Why do people commit crimes? What makes people “good” to begin with, and are some people just born to be “bad”? The debate is as old as philosophy, religion, and ethics, and Gen Urobuchi—one of the most thoughtful screenwriters in anime today, and who has broached such subjects before in previous series—once again tackles the question in his new anime, Psycho Pass.
Zach Logan and Tsukento have some interesting points to make over at the One Piece podcast. They claim manga now exists in a state of war, and in the wake of SOPA, with ACTA on the horizon, that claim is certainly not hard to swallow. Some of their specific assertions, however, are rather eyebrow-raising.
It’s law that is so sacred that it’s in the U.S. Constitution. These laws are what make the works of Oda, Kishimoto, and even Kubo a possibility.
There are two double-takes that I did as I read that. First off, intellectual property law as it now exists is an interpretation of older legal principles. It did not historically exist, though those principles did. While yes, the US Constitution does allow for Congress to secure rights for authors and inventors, copyright law in the 18th century was a very different beast from our modern concept of intellectual property. Most of the rights that lawyers are now concerned with did not exist at the time, and especially noteworthy, it is only recently that intellectual properties are actually handled as real properties, rather than simply convenient fictions that exist to protect authors. (Not coincidentally, the fiction of corporations as persons has also been stretched and reinterpreted in recent years.)
The modern reinterpretation is, if you will, the equivalent of a programmer kludging some code to make it do different things rather than starting cleanly from scratch. This is one reason people confuse copyright violation with theft, when the two are legally distinct: we are using old laws to handle rights and violations that did not exist when those laws were promulgated. Zach may argue that copyright violation is morally indefensible in the same manner as theft, but then we are not entering a legal discussion: he is asking readers to share his morality, after which their agreement with his points will be obvious.
The term “sacred” – always a dubious choice in a discussion of secular law – presages this shaky claim. Pretending continuity between the copyright law of the past and the intellectual property rights of the present is roughly the same as asserting that Film studies existed before the earliest camera, that Protestantism existed before certain European monks re-interpreted the Bible, or asserting that modern Wicca should be identified with ancient paganism: it may lend legitimacy, but it is only true if one does not look too deeply. For that matter, the Constitution specifies that Congress may not prohibit, but may tax, the Importation of Persons – in historical context, the slave trade. Ought we to treat America’s profit from the buying and selling of human beings as “sacred” as well? Even if intellectual property rights had appeared in their present form, appearing in the Constitution may not be a perfect indicator that a law ought to be treated with special reverence.
As a second major objection to this quote, US law is not what allows the works of Oda, Kishimoto, and Kubo to exist, because mangaka are producing content under Japanese law. Certainly, the US laws are very influential, and Japan has some ideas about intellectual property that are very close to US ideas (witness their agreement on ACTA) but suggesting that manga would not be made in Japan if the US had not developed this particular legal interpretation of an artist’s right to control his art is quite a stretch. In fact, some economics experts argue that international rights themselves restrict art and lead to inefficiency.
Creating international trade rights creates an artificial scarcity where no real scarcity exists. That, by definition, is inefficient.
– Thomas Lenard
What Zach perhaps means to say is that the principle behind the law – the idea that authors are compensated for the work they do – is what enables mangaka to produce manga for a living. On that we all must agree. But this acknowledgement of necessity is a far cry from a ringing endorsement of the exact, current methods of ensuring that authors are compensated. It is the methods that the angry fans the article quotes disagree with, and it is a distributor, not a creator, that they have vented their ire on. (Translation is an act of creation, legally speaking, but one who views a free scanlation is viewing a different creation from the officially translated product anyway.)
Tsukento writes, parodying an angry fan,
I also hope for the only major company that helped shaped this industry to crash and burn, preventing us from ever seeing official releases again!
But this misses the point. What industry? From an economic rationale, to someone who only wishes to view manga if it is free, there is no benefit derived from the existence of VIZ. On the other hand, if VIZ is going to DCMA takedown the sites these particular fans like, then VIZ is (from that point of view) harming them by interfering with what they want to do. Wishing for VIZ to collapse is therefore sensible for them from an economic perspective, given those starting points. Arguing with them over the finer points of VIZ policy but ignoring the basic truth that underlies their approach – that they do not accept VIZ – is not going to go anywhere.
Personally, I have paid for or been furnished with review copies of every anime I have ever watched – but I do not make the mistake of thinking that other people think as I do and are necessarily happy to support the system. Distribution in America does not directly affect production in Japan, and almost everyone in the discussion seems at least dimly aware of this. Everything I have seen leads me to conclude that people honestly believe US distribution of licensed works can collapse with no ill effects on production in Japan. (This is, I suspect, also conflated with attitudes about things being “cooler” or “purer” back when fans of an obscure medium swapped episodes or chapters physically. Fans who yearn for a return to that might not mind if the US industry downsized, mistakenly thinking that this would revert fan culture to its earlier days.)
