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Doujin Mark “Could Ban Doujinshi”


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?”

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  • What Japan (and infact every country) needs is a copyright law that will allow parts of an existing work to be used as a basid for new work, so called “parody law” as it’s widely known in west even though it usually applies to non-parody work as well. Plagiarism laws are just downright stupid.

    Certain countries also have laws like this and they work.

    Solves whole problem without doujin mark bullshit. This whole affair reminds me of “adult comic” mark (recently made again famous by Bill 156) and we know all what a bunch of crap that was and still is.

  • “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?”


  • Here’s a bit of “Western Wisdom” for you;

    Labelling comic books does NOT work.

    First the USA had a “Comics Code Authority” on comics. Not the law but a label decided only by a singular non-government ratings body that charged tons and had effective market denial power.

    It crippled US comic books once a thriving medium, now still “Kids stuff or nothing unless you are a wierdo.”

    Later, when the “Underground” comics movement (people did get arrested for them, btw) in the 60s held on, then frustrated big comics companies chipped the “Code” away, there was a push to make comics opposite anything in the code.

    This led to “Obscenity” arrests, even in places you could have “I.N.S.E.X.” burned DVDs rented in the video store next door.

    The “Labels” comics voluntarily put on themselves did NOTHING. Well, actually they told the Fuzz (police) what exactly to grab for their “Obscenity bust”. But there was NO hesitation to prosecute based on “Self-Labelling”

    By contrast since they never let the “Kids only” label stick, books were published and sold for profit even when “erotica/Pornography” was totally illegal. Lots of under the counter 25c novels in the “Dime novel” era with lurid painted covers promising (and sometimes delivering) erotica, writers under assumed names needing $ to pay the bills…

    And this got most visual media, writing then art then film totally legal in the USA. It even took an act of Ray-Gun to make “Child Porn” totally illegal and even then “Literature” is still technically untouchable.

    Mainly works like Burrough’s “Naked Lunch” and “Junkie”. Ginsberg published Bill’s works and immediately they got banned. Wonder why? Coz the moralist pigs looked at the titles.

    So he took the to court.

    Really, I can imagine on “naked lunch”…
    “What?! Really!? They actually defend this. I mean it’s one of those nudist things hence the title, suprised the cover doesn’t show nudists or something…

    Well we gotta READ it now…doubtless a few pages we’ll find a pathetic simple plot and descriptions of sex…





    So rather than use tons of trash and erotica with no redeeming features they ended up trying to bash Burroughs insane but truly brilliant work, something they were able to defend as literature.

  • Dirty_Dingus008 says:

    I was here when it grew and I guess I’ll be here when it strangles itself to death. It’s seen too often when “caring” people squeeze an idea til it begins to rot under the pressure and now we all have seen this ends start.
    And when it passes away, I’ll flick a bic in its passing.

  • I don’t this will work, the unwritten agreement with publishers and the circles is working fine how it is. Keep in mind most manga-ka today were or still are doujin artists. Not sure about Ken though. Wired had a article about this a couple years ago, I’ll put the link at the end of the post. My biggest question is since some manga-ka do doujins of their own works, do they have to attach this logo as well?

  • Here is the best solution: Make it so that as long as you put “This is not authorized by the maker of the anime/manga/book in question!”, you can legally sell doujinshi and fanfiction works for money.

    Problem solved forever.

    Seriously, if these anime/manga/book people think that having a hentai doujin connected to their works is a bad thing, they apparently have not heard that “All publicity is good publicity!” moniker.

  • Akamatsu keeps having these delusions he’s a captain of the industry out to save the whole world of manga and steer us all into a new era… when in truth he can’t even wrap up an adventure series properly at all.

    Now he’s doing a series set in the world of Negima, ten years or so after Negima, because of course, he’s adding more characters to that setting when he hasn’t properly finished the stories of those he had been working with.

    Akamatsu is a living farce.

    (I already had posted this, but the site is acting wonky and my comment disappeared by the next time I visited it. Weird).

