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What Lawyers Can Learn From Manga 357

Posted by timothy
from the lots-and-lots dept.
jedigeek links to this article from Lawrence Lessig, writing "This article explains the interesting phenomenon of dojinshi, and why dojinshi helps fuel the production of original manga. From a western-perspective, dojinshi breaks copyright laws, but, according to the article's author: 'The law is a rough-edged tool. It was not crafted by geniuses of economics.' In a time when laws like the DMCA exist and are being exploited, this is certainly food for thought."
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What Lawyers Can Learn From Manga

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  • by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Friday January 10, 2003 @07:52PM (#5059597)
    This place is developing an echo...when are we actually gonna make a dent in the real world?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:02PM (#5059661)
    Everyone is so concerned about the right to "copy". Whatever happened to creating stuff new out of nothing? Has society gotten so lazy that it must steal everything now, including new or improved intellectual concepts from those that actually get off their ass to do it?
  • by Nogami_Saeko (466595) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:03PM (#5059668)
    Lawyers do NOT want companies thinking like this article suggests. They WANT companies starting lawsuits over the smallest of violations, real or imagined.

    It's how they get themselves paid.

    Why would they want anything else? They coach their clients strongly to persue every available legal option by using the tried and true "scare tactic" marketing technique: "If you DON'T sue them, think what the NEXT person might do - you don't want your product to get away from you!".
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:06PM (#5059681) Homepage Journal
    "There's a lesson in this example that executives in the content industry should think about before they sign away their businesses to lawyers. The law is a rough-edged tool. It was not crafted by geniuses of economics. How it affects new and different markets is uncertain. A smart business therefore asks not whether the use of its content is "theft," but whether the use of its content will (eventually at least) benefit it. The business of business is to make business, not to purify the world of copyright violations..."

    Is it just me or doues this sound like the definition of business for it's own sake? I realize the business of business is to make profit, but that statement make it sound as if the law is a secondary concern, an inconvinience that need be followed only if you're in a good mood.

    And of course the law is a rough edged tool when viewed upon from a purely business stand point. That's because most laws aren't designed with only business in mind. There are these things called "people" too...

    Oh, and didn't they know that purging the world of copywrite violations creates business too? Maybe they should have had somebody else write this piece...
  • Great Questions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jaaron (551839) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:07PM (#5059691) Homepage
    From the article:


    Management should begin to demand a business justification for copyright litigation. How does this legal action advance the bottom line? How will it grow markets or increase consumer demand for our products? Will calling our customers criminals increase consumer loyalty?


    If only more executives would ask these questions. Few businesses have realized the true power of fans and fan or user created content. Just look at the classic example of Half Life and Counter Strike. Where did these ideas that copyright law trumps the copyright holder's profits come from anyway?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:07PM (#5059695)
    I can already tell that 99% of the comments here are going to be about tentacle rape and sticky comic books. Grow up. Yes there is a large market for pornographic or otherwise 'adult' drawings in Japan. There is also a large market for adult DVDs here in the states. "Deep Throat" has probably sold more home copies than any other movie in the history of US cinema. Does that make every movie released in the states a porno?

    The article has nothing to do with that. It is about how "borrowing" copyrighted characters for non-authorized purposes is not necessarily bad. So take your hentai debates somewhere else.
  • Fine Line (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YellowElectricRat (637662) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:14PM (#5059745) Journal

    Apparently, in Japan, creating works based on someone's creations is considered flattery towards the creator. Sounds good to me - I'd be pretty happy if someone thought enough of my work to want to make works derived from it.

    Bear in mind, though, that there is a very fine line between flattery and profiteering off someone elses hard work...

  • by Trolling4Dollars (627073) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:19PM (#5059776) Journal
    Dude... what is your problem? Some people enjoy anime, let them be. Personally, I enjoy anime AND I'm married. So much for your theory about pimply faced teens that can't get any action. My wife watches it with me and enjoys it just as much as I do. The story lines are facinating and MUCH more interesting than most movies with flesh and blood people in them. Of course I also enjoy porn... nuthin' wrong with that either. My wife agrees on that point too. Methinks YOU may have been the pimply faced teen with no action. Come on... admit it. You'll be a lot happier once you do and move on...
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:19PM (#5059778) Homepage
    As usual, Lessig makes some great points. Unfortunately, expecting the litigation industry to learn from dojinshi is like expecting the pharmaceutical industry to embrace naturopathic healing. As he says at the end, it's really the business leaders themselves who have to learn this lesson and put it into action, taking their companies back from their attorneys, and in the process (quite incidentally) letting us participate in our own culture rather than merely "consuming" it.
  • by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:22PM (#5059797)
    Does it occur to you guys that most of the stories worth telling have already been told? Try sitting down for 30mins and creating a short-story. Then submit it here and watch all the flames come in about how you just ripped off a, b, and c to hack together your story.

