money out of doujinshi so it is easy to see where the concern arises.”
“Is it actually intended only for CC-licensed stuff though?”
“Seems to be more of a license the CC are guaranteeing as legally sound which anyone can use.”
“All OK or all NG is not really serving the interests of those who want to control derivative works either though. Some will want to ban ero or guro or whatever whilst allowing other works.”
“So after screaming about the loli manga ban Akamatsu then attempts to impose a vested interest on the doujin world which will ensure they can no longer produce all their ero or loli doujinshi without his permission?
He just decides this mark with no publicity, then starts saying anything without it is going to be illegal to produce derivative works of.
He certainly knows how to pull the wool over the eyes of naive otaku, doesn’t he!”
“This mark is probably only ever going to be adorning Akamatsu’s works…”
“If you need a mark like this to have permission to make one it means you are forbidden to make one without it – so it is in effect a blanket ban.”
“That is how it is now though – you are operating in a grey zone and could be sued. You should be grateful, they want to make you a white zone!”
“I suppose it could mean formal Amazon sales of titles based on works with the mark, which would be something.”
“Maybe it will be used to finally crack down on all the doujiin which get uploaded overseas.”
“This is basically saying ‘please make ero-doujinshi of this work.’ Unless a cut of the sales or censorship is involved it is hard to see it becoming established.”
“This could destroy the doujin world. No major publisher is going to let anyone put this thing on their works. It is grey now so they have no responsibility for what people do, but this mark would mean they effectively condone whatever is being put out.”
“If they are limited to original works about 1 circle in a hundred will be able to cut it. Comiket would go from 35,000 circles to 350.”
“Doujinshi clearly exert a positive effect on Japan’s manga culture. Half of the commercial mangaka out there started out publishing doujinshi!”
“The system they propose is basically transforming the existing ‘grey zone’ into ‘strictly forbidden’ and making anything without the mark imply it is not OK to produce a derivative work of.”
“A permission mark is the worst possible way of doing this… it is just forbidding everything if the mark is not present. A denial mark would be better, though in practice it would mean no change to how things are now.”
“A denial mark would create a pretty bad image for the marker though. Not that they get anything out of a permission mark”
“It is hard to see just what they want to accomplish with all this?”