    • actually the story behind a non properly wrapped up ending to Negima is simple if he did finish it (the way he intended which would have been probably months of that time) he doesnt hold the copyright anymore… simply put whatever the publisher does to Negima from that point on he can not hold an argument, hence his answer to the dilemma wrap it up in the most pro-founding way possible hence we get Negima’s ending that we know of now, but as for regulating doujins… well I’m in no answer for that but 1 thing will certainly be certain ZUN will have more or less have his hands full… depending on how the system will work IM LOOKING AT YOU TOUHOU

      • No, that’s just widely spread fanmade bull. No other author working for Kodansha has ever mentioned that supposed copyright-stealing law. And he’s still working for Kodansha anyway, so he’d have no dignity if that rumor ever was true.

  • What Ken Akamatsu didn’t realize is doujinshi is the one that capable on popularizing of a series. Doujinshi is a free and massively great way of advertizing.

    Frankly, I do not know Touhou, I will not know Idolmaster, I will never know Love Hina if not for doujinshi. Doujinshi is the one that enlighten me that there are anime/games out there that I haven’t realized before. Doujinshi, is what make me buy Touhou game, Idolmaster game and buy a bundle of Love Hina’s manga.

    Yeah, some of these doujinshi maker become rich, but don’t forget that they are also popularizing the series they parodied. The richer the doujinshi artist are, more popular the franchise they parodied become. More money gained contributed to more fans buying, equal more people exposed to the franchise, which equal to more popular the original series are.

    An artist that drew Love Hina parody and have many fans, at the same time will re-surge Love Hina’s popularity back again. The doujinshi will remind the fans about Love Hina, and give them encouragement to read/ re-read Love Hina.

    In the end, both the original author and the doujinshi artist will gain profit from the current situation.

    The doujinshi artist, from his sell in Comiket(obviously) and the original author, from more people exposed and know about his manga/anime/games and this exposure, will possibly leading to many people buying his product.

  • This idea seems to focus entirely on permissions, and disregards the existence of culture, in particular, Japanese culture.

    The status quo: “Well, what are we really going to do to stop derivative doujinshi? We’re not going to go litigation crazy like an American and start attacking our fans.… That would be shooting ourselves in the feet! Besides, common sense tells you this stuff is in no way affiliated with or authorized by us. Let fans be fans…”

    With the doujin mark: “So… Do we want this show aimed at kids 10-17 to also officially approve the most depraved and insane hentai that someone can, and inevitably will, imagine? Of course not. Approving that would damage our work’s image, and our reputation as a company/creative group. It’s irresponsible! Denied!”

    Like an anon said, if this goes through, all future doujin will be Touhou-based. I can see a few exceptions – like other doujin-born things like Fate or Higurashi – but mainstream stuff would never allow it, even if left as-is, they would never act to wipe it out either.

  • The TPP is bad juju, no matter what it has to do with this doujinshi stuff. Greedy, corporate bastards creating laws for the rest of US to live under but keep it secret until it’s already passed…fuckers!

  • It’s grey for a reason, and it’s not something like this that will solve things. That’s the whole problem.
    Make the free pass too open, no author will support it.
    Make it closed, it’ll be meaningless.
    Make it too detailed, no one will bother reading it.
    Doujin is what it is today because it’s grey. If you put regulations in the whole thing, it ceases being a free market, becomes something predictable and boring.
    Can’t blame anyone for trying something, but really? That sounds far away from viable.
    Perhaps it could create a white market and leave the rest gray. But let me tell you that as soon as one author who gave his/her free pass mark finds out some doujin he/she doesn’t like, the whole idea will fall pretty fast.
    And then, we’re back on the grey market again.
    It’s just fine as it is. Authors have a general broad sense that doujin is a big force behind making their works popular. They know they need them to survive, so they overlook things.
    At the same time, they have the security of not having some clear regulation in place that kills their right to sue someone who is exploiting their works far too much.
    This is also why fair use is such a grey area in US for instance, and why several countries have grey areas in copyright laws themselves.

    • ^

      The doujin market doesn’t need more activity from the fans in control, more like far less should be exercised by the actual companies(Considering how they’ve “up the ante” this past decade). With printing cost alone and demand for ones work taken into account I’d be surprised if 1/4 of the circles in comiket ever make reasonable profit

  • A classic case of proposing a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Who honestly thinks that doujinshi reduce sales of the original IP, or allows third parties to take over what works constitute the official canon?

  • Copyright laws in general are a mess, and the possible TPP amendments for enforcement through the criminal system (rather than through the civil system) are legitimately scary. While a mark like this is a terrible solution, the fears for the future of doujins aren’t entirely unwarranted.

