Japan’s cosplay ban, True or False? The Government has answered

Japan's cosplay Ban, fake or real?

Cosplay is one of the most popular elements of Japanese pop-culture and has grown in prominence to become a significant driver of Japanese culture globally. After an article published by a famous Japanese media, so much has been written about the Japanese government’s stance on cosplay and copyright laws. Super Sugoii® also featured an article about the assumed impact of the government’s policy on Indian cosplayers.

We understand that a series of articles has resulted in large-scale confusion, anger, and frustration amongst the cosplay communities worldwide. Therefore, we strongly wanted to understand the truth and share it with our audience by trying to connect with the Japanese government official in the center of turmoil.

Here are the detailed excerpts of an enlightening conversation over a warm cup of matcha tea between Hiroko Izumi (Super Sugoii®), An Official of Secretariat of Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarter, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan, along with Hyoe Narita (Chairman and Board Member of Manga Planet)

The Government to help create a better environment for cosplayers and creators

Q: Please tell our Indian audience concise background information about the viral news.

Thank you for the opportunity to help us clarify our perspective with the audience in India. Let us give you an explanation from the beginning.

Firstly, the Government of Japan is pleased that the Japanese cosplay culture has gotten popular across the globe. Minister Shinji Inoue, (Minister of State for “Cool Japan” Strategy) had two points on his mind:

  • To figure out if anything that the government can and should do to help create a better environment for cosplayers and creators to enjoy themselves with peace of mind.
  • In case cosplayers face any sudden copyright-related issues, what could be a possible solution.

We aimed to try our level best to understand what is going on in Japan’s current cosplay industry and expand its culture to the world. The main idea was to start a communication.

Q: Why has there been so much miscommunication around this topic?

In December 2020, one of the most famous Japanese cosplayers, Enako, was appointed as a Cool Japan Ambassador. At the press conference to announce it, Minister Inoue was asked by a journalist, “What do you think of copyright issues around the cosplay culture?” In response, he said, “I am not aware that there are any serious troubles around it now, but I have heard that there may be some problems as the cosplay population grows in the future.”

After a while, multiple media like Kyodo News followed the information independently, and various speculations spread.

To establish a safer environment for all parties is the primary aim

Q: What does the government aim for through its actions?

Generally, most cosplayers enjoy cosplay without worrying about 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. 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.

Since there is no specific governmental division over cosplay nor an organization representing cosplay communities in Japan, we are conducting hearings to understand potential issues. We have already connected with some anime productions, publication houses, cosplayers, and lawyers until now.

Great to hear the honest opinions of Indian cosplayers

Super Sugoii® received many questions and concerns of Indian Cosplayers when the news went viral. Allow us to ask you some of them.

“Various media mentioned multiple copyright violation activities. For example, sharing cosplay photos on social media, earning profits through cosplay activities, etc. Do you have any plans to make a guideline for these activities?” – Cosplayer Syrinx

We know there are many ways to enjoy cosplaying. We believe that online sharing and social media have played vital roles for cosplay as a culture to spread globally. 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.

Since Minister Inoue would love to support cosplay culture and encourage cosplayers, the government aims not to restrict any cosplay activities.

“What do the Japanese content holders think of their characters being cosplayed by overseas cosplayers?” – Cosplayer Peppertan

While each content holder has a different perspective, generally speaking, content holders do understand the passion of those cosplayers toward specific characters. They usually do not oppose cosplay as long as cosplayers have due manner and respect for creators and characters.

Also, we know the fact that some companies have official guidelines for secondary creation, including cosplay. We think whether or not to permit the cosplay characters depends on an individual company’s decision.

Various speculations and anxiety spread among the Indian cosplay community due to the articles. Some cosplayers started considering not choosing Japanese characters for their cosplay. What do you think of this? – Anonymous

I believe this is an overreaction to a piece of misleading news. We hope the Indian cosplayers continue enjoying Japanese characters’ cosplay and share it with the world.

The global cosplay culture stands between manners, ethics, and respect

Q: What are your thoughts on overseas cosplayers?

As the Japanese government, we want first to focus on the domestic front.

Meanwhile, we hope that cosplayers enjoy cosplay as a culture globally, following the laws/rules of each country or the individual events they are a part of. In general, it is ideal for establishing an environment where all parties (content creators, content holders, cosplayers, and funs) cooperate to make cosplay culture flourish. Respect, ethics, and manners are the vital components of such an environment.

When you think about the love the content creators put into their work, is it right for you alone to take advantage of a piece that someone else has worked hard on? The answer to the question could be a hint of where you should stand. It is all about the ethics you have. Hopefully, Indian cosplayers could keep it in mind. And, the content creators and holders will not deserve unpleasant feelings due to cosplay activities.

Enjoy your cosplay ethically and positively!

All in all, it’s great that many people in India enjoy Japanese cosplay culture. We hope the global expansion will continue in the future. Also, everyone can enjoy the art of cosplay, ethically and positively, without any worry!

You can find the official statement by the Government (Japanese) here.

Japan's cosplay Ban, fake or real?

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