If you wish to change fan attitudes about paying money for works, it will become necessary to explore the truth of these assumptions and demonstrate their falsehood, preferably with hard data. Only after fans concede the necessity of the existence of a US industry to handle distribution and licensing can they be convinced that this industry is worth supporting. I don’t mean to put the burden on Zach and Tsukento – it’s VIZ, FUNimation, and other companies that have failed to recognize this crucial step in securing their future. Their eyes were on Tokyo, not America; they took their hard-won legal ownership of distribution rights for cultural ownership without taking steps to ensure a congruence between the two. Now, they are paying the price.
An article in today’s Del Marva Now describes Wicomico, Maryland County Councilman Joe Holloway as disturbed by the humorous sexual content in Dragonball Z books available at local school libraries.
“The drawings and story lines are disgusting,” Holloway said of the book.
Official image courtesy of Wicomico County Council.
While on the surface this would appear to be a classic tale – a public official finds something against public morality, and squelches it – looking a little deeper raises questions about the purity of Mr. Holloway’s outrage.
From The Diet 3 Daily –
Sept 29, 2007. Immediately after the last episode of “School Days” was played, fans gathered in front of the station and celebrated the death of Makoto.
“Nice death.” A chubby man with glasses gushed, then he immediately corrected himself: “I mean, geez, this is more bloody than the game. But at least we got to see him die without having to buy another copy of the game.”
“Waa! Sekai sama!” Another chubby man with thick-rimmed glasses said with tears: “I loved you! I loved you! I still love you! Damn that psycho bitch for killing my Sekai-sama!”
Immediately, another chubby man with thick rimmed glasses approached him from behind and started beating him on the head with a paper fan. The two began to fight desperately.
“Kill them all, baby!” A woman with wearing a shirt that said in katakana: “Makoto must die” was frantically swinging a wooden kitchen knive wearing the uniform of the school that the females characters goes to. “I cried tears of relief when Sekai-san sliced and diced him like sashimi. Hmm…Delicious!”
Incredibly, she was attacked by some men and women wearing the shirt that says: “the Makoto-sama fan club” with foam bats, but she fought back valiantly with her wooden kitchen knive.
As far as our reporter had seen, no injuries had occured.
The station personnel seemed slightly startled but didn’t react. Nobody even picked up the phone and called the police.
“They’re just dumb otakus…I mean fans. These people can’t do any harm.” said an employee refused to be named. “Besides, it’s actually late and I’m going to the bar to drink with my friends. If the security guards aren’t going to do anything, then what do I care? These are just stupid people having nothing better to do.”
A female employee identified as “Sekai” said: “These people are probably drunk and they need to go home and sleep and don’t take a stupid anime seriously.” She paused, then added: “Japan is becoming more and more unsafe these days.”
Our reporter received no bodily harm.
From ANN –
The official Japanese sites for the School Days anime series and the AT-X anime satellite channel have announced that AT-X will run the 12th and last episode on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. JST and repeat next Tuesday morning at 12:30 a.m. Those will be the first public showings of this reportedly violent episode, since all over-the-air broadcasters preempted it after an axe murder was allegedly committed by a schoolgirl in Kyoto, Japan last week.
Overflow, the game label of the developer Stack and the creator of the original School Days game, has scheduled the two announced preview screenings of the episode in the Akihabara shopping district of Tokyo on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. (simultaneously with the AT-X premiere) and 10:35 p.m. The showings will be held in the Tokyo Anime Center’s Akiba 3D Theater on the Akihabara UDX building’s fourth floor. Overflow has also changed its admission requirements; attendees must bring an identification card as well as either the School Days or Summer Days PC game, but the game no longer has to be unopened as previously announced.
Ray’s take: It’s old news but hey, when it come to ratings and money, who give a fuck about morality? The competition heats up as the restriction is loosened up. As fans, you don’t have to give a shit about that, just remember to bring your chainsaws…(playing “Psycho” stabbing music over and over again and again…)
From The Diet 3 Daily –
Sept 26, Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Earlier today, the local police arrested Minami Takayama, a 35-year old unmarried women who’s been drawing yaoi vampire doujinshi for 15 years.
The police chief reported that the local branch of the “Shin Mobile Morality Squad” has been secretly tracking this woman’s underground sales of her work to girls and women ranging from 14 to 45; from middle school girls to middle-aged housewives.
“She has been secretly selling indecent materials of sexual activities depicting men on men, men on boys, boys on boys, men to boys, and boys to men,” said Chief Watanabe. “Her work would’ve been acceptable if she were selling them in certain conventions in Tokyo, but she insisted on breaking the rules and the social stigma and selling outside these conventions.
“We think her abnormal behavior has something to do with her 2-year study abroad in America.” Chief Watanabe added.
“Freedom of speech is good, but too much of it can be really bad.” Commented Ms. Yoshida, a local housewife. “Thank my ancestors I refused to deal with her when she came to my house asking me to buy a copy of a ‘new and innovative read’ for housewives. I just said no.
“And I would like to encourage all bored housewives to watch drama, date younger men online, and play with boys from your local middle and high schools. Trust me, it makes the life more interesting that way.”
Police found 10000+ copies of yaoi doujinshi work from at Takayama’s home. It’s reported that her room is full of posters showing male characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hellsing, Fullmetal Alchemist, Kujibiki Unbalance, Prince of Tennis, and others.
She faces 5 years in prison with a stiff 450000 yen fine.