Anime Blogging and Copyright Considerations

Anime Blogging and CopyrightsAmerican copyright law is a beast! The regulations are complicated and often confusing. Because I am a librarian by profession, I thought I would demystify some of these legal wranglings. First, the usual disclaimer: this article is by no means legal advice or a legal guide. It is for informational purposes (there, no one can sue me for this article haha).

Okay with that out of the way.

Generally, copyright ownership belongs to the author of a work unless it is transferred by contract to another person or organization.  The main copyright legislation is the Copyright Act of 1976. It protects literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, pictorial, sculptural, and architecture works. It also protects motion pictures and sound recordings (17 U.S.C Section 102[a]). It doesn’t mention anything about electronic resources. However, a clause in Section 102 is used to protect these works.  According to the Act, as soon as an idea is in fixed form ( in other words, created) it is copyrighted by the author. They don’t have to do anything to get a copyright. The creator may use a copyright notice (© Blah blah someone) without needing to contact the US Copyright Office (Rubin, 2010 p. 334).

Copyright Owners have certain Exclusive Rights (17 U.S.C. Section 106):

  • Reproduce the copyrighted work.
  • Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work.
  • Distribute copies to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, rental, lease, or lending.
  • Perform publicly.
  • Display publicly.

Normally, you retain the copyright from the date the work is created up to 70 years after you die.

So what does all this mean?

That means all the images, videos, and other works from anime we use are copyrighted regardless of where we find them online. Don’t panic yet! You are not liable quite yet for using these copyrighted materials. It also means you own the copyright to your blog’s content…although not all of it! Hang on, I will explain in a bit.

Fair Use

Blogging and Copyright LawFair Use if the ability to use a copyrighted material without needing to get the permission of the copyright holder. Generally, fair use is more likely to apply to works that are noncommercial (Rubin, 2010 p. 335). The US courts use 4 criteria for determining fair use (17 U.S.C Section 107):

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is for commercial or for nonprofit educational purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

Commercial use of the work may be permissible if the work is satire, a review of the material, informational, or a critique depending on the above criteria.  Criteria #3 basically means the copyrighted work cannot make up a large portion of the content.

So what does all this mean?

It means using clips of anime and images from manga/anime is generally allowed if your blog is nonprofit (like most of our community) and for review, satirical, educational, or a critique. Yeah, you don’t have to worry as much about the Feds knocking down your door.

Hold on though! This also means we have to be cautious about posting fan art and other works. While the characters may be copyrighted by a company, the artwork derived from them belong to the author. Unless it falls under the Fair Use criteria, a lawsuit is possible. I make it a point not to post artwork that isn’t released as a Creative Commons or open copyright wallpaper for this reason.

So, you do not own the copyright to the images you use in your posts unless you create them yourself. But, it is okay to use them under fair use. The text you write belongs to you.

Speaking of Creative Commons, here is a brief explanation of the options available.

  • Attribution: Others can copy, distribute, display, and perform the copyrighted work and derivative works based upon it- but only if they give credit as stipulated by the author.
  • Share Alike: Others can distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the creator’s work as long as they creator is credited.
  • Noncommercial: Others can copy, distribute, display, and perform the original work – and derivative works based upon it- but for noncommercial purposes only. The creator must be credited.
  • No Derivative Works: Others can copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of the original work, not derivative works based upon it. The creator must be credited.

Putting it all Together.

Confused Copyright LAwIt is perfectly fine to use anime images, manga images, and video clips for noncommercial, informative, satirical, or critical works. The images you use will not belong to you (again, unless you create them yourself), but the text you write does as long as it is original. It is best to keep most of your posts your own writing. Fair use requires most of the work to be your own.  Posting an entire manga or anime episode may be a copyright violation.

It is best to attribute images to the copyright holders. Although, you will notice here on JP, we don’t attribute images very often. It is poor practice, that much I admit. It is often difficult to find the original creator of an image with the way images are shared online. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make the effort if the image is an original artistic work.  Images that belong to companies are easier to attribute.

It is good practice to cite your sources and link to them in a reference section at the end of the blog post. Of course, not all opinion posts like reviews need references. Here at JP, we tend to simply link to our sources in the text or do formal APA style citations when needed. These are useful for those few who want to read more on their own.

