American 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 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):
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is for commercial or for nonprofit educational purposes.
- The nature of the copyrighted work.
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
- 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.
It 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.
Anyone 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.
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/