Legal Scholarship on Anime/Manga

One of the most basic things to keep in mind about “anime/manga  studies” is that it is not a discreet or formal academic area, discipline, or subject. It is frequently referred to as a “field” (especially in reviews of monographs and essay collections on anime/manga) – but it is certainly not an established, “institutionalized” academic subject like anthropology or East Asian studies or history. It welcomes different ways of asking questions – and different approaches from different disciplines. And this in turn means that scholars who want to explore anime/manga in their writing are not limited to publishing in only some particular types of journals, although of course some journals may be more open to scholarship on anime/manga than others.

One of the things that my work compiling the “research output” of scholars around the world who write about Japanese animation and Japanese comics allows me to do is to then examine particular types of this kind of work. I can look at publication patterns by specific journal, by year, by country of origin. I can also look at the full universe of published scholarship on anime/manga, and examine particular sub-sets of this universe. And, one particular sub-set that I think definitely deserves a closer look is anime/manga legal scholarship – the academic analysis of legal issues related to the creation, production, distribution and consumption of anime/manga.

Before taking this look, one thing that is absolutely necessary to keep in mind is that the structure of legal scholarship as it’s practiced in the U.S. and other Western countries is significantly different from scholarship in other subjects. First of all, unlike the case in most other subjects, the standard form for a piece of Western legal scholarship is the law review article. A law review is a specialized type of scholarly publication, with a number of unique features. Law reviews are published primarily (though not exclusively) by law schools directly, rather than by non-profit organizations, academic societies, university presses, or commercial publishing houses. Papers that are submmited to law reviews generally do not undergo a blind peer-review process – a particular article’s editors immediately know the identity of that article’s author. More importantly, the editors are law students, not academics. Law review articles are usually significantly longer than articles in other subjects; an article of 50-75 pages is not at all uncommon. However, this is due in no small part to the unique citation style of most legal scholarship. The standard practice in this style is to provide supporting footnotes for every factual assertion – so, a 50-page article may very well contain several hundred footnotes. Finally, even the standard system for accessing legal scholarship is different from the ways that most scholars are familiar with. Law reviews are covered comprehensively in specialized informal systems such as Westlaw/WestlawNext, Lexis/Lexis Advance, Bloomberg Law and HeinOnline, but coverage in general academic databases varies widely.

With all of this in mind, I am now pleased to be able to present a current, up-to-date list of English-language scholarship on legal topics and issues related to anime/manga.

As you can see, the actual entries on this list fall largely into three categories. Several of them address the unique features of the Japanese approach to intellectual property, and of the place that Japanese visual culture products occupy under this approach. The majority are discussions of the potential legal implications of “derivative works” related to anime/manga, such as fansubs and fan fiction. Given that at this point, the U.S. legal system has generally not challenged or restricted fan works and activities, these articles are largely theoretical. On the other hand, this same legal system has now produced at least two major cases prosecuting individuals for possessing “anime-style” images (U.S. v Whorley), and actual Japanese comics (U.S. v. Handley). Two of the articles specifically address these cases.

English-Language Legal Scholarship on Anime, Manga, and Related Topics: 2002 – present

[The full list is also available as a separate page. Any further updates or additions will be reflected on that page only, not in this post].

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

As always with the bibliographies that I assemble, this list is a work in progress, and additional materials will be added to it over time. Of course, suggestions and recommendations are always welcome!

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