Anime CopyrightAnyone can publish on the Internet and there is a lot of drivel and misinformation out there. Citing sources helps you look more professional and lends some authority to your writing. It also helps protect you from running afoul of copyright problems.

Now this article only deals with United States Copyright Law. Other countries have their own laws. Many are fairly similar to what I discuss here.

Hopefully this demystifies some of the confusion surrounding copyrights. I tried to cut out all the complexities and get down to the bones of the law. For most of us, we are protected by fair use and write about anime/manga because we enjoy them. For those few of us who want to earn a “happy buck,” copyright becomes a little more tangled.

I recommend you look at the copyright laws of your country if you want to commercialize your blog and be sure to attribute all images and references.

References

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of Library and Information Science. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

US Copyright Office (2011). US Copyright Law.  Retrieved from http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

Creative Commons (n.d.). About the Licenses. Retrieved from http://creativecommons.org/licenses/

 

 

27 thoughts on “Anime Blogging and Copyright Considerations”

  1. Okay….a pretty good post about the infringement stuff but i got a few questions(maybe 1):
    Q)Is putting Fan-Art/Anime Screenshots/Anime Clips on your “monetized blog” a sort of copyright infringement?(Because if I am reviewing anime episodes and I use screenshots and stuff on my blog which uses affiliate links or ads or any form of monetization would I not be BUSTED??)

    Thank You

    1. A copyright lawyer can answer the questions better. My answer isn’t legal advice but here it is: monetizing a blog that features fan-art, screenshots, clips and the like isn’t necessarily infringement. Movie review websites, for example, monetize and are fine. However, monetizing does make it a little more likely to be targeted than a non-commercial educational website. For-profit ventures are scrutinized more than nonprofit ventures.

      Be careful of fan-art. Always get the written permission of the author for its use.

      I’m sorry I can’t be entirely clear. It all depends. As long as you aren’t lifting content wholesale and using the clips for review purposes you should be fine. Many review blogs are monetized.

  2. Hello!

    Do you know if using still images or character art from anime series in a blog or, more importantly, a YouTube video (such as a review, episode discussion, or some other topic relating to whatever the anime in question is) would be grounds for problem? What if the video in question is monetized?

    If so, what can be done to prevent these problems so that the images could be used?

    1. In general, using official art from a series falls under fair use. However, using artwork drawn by a private artist without permission can be a problem. It’s not a good idea to drop in a full YouTube video, but you can drop in short clips to support your argument. Your work needs to constitute the majority of an article or you are possibly violating copyright.

      The best way to prevent a problem is to get written permission from the owner of the images and video.

      1. Is there a difference between official art from a series and artwork drawn by a private artist? For clarity’s sake I am referring to the type of artwork that would be on official websites, in press releases, and even in shows/games/etc. themselves.

        Additionally, if I were to put a mark or credit to the copyright holder when I post images in the videos, would that help alleviate things, or does it not matter?

      2. Yes. Artwork drawn by a private artist, even when the art depicts a property, belongs to that artist. Companies expect their press release artwork and other assets to be used for critiques and other works protected under the fair use clauses. Press kits are helpful for this too, but if you are reviewing a game, a few images or a short video clip are generally within fair use guidelines as long as the majority of the content is your own writing.

        Attribution is helpful, but it doesn’t protect against a suit. Only written permission by the content owner and following fair use criteria protects against such.

  3. Hi Chris,

    We are planning to start an Anime website and we would like to include screenshot of each anime for our blog. Will posting the screenshots in our website considered as Fair Use?
    The website we are planning is somewhat similar to the concept of MyAnimeList but in smaller scale.

    Thank you in advance!

    1. While I can’t offer legal advice (gotta toss in the disclaimer), as long as the website uses the images in reviews, satire, and other protected works, you should be fine. However, if you merely post a screenshot without adding your own original content to it, then you may be violating a copyright. Look again at the list of criteria used to determine fair use. I hope this helps.

    1. Not necessarily. The use of the photo needs to fall under fair use as I described. Artwork is particularly thorny. The owner of the work can claim financial damage if you post their work without express written permission and if the work isn’t used as the subject of a review or critique. Most media companies won’t pursue a blogger for violations, but artists have done so in the past. Same with newspaper and magazines. Citation doesn’t protect you. Only written permission, fair use, and public domain works protect you.

