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News on the Eastern Front

News on the Eastern Front

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It recently hit Anime News Network that the Japanese government was asking the US government to crack down on illegal distribution of anime.  As usual, fans on the ANN Web-BBS thread attempted to make plenty of excuses for why this item should be discounted or ignored, usually attempting to draw distinctions that the law (and the request) doesn't.  For instance, some attempted to draw the usual bogus line between "legal" fansubs of unlicensed material, and fansubs of licensed material; someone else wanted to know whether the request included "raws" or just fansubs; and some said it wasn't anime, just copyrighted material in general (even though the request specifically mentioned anime, and no other form of Japanese IP is routinely infringed on anything like a comparable scale).  Those distinctions matter to fans.  Those distinctions don't matter to the bureaucracy, which only sees copyrights and infringement.  It's similar to the attempts fans of underage-sex fantasies routinely make to draw a line between themselves and the "actual perverts" who are completely different in some way not instantly obvious to outsiders.

One excuse or issue that may carry a bit more weight than those is that it's not clear the Japanese government really has any pull with the US enforcement people anyway, nor that the US enforcement people would be able to do anything even if they wanted to.  This may all be meaningless sabre-rattling.  Even for infringement of US-produced cultural materials, US government agencies just don't have the staff or budget to pursue a war on copyright infringement; they're too busy with the Wars against Drugs, Evil, and Science.  Enforcement of copyright has to be outsourced to the RIAA and MPAA, who understandably aren't going to spend a lot of effort defending their competitors' supposed intellectual property rights.

This may help test my theory about the trade balance issues, though.  My hypothesis is that the USA will continue to push for extension of intellectual property "rights" on things it exports, and fail to enforce such limitations on imports, because that will tend to reduce its massive trade deficits.  There are plenty of reasons for the USA to fail to enforce Japanese anime copyrights, so if they do ignore the request it won't prove much, but if they pay close attention and really start going after fansubbers, that would indicate my hypothesis was wrong and they actually do have some commitment to copyrights even when it's not to their own benefit.

Nobody who disbelieved me last time I said this is likely to change their mind now, but I'll say it again because it's important:  when they do come for the fans, that really will include you.  Your own fandom will not be spared.  Especially not if you're relying on bogus "get out of jail free" cards based on arguments the mundanes don't even comprehend, like "raws and fansubs are totally different."

On a happier note, here's a column from today's Daily Yomiuri Online about Japanese copyright extension proposals.  It sounds like at least some people over there are proceeding in a clueful fashion on this.  I imagine that Japan, like Canada, is under a lot of pressure from the USA to extend the MPAA and RIAA's privileges, but Canada has held up pretty well so far and it's reasonable to suppose that Japan may as well.  Beijing is a lot closer to Tokyo than Washington is, we aren't hearing very many demands for copyright extension from that direction yet, and like they say, these days you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

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