March 2, 2009
We've written before about copyright, as well as its ethical and cultural implications.

For those you don't know exactly what it's all about and who don't want to read a law book, Eric Faden created A Fair(y) Use Tale, a short film (with a little legally acquired help from Disney) explaining what copyright, fair use and the public domain are.

Large media corporations are often quick on the trigger when it comes to proactively defending their property. The recent kerfuffle between Fox and Warner Brothers over the Watchmen movie, is but one example of copyright going wrong and helping no one, except for some lawyers and a large corporation. It certainly did not benefit the creators, or the audience. The distinct possibility of no one being able to watch Watchmen existed. This is why many creators fight the modern idea of copyright. As Cory Doctorow said, if copyright kills culture, then copyright has no reason for being. While corporations don't seem to see this, many creators do and are trying to do something about it.

Musicians are often the artists we hear the most about when the media covers copyright issues, but animators are also involved since many of them use music for their films. One of the animators doing her part in trying to make copyright more useful for everyone is Nina Paley; by distributing Sita Sings the Blues, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. You can find out more about why she's doing it on her website and in this interview.

The interview is quite long, if you wish you can also view highlights of it here.

If you want more animated goodness, the Internet Archive also has over 1400 animated films freely available for download, from Lego Brick Films to vintage cartoons from the 30s and 40s.

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October 16, 2008
It's been a busy few weeks at the intersection of Law and Fandom. Citizens of Otaku-dom, take note:

UNICEF Japan wants to include animated children under pornography laws. This would mean that depictions of children (not just photographic representations, but drawings too) would count, and that people found to be producing or publicly displaying such depictions would be guilty. However, the Japanese government has decided that a three-year study is necessary to determine the necessity and efficacy of changing existing law.

A similar ban might soon exist based on how the courts determine the PROTECT act in regard to an Iowa manga collector charged with possessing "obscene" manga. Now counseled by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Christopher Handley had his entire manga and anime collection taken as evidence after a postal inspector opened a package sent to him from Japan and found material that he deemed potentially objectionable. Whether Handley goes to prison for the next 20 years hinges on how his manga stands up to the "Miller Test":

(1) would the average person find that the material appeals to the prurient interest; (2) does the material depict, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law; (3) does the work, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The jury will have to find that the material fits all three of the criteria in order to convict.

(Source: MangaBlog, which has great coverage of the incident)

Naturally, there are ways to be prosecuted under both the PROTECT act and the DMCA, depending on your doujinshi of choice: US copyright law now allows seizure of your property.

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