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].
- Lee, Tiffany. Fan activities from P2P filesharing to fansubs and fan fiction: Motivations, policy concerns, and recommendations. Texas Review of Entertainment and Sports Law, 14, 181-198.
- April, Keisha. Cartoons aren’t real people, too: Does the regulation of virtual child pornography violate the First Amendment and criminalize subversive thought? Cardozo Journal of Law and Gender, 19, 241-272.
- Greenberg, Marc. Comics, courts & controversy: A case study of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review, 32, 121-186.
- Rembert-Lang, LaToya. Reinforcing the Tower of Babel: The impact of copyright law on fansubbing. American University Intellectual Property Brief, 2(2), 21-33.
- Madhavi, Sunder. Bollywood/Hollywood. Theoretical Inquiries in Law, 12, 275-308
- McKay, Patrick. Culture of the future: Adapting copyright law to accommodate fan-made derivative works in the twenty-first century. Regent University Law Review, 24, 117-146.
- de Zwart, Melissa. Japanese lessons: What can otaku teach us about copyright and gothic girls. Alternative Law Journal, 35, 27-30
- Noda, Nathaniel. Copyright retold: How interpretive rights foster creativity and justify fan-based activities. Seton Hall Journal of Sports & Entertainment Law, 20, 131-163.
- Zangellini, Aleardo. Underage sex and romance in Japanese homoerotic manga and anime. Social & Legal Studies: An International Journal, 18, 159-177.
- Daniels, Joshua. “Lost in translaton”: Anime, moral rights, and market failure. Boston University Law Review, 88, 709-744.
- Noda, Nathaniel. When holding on means letting go: Why fair use should extend to fan-based activities. University of Denver Sports and Entertainment Law Journal, 5, 64-104.
- Trombley, Sarah. Visions and revisions: Fanvids and fair use. Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal, 25, 647-685.
- Lambert, Karla. Unflagging television piracy: How piracy of Japanese television programming in East Asia portends failure for a U.S. broadcast flag. Texas Law Review, 84, 1317-1746.
- Muscar, Jaime. A winner is who? Fair use and the online distribution of manga and videogame fan translations. Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, 9, 223-254.
- Port, Kenneth. Trademark dilution in Japan. Northwestern Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property, 4, 228-254.
- Greene, David. The need for expert testimony to prove lack of serious artistic value in obscenity cases. Nexus: A Journal of Opinion, 10, 171-178.
- Hatcher, Jordan. Of otakus and fansubs: A critical look at anime online in light of current issues in copyright law. SCRIPTed: A Journal of Law, Technology & Society, 2, 514-542.
- Leonard, Sean. Celebrating two decades of unlawful progress: Fan distribution, proselytization commons, and the explosive growth of Japanese animation. UCLA Entertainment Law Review, 12, 189-264.
- McLelland, Mark. The world of yaoi: The internet, censorship and the global “boys’ love” fandom. The Australian Feminist Law Journal, 23, 61-77.
- Dulh, Gregory. Old lyrics, knock-off videos, and copycat comic books: The fourth fair use factor in U.S. copyright law. Syracuse Law Review, 54, 665-737.
- Lessig, Lawrence. The creative commons. Montana Law Review, 65, 1-13.
- Kirkpatrick, Sean. Like holding a bird: What the prevalence of fansubbing can teach us about the use of strategic selective copyright enforcement. Temple Environmental Law and Technology Journal, 21, 131-153.
- Mehra, Salil. Copyright, control and comics: Japanese battles over downstream limits on content. Rutgers Law Review, 56, 181-230.
- Mehra, Salil. Copyright and comics in Japan: Does law explain why all the cartoons my kid watches are Japanese imports? Rutgers Law Review, 55, 155-204.
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!