The Japanese Government Could Change Cosplay Forever

Illustration for article titled The Japanese Government Could Change Cosplay Forever
Photo: ROSLAN RAHMAN / Contributor (Getty Images)
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Currently, anyone in Japan is free to dress as their favorite characters. But it might not stay free for them to do so. The Japanese government is proposing big copyright law changes for those who make money from cosplaying—and possibly, even for those who don’t.


As writer and translator Matt Alt points out, the Japanese government is currently considering changing the country’s copyright laws, so that professional cosplayers would pay for use of characters.

Cosplay can be big business. Japan’s most successful professional cosplay Enako (pictured) has made over $90,000 a month from public appearances, merchandise, photobooks, chat sessions, and endorsements. Other cosplayers also earn cash for selling photos or clips of them dressed as famous characters. Creators don’t currently get a cut, and the amendment would change this. Moreover, it’s suggested that a standardized set of rules would help avoid any trouble with creators.

According to Kyodo News, Japanese copyright law is unclear but points out that cosplay done without a profit motive is not necessarily infringement. So, for many cosplayers in Japan, things will probably not change. However, Kyodo News adds that even uploading cosplay photos to social networking sites like Instagram could be considered copyright infringement. If so, the effects would be felt throughout the cosplay community.

On Twitter (via SoraNews), Enako discussed the issue, explaining that when she goes on television or appears at paid events, she dresses as original characters to avoid copyright infringement. Moreover, she adds that she also gets permission when she cosplays as characters created by others.

Enako, who is a Cool Japan ambassador, has discussed the possible changes with the Japanese government but wrote that she personally had not heard that uploading cosplay photos to social-networking sites could violate copyright.

“I’m not in a position to give an offhanded statement,” Enako tweeted, “but for me personally, I truly hope that the non-profit activities of fans won’t be regulated on social-networking sites.”

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.


This has always been something I debated and ponder on for a long time. A rather grey area as talented artist are allowed to dress up as their favorite iconic characters for a profit; yet talented artist who draw, paint, make 3-D models, fan made movies and/or music video tributes of their favorite characters are not? My question is why is that?

This isn’t meant to be a question of what’s right, or wrong, or legal, or political. I just never got why one was okay and considered socially acceptable while the other was not. Are they are both freedom of expressions and art forms in tribute of iconic pre-existing media?