  4. thanks for the information.I am going start a blog to write articles
    on how I feel about different anime.If I monetize my blog with adsense or any other,does that break the copyrights?In this case if I use photos of anime does that come under commercial use?

    1. JP uses AdSense to help pay for hosting. I can’t give proper legal advice. Just so you know :).

      As far as fair use is concerned, as long as the copyrighted work does not make up most of the content and the copyrighted work is used for review, satirical, and informational purposes most companies do not seem to mind. It is still good practice to provide ample citation, just to be safe. Citation is a good practice we need to see done more often on the Internet.

      Now, I suggest avoiding slander. Slander is not protected speech. Slander is knowingly and maliciously providing false information about a person or party. See Supreme Court ruling New York Times Co. v. Sullivan 1964 The Net is stuffed with slander.

      There are many monetized anime review blogs out there. They seem to have little trouble. JP hasn’t had any issues. It takes a lot of traffic for advertising to pay much of anything. I suggest you avoid link selling. They pay a lot (I sold links the first year JP was live to help me pay for hosting) but Google will now blacklist you if you are caught. It is not worth it.

      I wish you the best with your blogging! Hopefully I answered your questions. If you want proper legal advice, I suggest speaking with a copyright lawyer. It depends on how serious you want to be with your website and the type of content you are planning.

      1. so i can get an adsense even if i use anime wallpaper which is edited from screenshot like in my blog (s-gallery94.blogspot.com) by the way thanks 🙂

      2. Check out their policies.

        AdSense publishers may not display Google ads on webpages with content protected by copyright law unless they have the necessary legal rights to display that content. This includes sites that display copyrighted material, sites hosting copyrighted files, or sites that provide links driving traffic to sites that contain copyrighted material.

    1. If the image for personal, nonprofit use as part of an editorial, review, or similar article, it will likely be considered Fair Use. Attribution is a good idea for non-profit websites, and it is necessary for profit driven websites.

      If you editing the image to work for a blog post and attribute it you should be fine. Editing images is generally okay; I crop and edit images for JP as a matter of course. As long as you don’t claim the images as your own work, you should be okay.

      Attributing images and editing them can help your website in a couple regards:

      1) Google tends to index unique images, so your edited, customized image may help views.

      2) Attribution gives your website a more professional appearance.

      JP gets away with only a few attributions because I post this at the bottom of the website: “© JapanPowered and respective holders” It is a general blanket attribution, but it isn’t as strong as attributing each image.

      A caveat: some image owners will not appreciate edits that defame their intellectual property. For example, editing an image of,say, Holo from Spice and Wolf into a graphic tentacle porn image may draw the negative attention of Yen Press. Fan Art is in a slightly greyer area.

  5. Very informative post =) Actually, not too long ago there was a 3-part article series on ANN all about copyright laws in terms of the anime fandom. It was extremely detailed, but your post here does a good job of summarizing ^^,,,

    On my blog I do try to credit the fan art of any artist I use by linking back to their profile on pixiv or deviantart. And in the few posts where I quote word-for-word what another blogger or someone else says, I’ll credit them of course. Other than that, all the written content on my blog is mine =P (as are all the photos I post, such as for anime conventions)

    1. Thank you! Yes, the article here is only a very basic summary. There is a LOT more to copyright law than this. I spent a year in undergrad studying copyright law for my computer science degree. It made my eyes glaze over. O_o. For the most part as long as you reference other people’s work as an anime blogger, you should be fine.

      If you didn’t notice, I ironically didn’t reference the images in this article. They are all wallpapers found on various wallpaper websites. It is a good habit to link and reference any type of fan art. I have generally heard of bloggers being sued by photographers and artists for using work that wasn’t properly referenced. Even if the risk is small, it is best not to run it.

  6. Since that this is Anime we are talking about here, wouldn’t the Berne Convention indicates that the copyright laws used are Japanese copyright laws instead of the United States?

    1. According to what I read on Wikipedia, the Berne Convention gives foreign authors the same rights as domestic authors. Therefore, if the violation happens in the US, the author will have access to US copyright law protections.

    1. I’m glad you found it useful. Fair use is the backbone for our blogging hobby. Without it, we couldn’t even use a title of an anime in a post!

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