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Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Little Aside About Doujinshi

I keep seeing the accompanying image being dandied about the Internet as why Japanese fan comics, aka doujinshi, is the greatest thing ever and totally perfectly legal or something. After seeing a 'life facts' Twitter post it, I figured it was time to say something. Not because it's wrong, but it's a bit simplified. And it's not even a matter of the 140-character digit - the image is contained in a link!

First of all, something that is not clarified with this image: doujinshi aren't being sold side by side with the materials they are inspired by. They are sold in their own marketplaces, separate from commercial fare. Some major stores do carry doujinshi, but in separate areas. The Fate/Zero fan comics aren't being sold next to the original light novel.
Second, I cannot for the life of me think of anyone who is making a profit from selling doujinshi. A lot of manga-ka use doujinshi as a springboard to launch their original content. Most doujinshi-ka do it for the love of the series their comics are based on; whatever sales they make usually go towards covering the expenses of production and probably paying any assistants involved with the comic. So companies aren't so quick to come after someone who, after covering costs for supplies, printing, assistants, convention fares, and gas money, has barely any cash left over to buy some convenience store onigiri.

Doujinshi seems to live in a legally grey area. While it does fly in the face of copyright law, most if not all Japanese media companies don't mind their presence. Now, if a doujinshi were to start making a crap ton of money off of pre-existing characters? That would most likely change. Quite frankly, as long as doujin creators keep to their work, companies let them live in peace.

But Japan seems way more lenient on fan made materials than the Western world and specifically the United States, who loses their mind if people dare to sell their own fan art on eBay. Copyright infringement is copyright infringement no matter what, and on this the law is strictly black and white. It doesn't help that American culture is not a welcoming one for doujinshi culture, in which sharing is caring, ownership be damned.

So no, doujin is not a perfect fan creation where authors and companies skip through the flowers together. Doujin-ka have been sued. But it's a rare occurrence and overall, as a doujin-ka it's not a bad way to have fun.

(The best part? Doujinshi doesn't even restrict itself to printed comics. Doujinshi music, anyone?)