OTW Signal, December 2020

Every month in OTW Signal we’ll take a look at stories that connect to the OTW’s mission and projects, including legal, technology, academic, fannish history, and preservation issues that are important for fandom, fan culture or transformative works.

In the News

Fans of animanga works, especially those producing doujinshi, have reason to cheer the outcome of a Japanese court case in October. The case turned on whether a derivative creation, in this case a doujin magazine, would be protected by copyright. The plaintiff had produced some Yuri!!! On Ice, Tiger & Bunny, and Mr. Osomatsu fanart. Someone else then reproduced that fanart for profit. The fan creator then sued claiming copyright infringement and demanded compensation. In the first trial, the court ruled that “there is not enough evidence to recognize that it is an illegal secondary work” and ruled in favor of the fan creator.

The case was then appealed to Japan’s Intellectual Property High Court. They upheld the lower court ruling. In short, the decision was that “since the cartoon character itself is ‘not a work’, even if the original character is made to appear in the doujin magazine, it does not constitute copyright infringement by itself.”

After the trial, Kei Hirano, who served as the plaintiff’s attorney, tweeted, “I think this will be the leading case for the legal positioning of doujinshi in the future.”

This was the first clear legal judgment about derivative creations such as doujinshi, whose legal status was vague up until now, similar to the grey area occupied by fanfiction in the U.S. However, as this trial was a dispute between a doujin artist and a third party rather than the canon creators, it’s possible that future trials may establish new precedents.

The OTW has received a request from a Ph.D. student in Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies – Popular Culture Studies, at The University of Zurich. Fabienne Saurer is seeking help to find fan participants for a survey. The survey has been checked and approved by her Faculty’s Ethics Commission. This survey on reading engagement includes a consent form and information about participant privacy and data usage, and is looking for participants in the 16-24 age group. The survey is planned to run over the next few weeks, and will help Fabienne gather information to design questions for interviews later in her research.

More information can be found by clicking on the above survey link. You can also reach out to Fabienne at fabienne.saurer [at] uzh.ch or her research supervisor, Dr. Ingrid Tomkowiak, at ingrid.tomkowiak [at] uzh.ch

OTW Tips

While our main news site is at transformativeworks.org, you can follow news and announcements from us at a number of sites, including, as of this month, Instagram. If you come across sites distributing news from the OTW or our projects and it is not listed in that link above, then it is not an official account. To find news from all of our projects, visit our Pinboard page, which links them all together for easy searching.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or news story you think we should know about, send us a link. We are looking for content in all languages! Submitting a link doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in an OTW post, and inclusion of a link doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

OTW Signal
  1. Aivars commented:

    It would help if there were details included about the wanted demographics of the research, as enough of Ao3 writers simply dont fit the age category the qestionairry requires.

    • Claudia Rebaza commented:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Aivars. I’ve updated the post.

      Claudia Rebaza
      Staffer, OTW Communications