    Originality is one of the rarest things around. We've all been exposed to so many different stories, movies, etc that there's really not much we haven't seen. If one in 10,000 artists actually does something original, how do you propose to build an economy off of that?
  • Good reasoning.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:22PM (#5059803)
    "To many, business is beneath the law. When a Sony lawyer threatened a fan of the company's Aibo robotic dog, who had posted a hack online to teach the dog to dance to jazz, he or she no doubt never thought to ask exactly how making the Aibo dog more valuable to customers could possibly harm Sony. Harm was not the issue, a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was: consumers should be banned from hacking Sony dogs, whether or not it was to Sony's benefit."

    You know, I'm a little surprised Sony (of all places) doesn't understand this concept. It would be hard to argue that one of Quake n's most appetizing features was the mods available to it. Though ID didn't make money off the mods themselves, it helped make sure that many many MANY copies of Quake were sold. Sony, with its game division, should be eyeballing Id more carefully than that.
  • by odin53 (207172) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:23PM (#5059806)
    They coach their clients strongly to persue every available legal option by using the tried and true "scare tactic" marketing technique: "If you DON'T sue them, think what the NEXT person might do - you don't want your product to get away from you!".

    This is called their ethical duty. Because otherwise, the business person will sue their lawyer for malpractice when one of the "next persons" actually does something bad to them.
  • by jaaron (551839) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:24PM (#5059814) Homepage

    Is it just me or does this sound like the definition of business for it's own sake? I realize the business of business is to make profit, but that statement make it sound as if the law is a secondary concern, an inconvinience that need be followed only if you're in a good mood.


    Lessig is NOT arguing that businesses should break the law, he's arguing that content holders should recognize when it is in their best interest to enforce their "legal rights" and when it's best to just let it pass.

    If my rights are violated, I can CHOOSE whether or not to press charges. If I choose not to, then there's nothing stopping anyone from violating those rights, especially if I make my intentions public. If I decide that certain rights aren't worth defending, or as Lessig points out are actually more profitable to me if I allow them to be "violated," then no one else can come in and tell me I must defend myself. In general it's not a smart idea to give away your rights, but perhaps Lessig has a point here that some laws and rights don't always protect they way you want them to and in fact you'd be better off not enforcing them.

    In practice this may happen more often than you think. Sometimes it's not worth the trouble hauling someone into court when you can deal with it person to person. Even the GPL itself "gives away" rights the law gives to copyright holders. In this case, such free software advocates feel the loss of traditional copyright privileges is outweighed by the gains of free-as-in-speech software.
  • by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:31PM (#5059843)
    "Originality is one of the rarest things around. We've all been exposed to so many different stories, movies, etc that there's really not much we haven't seen. If one in 10,000 artists actually does something original, how do you propose to build an economy off of that?"

    You mean like the entertainment economy that's doing very well today?

    "Does it occur to you guys that most of the stories worth telling have already been told?"

    Did it occur to you that there's a lot more to content than getting from act I to act IV?

    Was the interesting part about Ghostbusters the way they defeated Zuul, or was the interesting part about it watching these 3 guys (eventually 4) start an unusual business?

    I swear, people ridiculously over-value plot.
  • by DarthWiggle (537589) <sckiwi AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:31PM (#5059846) Journal
    vote.

    it's that simple.

    really.
  • by wmansir (566746) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:33PM (#5059854)
    It's not against the law to use a copyrighted work if the copyright holder allows it. Copyright law requires the holder to actively defend the copyright. All the author is asking is for the companies that hold these rights asks themselves if the value of defending the copyright is greater than the benefit of allowing the infringement.

    A perfect case of ill advised copyright defense was when NBC systematically destroyed the online fan base of "Late Night with Conan O'Brian" by sending Cease and Desist letters to many fan sites. Sure, they were within there legal rights to force the removal of NBC copyrighted material, mostly pictures and logos, but the bad will they generated far out weighed the value of the material defended.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:35PM (#5059858)
    The original poster had it all wrong, the point is not to ignore the law to do whatever you want but rather realizing the law is a tool that you need not always apply. Just because someone copies content of yours does not *nessicarily* mean your business will suffer as a result, and a smart business that realizes that can take advantage over another that spends precious resources fighting for ill-thought governmental policy.

