Japanese Anime and Manga Copyright Reform


In the mid-1990s, Japanese video game company Nintendo took the American toy and game market by storm when it introduced the hand-held video game Pokémon to the United States market. Although some Japanese media had trickled into mainstream United States pop culture before Pokémon, this was part of the beginning of markedly Japanese mass-consumer pop culture in the United States. Previously, Japanese media was usually “westernized” to appeal to American audiences; this westernization caused consumers to be wholly unaware of the cultural source of the media. After Pokémon’s introduction, an influx of definably Japanese media entered the United States. Saturday morning was filled with translated versions of Japanese animated shows (“anime”). Media mogul Disney entered an agreement with popular anime production company Studio Ghibli to distribute its animated movies, and comic book sections of bookstores were packed with translated Japanese comics (“manga”). This flood of new media became especially popular among elementary and high school students in the mid-1990s. The wide-spread reach of Japanese media has continued to grow and evolve with the passage of time, and the global market is now a significant percentage of Japanese profits on this type of media.

Because of the growing global market, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (“METI”) has recently enacted a plan to prevent global copyright infringement of anime and manga. METI dubbed this plan the “Manga Anime Guardians Project” (“MAGP”).

This Note will discuss the current copyright law in Japan, how this law relates to other copyright laws internationally, international fan culture, and the effect that METI’s project may have on this influential, global part of the market. Finally, it will suggest copyright law reforms to accomplish METI’s goal of preventing infringement without sacrificing fan culture.


Japan, anime, manga, copyright reform, METI, MAGP, Manga Anime Guardians Project, fan culture, copyright infringement, Pokémon, Nintendo, Disney, Studio Ghibli



Emily Schendl (Washington University School of Law)



Publication details



All rights reserved

File Checksums (MD5)

  • pdf: 60e8849a00d1fc330bcc11f3f5fc45a1