Copyright and Comics in Japan: Does Law Explain Why All the Cartoons My Kid Watches are Japanese Imports?
Salil K. Mehra
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law
Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 55, Fall 2002
The growth and development of a major Japanese export - comics and related products, including animated cartoons and so-called "character goods" such as trading cards, lunchboxes, etc. - has occurred simultaneously with the development of very large, openly-held markets for what would appear to be books and products that infringe copyrightholders' interest in these well-known characters. While many infringers are judgment-proof small timers, those who operate the markets and bookstores that trade these wares are often for-profit and even publicly-traded corporations. Although actions for both infringement and contributory infringement are clearly winnable under existing Japanese law, up until now they have been rare. It appears that for a variety of reasons - such as reputational consequences and relatively low (reasonable royalty) damage awards - it is not economically rational to bring these suits. Interestingly, many observers believe that the vibrancy of these markets for infringement has created numerous innovations and fostered the emergence of talented artists who have benefitted the industry as a whole. The relatively weak legal regime in Japan, noted widely elsewhere, appears to have by chance solved a collective action problem and prevented the interests of a few copyrightholders from inhibiting the growth and development of the industry as a whole.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 65
Keywords: Japan, copyright, comics, manga, dojinshi, damages, infringement, collective action
JEL Classification: K01
Date posted: November 25, 2002