    It's all about being a tool of the law, vs. using the law as a tool. I guess that's the short summary I was trying to arrive at before.
  • As for Sony... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:36PM (#5059865)

    I'm posting anonymously because I happen to work at Sony Electronics. Let me put it this way: Sony is big. Sony is REAL big. There are people in Sony who love open source and all that jazz. There are others who have no idea what that means.

    Sony is also in a difficult position. It is one of the few (only?) companies that both produces content (Sony Music, Sony Films) and the technology to play it on (Sony Electronics). So there are competing forces within Sony itself. A win for the content people sometimes means a loss for the tech people. And the way Sony is structured means that these divisions are essentially autonomous. Only in the very upper levels do they come under one roof, so often there isn't a lot of effort to really try to work together beyond simply promoting a common brand image.

    I often see a lot of grumbling about Sony here on Slashdot, but honestly, I like the company. I think Sony has the resources and position to do things right. At least that's my hope. And somedays I perhaps I don't like everything about the place, but that's just it -- corporations are big and you have to take the good with the bad. Even Microsoft I'm sure has some very well meaning intelligent people somewhere in there.

    DISCLAIMER: the above comment expresses only the views of the author and does not in any way express the views of Sony Electronics or any of its associates.

  • Unfair comparison (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekee (591277) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:48PM (#5059925)
    I doubt the RIAA or MPAA really cares that much about derivative works. You don't hear Weird Al getting sued for doing parodies of popular songs, for instance. The RIAA and MPAA are concerned about bootleg copies of their work. Examples like this are not going to convince them that p2p sharing of their material and burning copies of cds is not costing them business.
  • Re:The law (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmooney (138902) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:03PM (#5059995)
    Anyone else think laws should be open-sourced so that we all, as a community of Americans, can view, revise, and change things as need be?

    Before technology made that theoretically possible, having elected representatives was probably supposed to get as close to that as practically possible. Of course there would need to be VERY strong community stability controls to prevent the law swinging wildy with fads. Even something as simple as a slashdot discussion has layers of moderation and meta-moderation, and you still get a ton of junk posts just because they can. Something like the Linux kernel depends on a trusted dictator, which is works when you can have many different software implementations and ignore all but the effective ones. We can't afford to allow that with laws, we have to pick ONE right law for everyone before implementation.

    Today, I think the biggest barrier to progress towards the community ideal is that in America campaign contribution money can apparently override logic via blitz advertising for votes. That effectively breaks "one man, one vote". I'm not an American nor do I live in America so I can't directly participate in that process, but it still affects me at home because those policies are exported via political pressure on other countries.

    DMCA-like policy is only one of a number of unpopular policies that are being pushed on legislatures worldwide by corporate lobbying. In most countries corporations don't have as much influence over politics, so more and more internationally we are seeing government-to-government pressure from American politicians who are apparently legally allowed to owe big contributors big favors.

    Maybe American campaign finance reform is the way to break that barrier down, make American individuals votes count more than dollars again, and other individuals in their own countries too.

    Where I live, political campaigning by individual politicians is limited to 6 weeks before the election and must stop the day before the election. Individual electorate politicians have a campaign budget limited to merely thousands of dollars, enough for volunteers to put up posters and local some local media advertising but not enough to blitz the mass media. Penalties for exceeding this spending limit go beyond removal of that individual from office. The budgets for political parties are not as limited, but any party that can prove signed up membership of more than a certain number of people can get government contribution towards equal TV advertising time. This means that campaign money is not essential to a party getting a message publicised. No guarantee people will watch, but still a better chance.

    Not having to listen to a two-year run-up to every four-yearly election is one of the minor benefits of fairer campaign finance, the major one is that people's votes would count for more in making the law.

  • by UserGoogol (623581) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:04PM (#5060001)
    If writing something original was so great, than why do so many people write realistic fiction? When you're doing that, you're copying the Real World, when there are thousands of innovative Worlds to be created. Also, a well written story will inspire future stories. A good story creates a Universe, in which future stories can take place. People, after all, write Realistic and Historic fiction, (the latter is a better example) because they have found an interesting Universe (a real one, admittingly) in which they can put good stories. All the old works were derivative and group projects. Mythology and fairy tales work by this principle. You take a story world, and build upon it. As for Doujinshi and the equivalent, fanfics, fans of a certian art become deeply entwined in a universe, in a similar fashion to people of yore may have gotten involved in mythology (less so of course, because people actually believed in mythology, whereas the modern stuff is merely enjoyed deeply by their fans) and their imaginations thusly work in that universe as much as possible. Tolkien and those who followed him created a universe, and then filled it with stories. The universe-driven story, in my opinion, is one of very interesting importance. (Of course character-driven parts of the plot are important, but universe-driven plotlines allow an entire world to be unvealed.) But by revealing their universe to others, others will be compelled to respond with new stories. I think perhaps the right for someone to restrict what is published in their universe to some degree is a sane use of copyright, but I still think that the compulsion to write in someone elses universe is a key desire, especially as we can not all write universes by ourselves.
  • by LostCluster (625375) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:06PM (#5060017)
    Lawyers are very good at telling you when you can and cannot sue, and what the likelyhood of winning would be.

