Cosplayers breathe sigh of relief over copyright rules

TOKYO - Negotiators from the 12 nations participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership were surely relieved to finally seal a deal. The arrangement also took a load off the minds of Japanese otaku, as the nation's legions of anime and comic fans are known.

The free trade pact, hashed out over more than five years, is to strengthen the protection of intellectual property - to a degree that drawing or dressing up as a character from, say, "Dragon Ball" could lead to criminal charges. The original copyright holder would not even have to file a complaint; a third party could do so.

A summary of the pact released by the Japanese government on Monday confirms that copyright violations will be prosecutable even if the owner does not press charges. To the relief of otaku, though, the paragraph does not end there. It goes on to say that cases that do not affect the profitability of rights holders will be considered exceptions.

The summary sparked a flurry of celebratory Internet comments by the otaku-inclined. "The Japanese government cares about our culture," one individual wrote. "They gave us full consideration."

Another post expressed relief that Comic Market - an event where about half a million manga fans sell doujinshi self-published comics and dress up as their favourite characters - can continue.

Japan's otaku culture has flourished within a legal gray zone. According to current Japanese law, copyright violations can only be punished if the owner files a claim. Cosplay and fan fiction - parodies of professional works that technically amount to infringement - have rarely resulted in charges. New York.

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