  • Are they trying to fool themselves? Look at what good the “grey zone” did for hentai media lately. Look at how ridiculously harsh recent copyright laws have become.

    The Japanese are fooling themselves if they think their government or those retarded hardliner opportunists would play fair along a non-binding “grey zone”.

    Akamatsu and his associates are actually trying to cement a legally binding “free pass”. I don’t know, sometimes it feels as if their whole country has gone full retard. They don’t even realize how much they have already lost because they just won’t stand up for their freedom.

    Ken Akamatsu is a true hero. Very much unlike idiots and loud-mouths on their prolific net-sites. He is actually taking the action right to the enemies doorstep.

    • How can you say Japan is not standing up for their freedom? Look at the U.S for example with the whole NSA shit, I don’t see a significant amount of people standing up and actually making a difference against it, and U.S is suppose to be all about freedom and rights.

      The world sees the U.S citizens taking the NSA and the Goverments dick so far up the ass it’s coming out the mouth, Japan also is getting it up the ass from their government, and Canada, and Russia and etc

      My point is….what’s new?

        • Y’know what the irony is? How Americans have always pointed fingers at others while ignoring their own messed up backyard that they’ve let themselves be screwed over black and blue by their own government they put so much trust in. Patriotism is somewhat good. Blind nationalism…not so much.

          For all that freedom they boast about they sure enjoy making crippling and ignorant choices with that freedom.

    • Actually what you’re seeing is pretty typical in most places. You always get resistance when you try to put into place solutions to future problems. People are terrified of messing with the status quo and will resist any change unless the need is immediately apparent, as in, the problem has already happened.

      • Its not necessarily like that, its just that when they want to change something its always for the worse than it already is, therefore all ppl will agree status quo > changes, but what you said it also has some truth.

    • Well anon how about this I deside to make a doujin on how Taiga Aisaka grows a dick(lol) and Ami finds out and starts with Ami teasing her and ends it Taiga uncontrollably thrusting inside her…Now let say the Parent company does not like my “work” what then did my work pose a threat economically, was it to explicit in it’s portrayal(maybe) or maybe they simply didn’t like the concept of Taiga + Ochinchin = unexpectedly satisfied Ami XD

      Either way I don’t get to release my work anymore or get hated for it anyway cause of absence of logo or worse get arrested. While I’m up for an official solution and am aware of the current problems with copyright related situations I still can’t help thinking at the back of my mind, hoping if hey could come up with a more reassuring plan you know…Damn! Now I have a boner

    • Well anon how about this I deside to make a doujin on how Taiga Aisaka grows a dick(lol) and Ami finds out and starts with Ami teasing her and ends it Taiga uncontrollably thrusting inside her…Now let say the Parent company does not like my “work” what then did my work pose a threat economically, was it to explicit in it’s portrayal(maybe) or maybe they simply didn’t like the concept of Taiga + Ochinchin = unexpectedly satisfied Ami XD

      Either way I don’t get to release my work anymore or get hated for it anyway cause of absence of logo or worse get arrested. While I’m up for an official solution and am aware of the current problems with copyright related situations I still can’t help thinking at the back of my mind, hoping if hey could come up with a more reassuring plan you know…Damn! Now I have a boner

  • True, separating doujinshi into “with approval” and “without approval” can be dangerous for some of them, but with the status quo, ALL doujin artists can basically be prosecuted at any time if a publisher doesn’t like the content. The gray zone that’s being discussed here is basically an unspoken agreement, and publishers have never been obligated to not sue doujin creators– and they’ve notably gone VERY close to doing so in the past (shutting down a Pokemon yaoi doujinshi and the famous Doraemon ending doujinshi). Isn’t it better to have some doujinshi explicitly approved than none at all? Honestly, I can’t imagine that the status quo for doujinshi without this mark would change at all.

    Also, Ken Akamatsu has done doujinshi before.

  • Doujin does not mean that it is someone elses work being used as a basis. There are plenty of “Original Work” doujin. Doujin simply means amatuer work. Whether something is a doujin or not is a matter of opinion, that can vary at time, and when you decide that “amateurs” have to get permission to write or show their writing to others, you are creating a creating an unacceptable and horrible environment and making a major leap into forming a dictatorship/oligarchy