    But what they can't tell you is if you should be suing. See, they have a vested interest, they're selling their services and if you don't sue, you don't need their services as much.

    The article's solution is right... the business people have to consider whether or not to take legal action as a business decision before a lawsuit can go forward.
  • Yeah but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stubear (130454) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:13PM (#5060054)
    ...correlation does not equal causation. Theories like these are always applied to more popular intellectual property when they should be applied to the most mundane of intellectual property. Just because some more popular things benefit from this blind consent does not mean that everything will magically benefit from this consent. In the end, it should be left up to the owner of the intellectual property to make this decision.
  • Re:Great Questions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LostCluster (625375) on Friday January 10, 2003 @09:29PM (#5060134)
    A lot of businesses now are so desperate to post a profit in the present period, that they are willing to do things that come back to bite them in the long term.

    Nobody seems to think of their company as a going concern... a business that's still going to be here next week, next month, or next year. Something that costs you a dollar today but gets you back 25 cents a year for each of the next ten years is usually a good deal, isn't it?
  • but ignoring (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 11, 2003 @01:23AM (#5060957)
    stupid, unenforcible laws is a great american tradition!!!
  • by susano_otter (123650) on Saturday January 11, 2003 @01:44AM (#5061035) Homepage
    autotelic [m-w.com]: having a purpose in and not apart from itself

    ...Mr. Lessig's day job at Stanford is creating the very IP parasites he rails on about.

    Mr. Lessig's day job [stanford.edu]: Teaching "Constitutional Law" and "Law and Virtual Worlds" courses at Stanford University.

    What we see here is a relationship between a law professor, the law, the Constitution, and virtual worlds. Since the law, the Constitution, and virtual worlds all came into existence, and are perpetuated, independently of Mr. Lessig, it seems clear that the purpose of Mr. Lessig as a law professor can only be understood in terms of its relationship to these things, and that he is not autotelic at all.

    I could argue that perhaps Mr. Lessig has created the field of "Law and Virtual Worlds" specifically in order to perpetuate his own existence as a law professor, but I'd have to disregard the fact that virtual worlds, the law, and the intersection of the two, exists independently of his own existence as a law professor. Even if Lessig is one of the first to enter this field, we already have a word for that: pioneer. And when the pioneer has created the field which he then enters, we often use the term "genius". If Lessig is truly autotelic (which seems unlikely), then he is in good company, along with Jonas Salk, Neils Bohr, and Alan Turing, among others.

    And why shouldn't he teach law? Study of the law does not make one an IP parasite. Teaching the law does not make one a greedy hypocrite. Teaching the law during the week, and applying one's knowledge of the law on weekends to promote justice and uphold fair play seems rather more laudable than the pursuits of the stereotypical lawyer.

    Perhaps the Troll would care to offer some counter-examples that distinguish Mr. Lessig as a greedy hypocrite, rather than the admirable figure the documented evidence seems to present?

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Saturday January 11, 2003 @03:41AM (#5061374) Homepage
    Whether its Mac, Windows, Gnome or KDE, most people recognize the programs they use by icon. Would you really rather see a blob of text on your desktop/taskbar/panel/whatever? These icons are nouns - just add some adjectives and verbs and your good to go! ;-)
  • by LadyGuardian (568469) on Saturday January 11, 2003 @04:26AM (#5061464) Homepage Journal
    I've heard many people describe Eva and Grave of Fireflies as mind-blowing experiences. But no one that knows Karen Finley or Mac Wellman's work. I just wonder if someone can weigh in on both sides.

    No one knows about it because their fans don't go making translations into other languages and having fan pages so that others can discover it. Anime outside of Japan started as the tiniest segment of the population gathering in clubs and mailing tapes until the BBSs and the internet came along.

    Art films are still in the tiny club stage... it's a little hard to compare. Anime fans can be snobs/purists just as much as Art Film fans. It's only when that segment grows to include the 'common' people that you will be able to make any viable type of comparison.

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