Copyright and Comics in Japan: Does Law Explain Why All the Cartoons My Kid Watches are Japanese Imports?

65 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2002  

Salil K. Mehra

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Japan, copyright, comics, manga, dojinshi, damages, infringement, collective action

JEL Classification: K01

Suggested Citation

Mehra, Salil K., Copyright and Comics in Japan: Does Law Explain Why All the Cartoons My Kid Watches are Japanese Imports?. Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 55, Fall 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=347620 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.347620

Salil K. Mehra (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-7113 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

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