Are There Legal Issues with Cosplay?

Are There Legal Issues with Cosplay?

A new article from Anime News Network is shedding some light on the legality of cosplay in Japan. Recently some fans asked Yūji Ōkuma, a lawyer with Toranomon Law and Patent Office, about the legality of making costumes based on their favourite characters. And while his answer may be expected to some, it will probably still create a bit of panic. Okuma explained that while making cosplay for yourself, for personal and private use, fell into the category of grey legality that a lot of fanworks fall into. But if you’re creating a costume for a friend, or to sell, and yes that includes props, you are infringing on Japanese copyrights.

In the US there have been stories circulating about the possibility of copyright owners cracking down on cosplay. And Disney is usually the copyright holder highlighted. Since the company’s acquisition of the Star Wars properties, and Marvel Comics, the scrutiny of fanworks has only increased.

It’s fairly well known that you cannot walk into a Disney park dressed as a copyrighted character. Various cosplayers have tried and been kicked out for their efforts, going as far as to change into costume somewhere within the park. Birthdaypartyprincess on Tumblr gives a good explanation as to why Disney is so protective of their characters, “...Disney can’t afford to have some lookalike come stumbling by their park and do something horribly embarrassing on the 6 o'clock news.” This vice grip on the look of Disney’s characters has sprouted a trend called Disneybounding. You dress up to fit the general feel of the character, incorporating the signature colours associated with them, rather than donning an actual costume.

So while fans will always find ways to dress-up, and have fun, what does this mean for the future of cosplay? Well, there has already been an uptick in handmade costumes for personal use. As well as collaborative groups that help each other in their costuming efforts. And I love that about the community. It’s evolved so much in the last five years, and since I started cosplaying in the early 2000’s. Cosplay is being made available to a wider audience, with the introduction of cosplay patterns and specialty fabrics. Along with Youtube tutorials that are able to show more in 30 seconds of video, than most photo tutorials. The hobby will continue to grow and change. But until we have an official letter from major copyright owners, be careful, and be creative.

Originally published on 10/23/2015 at conventioning.wordpress.com

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