New rules may regulate social media photos and profit made from cosplay.

Cosplay is an awesome way for fans of shows to get creative and express their love for certain characters, but as we’ve seen before it also skirts the line of copyright law when it comes to making money.

For example, if you dress up as Goku, Tanjiro, or Ronald McDonald, and you make money from selling photos or costumes, are you infringing on the copyright of those characters?

It’s been an ongoing debate within the Japanese government, and according to the online news site Nikkan Sports, the government is moving forward to create laws to alleviate ambiguities in current copyright law. While cosplay that is not for profit will be unaffected, cosplay photos posted to social media, and cosplayers who make money from events may become liable for infringement.

▼ Luckily Little Red Riding hood is in the public domain,
so our selfies of dressing up as her are okay.

Right now nothing is official, and the government is in discussions with professional Japanese cosplayers such as Enako, who is well known for her significant income from cosplay and is also an ambassador for Cool Japan.

▼ This potential change understandably has a lot of people worried,
and Enako recently posted her take on Twitter. (Translation below)

“I think there are some misunderstandings on the information being spread out there about the changes to cosplay copyright, but this article is easy to understand.

(Link to Nikkan Sports article)

I had a discussion with Minister Inoue, and we’re searching for a way to protect copyright without interfering with current cosplay culture.”

▼ She also talked about the potential for nonprofit
photos infringing on copyright. (Continued below)

“Also, I haven’t heard anything about the ban on (cosplay photos being posted to) social media as was written in another article, so I’m anxious to find the truth.

I’m not really in a position to easily give a statement on the issue, but personally I hope that the changes will not regulate social media posts and fan-made activities if they are not for profit.”

To note, the article that Enako linked specifically says:

“Cosplay that is not for profit will not infringe copyright, but submitting photos to membership-based exchange sites (SNS) such as Instagram, or receiving remuneration at events may violate copyright.” 

The fact that Instagram is called out as a “membership-based exchange site” is strange, but hopefully that will be clarified moving forward.

▼ Enako also gave her personal experience with the issue.
(Translation below)

“By the way, I’ve said it many times before, but when I’m on TV, at events, or anything else for profit, I take copyright into consideration and do not cosplay characters from published works, but go out in my own original outfits instead.

Whenever I cosplay characters from published works, I do so after obtaining permission from the publisher.”

It’s a difficult issue, though most Japanese netizens seem to be in support of Enako and the potential new laws:

“This is very important.”
“That sounds like a lot of work. We support you. Good luck.”
“Let’s hope we can get these misunderstandings worked out.”
“Thank you for helping to clear up the ambiguous rules and creating an environment where cosplayers can be at ease to not get in trouble with copyright.”
“I’m glad to have cosplayers like Enako representing our country. It’s thanks to her that the government is even thinking about cosplayers.”

Like the netizens stated, hopefully any new laws will help protect cosplayers from companies suing them by creating clear rules, rather than simply opening up companies to demand takedowns of posting personal cosplay photos to social media, or wearing costumes to conventions for fun.

Fan-made merchandise has had a rocky past before, so we’ll have to see how the future of cosplay changes with the potential passing of new laws.

Source: Nikkan Sports via Hachima Kiko, Twitter/@enako_cos
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

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