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Oh exploitable! American Doujinshi


In Japan, Doujinshi authors don't get sued by the companies tthat own characters.  Many companies consider Doujinshi to be a sort of fan appreciation of their properties, even if those fans have perverted minds.  it can also be a sort of guage to see how popular a series is at the moment.

The US has seen a couple localizations of Doujinshi, such as "Plagiarism" from Jlist.  The company that makes Sailor and the Seven Balls also makes exclusive (poor quality) doujinshi comics and animation. 

The only real defense Doujinshi has in a sue happy America is the concept of "Sexual parody."  In this case, parody is used without necessarily involving humor (though it can).  Think of all the Mad Magazines, Maxims, or any other magazine that's had drawings of pop culture figures from comics, movies, scifi, games, etc.  They obviously aren't selling someone else's work, but they ARE drawing the exact likeness of characters without the author's permission. 

No big deal.  But what about an entire comic?  MAD might feature entire stories about Spiderman or Lord of the Rings, but not get sued due to its satirical nature (it may change names of characters, but often doesn't have to).

As far as sexual parody goes, doujinshi might have a remote chance of working.  Considering all the fanfics being written, several pages of drawn art should still be able to be sold in conventions without drawin too much attention.  As long as the characters aren't owned by someone known to be sue happy, like Marvel currently is with anything that even resembles one of their characters (City of Heroes).

But lesser known or more independant characters could slip under the radar if used in Doujinshi, such as Dark Horse, Image, Viz comics, etc.  And games, tv shows, and movies could get the same treatment as long as it didn't stay on any major companies' permanent radar, such as Disney.

If magazines did have compilations of stories centered around sexual parody of copyrighted characters, it could say that the entire magazine is a general parody of everything, rather than having a specific character issue.  Could it work?    


I don't know whether or not you (or the people reading this) know this, but Shogakukan recently threatened a US doujin circle with legal action.

It's a really bad precedent, as even though doujin is technically illegal, all suing over it is going to do is set your own fanbase against you.

On the conspiracy theory tip, it's possible that rights-holders don't want to see a Comiket situation in America, where hundreds of thousands of otaku are buying the porno doujin of their favorite manga (putting money in the hands of other otaku) instead of buying more fine Shogakukan products (putting money in the hands of Shogakukan).


Were they selling dojin of Shogakukan over the Internet? What an idiot...
Just like there is traffic manners on the road, there is unwritten doujin manners on the doujinshi bussiness. They drove on the road without knowing the manners only to get into the accident. A divine justice.

For stupid but brave oversea doujin artists, I'll give you some advices.

1. Avoid Shogakukan.
2. Avoid Nihon Animation.
3. Avoid Futabasha.
4. Avoid Ah! My goddess and Ghost in the Shell.
5. Avoid Loli. In Japan, it is acceptable as long as you can claim "these girls may happen to look underaged, but acctually they are matured!!", so doujin artist often use the expression like "e***ent***y school". But at any rate, they can be illegal in the US.
6. Avoid bizarre murder.
7. Avoid trying to inspire incidents.
8. Avoid character goods (like accessory or stationery). Just make books, CD-ROMs, cards, etc.
7. Avoid online catalog shopping or download distribution. Just make your doujinshi for local conventions or private tradings.

If you are not an experienced doujin artist, follow these lines at least. As you broaden in experience, you will find they are not absolute rules.


"Avoid Futabasha."

Any relation to Futaba Channel...?


Disney once sued someone for producing a doujinshi (non-sexual) about Mickey Mouse fighting the Air Pirates.


I thought the Air Pirates book was very much an underground comic packed with sex and drug use?


4. Why?  Copyrightholders extremely protective of these properties? 



Right. Kodansha is relatively tolerant of doujinshi, but they hint at caution that concerns with these titles, for some reasons.


Well, fanzines, sometimes with illustrations, used to be very popular over here.  Many fans stopped making them and buying them because of the prohibitive cost, but some people still put zines out.  People seem to be more willing to shell out money for all-artwork stuff like doujinshi, so that might work.

But the big thing about doujinshi here would be money.  The people writing fanfiction about US properties are usually not sued partially because they're not making any money off the work, thus making it generally not worth the time for the company to sue them (or, well, send them a C&D, since fans don't have money to actually take it to court).  But I've always gotten the impression that doujinshi circles do make profit (though I don't know if it's much)--that would be really hard for a lot of companies to overlook.

Maybe if US doujin circles stuck to the traditional fanzine "no profit" rule?


doujinshi circles do make profit

in japan, they make profit.


