'Lost in Translation': Anime, Moral Rights, and Market Failure
36 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2008
Date Written: June 27, 2008
This Note examines the process by which Japanese anime series are translated, dubbed, and distributed in the United States, with a particular focus on cases in which the dubbed version has been heavily edited from the original source material. These heavily-edited dubbed versions are often commercial failures because they are rejected by many U.S. fans who are familiar with the original Japanese version of the series through the consumption of illegal "fansubbed" versions. Even though these transactions seem wasteful and thus should be avoided, their occurrence on several different occasions over the years is difficult to explain.
This Note argues that these cases are the result of a failure of the anime licensing market to take into account the legitimate interests and expectations of U.S. fans in the integrity of the series, which ought to be considered even though the moral rights of the original creators technically might not be infringed. Drawing upon prior scholarly literature which justifies the fair use defense in copyright law as a means of curing market failures, this Note proposes the adoption of a limited fair use defense for infringing "fansubs" where the authorized dubbed version of the series has been heavily edited and there exists no other legal means by which U.S. fans may enjoy the series in its original form in the United States.
Keywords: copyright, moral rights, fair use, market failure, anime, fansub
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