« Now for Something Completely Different | Main | How do you read TYoH? »

Geek Media Meets Law Reviews

I'm glad to see that Jordan Hatcher's article Of Otaku and Fansubs: A Critical Look at Anime Online in Light of Current Issues in Copyright Law is getting some attention. (Hat tip to Prof. Solum.) It's precisely the thing I like to see in articles by students: someone writing about an issue that raises a narrow legal issue on a topic the author is obviously passionate about. Fansubs (Japanese animation translated and subtitled by fans) cast a different light on some of the central battles in the copyright wars. I strongly recommend this article to anyone considering the ramifications of the current RIAA or MPAA lawsuits. For instance:

Does our present level of copyright foster the cultural goods we'd like to see? As Geoffery Manne put it, the ultimate question with copyright law is Do we have the optimal amount of Bainbridge? The standard (Bainbridge) answer is to say that if we don't have strong copyright protections, we'll suffer a shortage of production. But the history of fansub anime belies this contention. If it weren't for fansubbing, the anime community in the U.S. is unlikely to be anywhere near what it is today. In its early days, fansubs were what allows a customer base to grow beyond a narrow range of people who could speak Japanese. Violation of the law allowed the market to form, and now Disney spends millions to get the rights to Miyazaki. It is possible that if we had weaker copyright protections, we'd have just as much creativity, but it would be different. As always with economics, the tricky issue is finding the elephant that isn't in the room: certainly our copyright law provides us with quite a lot of bland romantic comedies and ticky-tacky sitcoms. With a weaker and modified copyright law, do we really think all television would become Manhattan Neighborhood Network?

Does copyright law as it stands promote quality and access?: As far as quality goes, I've said before that fansubs are often better translations than their commercial counterparts. This isn't surprising, really, as they're translated by people who love the original and want to share the experience they had when they first saw the work. It's hard to say that if we didn't allow translation rights to movies or videos, we'd have poorer translations.

What about access? Anyone who's ever watched TV in England and the United States knows that copyright law respects corporate priorities over user utility. All the DVDs I purchased in the UK? They're virtually useless, not because of differing technical standards (as would be the case with VHS tapes), but because they're "region-locked." Who cares if I already paid my money, I can't use the discs. And of course, some people use Bittorrent to download TV shows simply because copyright negotiations have prevented the show they want to watch from being shown (or even purchasable) in their country of origin. (See, e.g. or until recently Lost.) What good is copyright law if pursuit of profits means that intellectual goods remain completely unavailable?

In any event, anime may be a geek media phenomenon, but the legal implications are not. The article is well worth a read.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

NOTICE TO SPAMMERS, COMMENT ROBOTS, TRACKBACK SPAMMERS AND OTHER NON-HUMAN VISITORS: No comment or trackback left via a robot is ever welcome at Three Years of Hell. Your interference imposes significant costs upon me and my legitimate users. The owner, user or affiliate who advertises using non-human visitors and leaves a comment or trackback on this site therefore agrees to the following: (a) they will pay fifty cents (US$0.50) to Anthony Rickey (hereinafter, the "Host") for every spam trackback or comment processed through any blogs hosted on threeyearsofhell.com, morgrave.com or housevirgo.com, irrespective of whether that comment or trackback is actually posted on the publicly-accessible site, such fees to cover Host's costs of hosting and bandwidth, time in tending to your comment or trackback and costs of enforcement; (b) if such comment or trackback is published on the publicly-accessible site, an additional fee of one dollar (US$1.00) per day per URL included in the comment or trackback for every day the comment or trackback remains publicly available, such fee to represent the value of publicity and search-engine placement advantages.

Giving The Devil His Due

Choose Stylesheet

What I'm Reading

D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

Syndicated from other sites

The Columbia Continuum
Other Blogs by CLS students

De Novo
Theory and Practice
Liberal Federalism?
Good News, No Foolin'

Nancy Pelosi covers her head and visits the head of John the Baptist.
Vlogging in from Austin.
Omikase/"American Idol"

Jeremy Blachman's Weblog: 2007
Happy Passover
Looking for Advice re: LA
Google Books

Stay of Execution
What I've Learned From This Blog, or My Yellow Underpants
The End
Mid Thirties

Legal Theory Blog
Program Announcement: Summer Programs on the Constitution at George Washington
Book Announement: Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy by Whittington
Entry Level Hiring Report

The Volokh Conspiracy
Making the Daily Show:
Civil unions pass New Hampshire House:
Profile of Yale Law Dean Harold Koh:

Crescat Sententia
Hillary II
Politics and Principal/Agents

Law Dork
Election Approaches
Following Lewis
New Jersey High Court: 'Same Rights and Benefits'

Surveying the revival
Birds of paradise

Half the Sins of Mankind
Cheney Has Spoken Religious conservatives who may ...
Does Ahmadinejad Know Christianity Better Than MSN...
Borders as Genocide In discussions of climate chan...

For lovers of garden gnomes...and any China-freaks out there
We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Does SOX explain the flight from NY?
More Litvak on SOX effect on cross-listed firms
What did the market learn from internal controls reporting?

The Yin Blog
Iowa City = Riyadh
Jeffrey Rosen's "The Supreme Court"
Geek alert -- who would win between Battlestar Galactica and the U.S.S. Enterprise?

Letters of Marque
And there we are

Signing Off

Dark Bilious Vapors
Jim (The Waco Kid): Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Jim: Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on.
--"Blazing Saddles"

Technical Difficulties... please stand by....
The Onion should have gotten a patent first....

Legal Ethics Forum
Interesting new Expert DQ case
Decency, Due Care, and The Yoo-Delahunty Memorandum
Thinking About the Fired U.S. Attorneys

Ex Post
Student Symposium- Chicago!
More Hmong - Now at Law School
Good Samaritan Laws: Good For America?

Appellate Law & Practice
Those turned over documents
CA1: courts can’t help people acquitted of crimes purge the taint of acquitted conduct
CA1: restrictions on chain liquor stores in Rhode Island are STILL okay

the imbroglio
High schoolers turn in plagiarism screeners for copyright infringement
Paris to offer 20,600 bikes at 1,450 stations to rent by the end of the year

The Republic of T.
The Secret of the Snack Attack
links for 2007-04-04
Where You Link is What You Get

Distractions for stressed law students

The Other Side: Twisted AnimationsSomething Positive, a truly good webcomic

Syndicate This Site



Stop Spam Harvesters, Join Project Honey Pot