Same it true in Europe.
Only Americans still cling to the primitive tradition of "no profit" ?


We stick to it because it makes companies less likely to view our activities as copyright infringement that should be met with legal action.  American companies are very protective of intellectual property (see this whole ridiculous crap going on with the RIAA and the MPAA).


Instead of seeing it as a way to advertice and make the general public more interested in what show/comic the doujin is based on. American companies instantly sees it as a treath(competitor if you will) to the canon comic in question. Wich I don't really understand why.


What if they took the view of parody or satire, like MAD magazine?    Some of their recent spoofs are drawn exactly like what they're making fun of (Spiderman, Star Wars, LotR, etc)


A lot of Western media fans have talked parody and satire in fandom legal debates.  There's some debate as to whether a lot of the material, especially if it's explicitly sexual, would qualify as satire or parody.

Sexual material has a lot of trouble, as it often gets the most negative sentiment (especially if it's somewhat unorthodox, like yaoi/slash).  For example, JK Rowling has expressed flattery at fan fiction and art, but some adult Harry Potter fanfiction archives (which don't necessarily feature characters underaged, either using adult characters from the books or 'aged up' young characters) got some C&D letters from a publisher a while back.

As to it being a threat, most fans (including those among our ranks who are lawyers) argue that it's a tough case for the copyright holder because they can't prove that fan material is negatively impacting their profits.  They can't prove that fan work makes them lose money--in fact people often suggest (and I agree) that fan presence and activity tends to result in higher rates of merchandise buying, since hardcore fans will often spend more money on said stuff than your average casual viewer will.  As well as acting like free advertising period.

Unfortunately there hasn't been an opportunity to actually set a precedent in court for it.  Generally when a company gets tetchy about their copyrighted stuff being used, they send a Cease and Desist letter to the webmaster of the site (or zine distribution circle) telling them to stop; since most fans don't have anything resembling the money to actually take it to court, and the companies often don't want to bother with it either (since they might not be able to prove monetary loss), the fans just shut down their activities or the company stops action, leaving it as a slap on the wrist.

Until something gets into court, the arguments are all theoretical, since there's no legal precedent.  And I'm not sure if it'll ever get into court.

See for information on various legal issues involving fan fiction and fan sites.


The US just doesn't have the same anime/manga culture Japan does. Doujinshi are nowhere near as big.



Rule 4 seems a bit odd... I've seen entire Oh My Goddess doujinshi SERIES.  What the dilly-o?


Anything that stops bad fanworks is fine by me.


The entertainment industry would jump at the chance to sue MAD magazine, why don't they? On the inside cover of every issue of MAD, in fine print, is a Letter of Intent saying its a comicedic parody. I have never seen a doujinshi with anything resembling a letter of intent about sexual parody in it. Leaving them leagly vunerabul if they did have the money to go to court. Although the entertainment industy could brobably get away with sueing them anyway because doujinshi creators don't have the money to get a fair chance. If a doujinshi circle grew big enough and did insert a letter of intent on the first page then we might get to see it go to court and there's a fair chance that with proper representation the doujinshi creators would win, primarily because of that letter of intent.


There are certainly American "underground cartoons." I think I read that there was this case back in the 1970's over copyright when one of those people in the underground cartoons circles tried to bring one of them, about Micky Mouse, out in the open. The defendant said it was parody, and the judge ruled that it was nothing more than Mickey Mouse in lewd poses, had no artistic value, and was illegal.

There you have it.



'No artistic value" is an opinion and subject to change over time. Picasso died penniless because people of his time thought his work had no artistic value, now hes one of the worlds most famous painters.

Many people (including myself) still dont care for his work, but we cant say it has no artistic value. In court it depends upon your representation, knowledge of prior cases, and ultimitley the judge. If the Judge is a total prude, your screwed.

My question is, can an American artist get e Japanese publisher? Im working on a Doujinshi, and dont like the prospect of being sued (there are ways around a C&D, so im not too worried there).

I speak a little Japanese and am going to take Jap2 next semester if language is a factor.


The true problem with American Doujinshi is that, in America, companies are so up-tight about protecting their properties that they don't realize that a 12 year old drawing a story about how Superman and Goku would have an epic battle couldn't possibly destroy there company.
Most of the insanity comes from the sheer murkiness of the American Copyright system and the fact that the US government gets a good chunk of there money by sucking the corporate cock. And, just to keep face, the corporations have to make a big fuss over every thing. In their minds, if left unchecked, fan made publications could destroy their products to the point that the public image of their creation is that of the fan and not of their own. (However, this has only happened ONCE, and that was Lupin III).


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