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Cosplay To Be Made Illegal?

Cosplay To Be Made Illegal?


Cosplaying is a hobby loved by hundreds of thousands of people world-wide. At its core it is an admiration of characters from anime, manga, tv, film and video games. This love of cosplay has made the cosplay community a fairly large one. The fact that this wonderful vibrant community is under threat is quite disheartening.


The Bad News

The threat in this situation is the law. For years there have been talks on whether or not cosplay is a form of copyright infringement and recently a law just passed that could mean it is. In essence it is, replicas of costumes, props, prints of characters and commissions are copyright infringements. The characters being cosplayed and all of their regalia belong to the creators and as cosplayers we duplicate the costume or the prop. This isn’t just about cosplay though but all sorts of fan art, fan fiction, doujins etc. The law states “Any reproduction, remastering, modification, alteration, reselling, and/or manipulation of an original copyrighted item will not be infringed on, or will be punishable by jail time, and/or a fine of up to a $100,000, and/or be sued by the copyright holder”.

The law in question is part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is an agreement among 12 countries around the Pacific Rim; Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States of America and Vietnam.

Creating something with your own skills, money, effort and time should really be counted as your work and in terms of cosplay, credit is typically given by naming the character being cosplayed. But the idea that this just won’t cut it anymore is upsetting.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. A few years ago there was a bit of controversy amongst the geek community when etsy stores selling Jayne Cobb hats were being shut down. It’s not the first time stores have been shut down on etsy for something similar.Another well-known case of this happened when Volpin Props was slapped with a Cease and Desist after cosplaying in material that replicated the well known carpet from the annual Dragon Con venue. Although the problem didn’t arise due to the cosplayers themselves but when Volpin Props decided to market their pattern on Spoonflower. To me it was perfectly justifiable for them to be given a Cease and Desist after all, the design was not their own.

This law will potentially affect cosplayers everywhere. As early as 2013, leaked drafts of the Trans Pacific Partnership made their way online. These drafts highlighted what could be in store for the cosplaying community and the geek community as a whole regarding copyright and intellectual property. The TTP applies criminal charges to copyright infringement. So anything sold through etsy, redbubble or other online platforms would fall under copyright infringement on a “commercial-scale”.

This could very well turn into a case of splitting hairs. For some people in an attempt to find loop holes and it might not be enforced to such a large extent but what this law could effectively mean is that only those who are licensed to cosplay may do so. If this becomes the case then cosplayers who do not do this professionally may be denied access, by law, to a hobby that they love. That would just be unnecessary and cruel.

As a whole this could affect trading at conventions as only licensed traders would be able to do so. This could bring up the prices of items being sold because of reduced competition. Reviewing a product without express permission could land you in hot water. Even streaming play-throughs of games could get you in trouble with this new law. A more thorough breakdown of exactly what this will mean to the geek community as a whole can be found here.

The Good News

First of all enforcing this on a global scale would be so difficult. Think of the amount of people who cosplay. Can you imagine every single coplayer you know getting fined, or sued? It’s a bit of a read if you ask me.

Secondly, a lot of companies encourage their fans to cosplay. Remember the Marvel Cosplay Variant covers from last year? They were absolutely astonishing and provided tonnes of free advertisement for the company. But on the other hand this may affect professional cosplayers who sell prints of these copyrighted characters when they do not have express permission to do so. So selling prints of cosplays may still land you in some trouble.

Enforcing on such a large-scale may be difficult but they can target and pin point so cosplay with caution if needs be.

From my understanding as long as you don’t try benefit from the characters you are cosplaying, you should be on the good side of the line but it is indeed a fine one.

On the plus side this law could help protect those who need it. Artists who lose out because of these derivations could finally have the backup that they need in terms of copyright infringement laws.

The TPP has not been signed as of yet and is not currently effective so we can all breathe a tiny sigh of relief. This partnership is indeed a double-edged sword. On one hand thousands could be fined for participating in a hobby that fills them with joy and on the other hand it protects those who make a living out of the work that they produce.

How do you feel about this? Do you think it’s going to far in terms of copyright or not far enough? Let us know below.


  1. Great article Tendai!

    I’ll be so mad if this does come through though… do the big corporations not make enough money without trying to sue the little guy?

    It’s the RIAA suing Grannies and five year olds for downloading MP3s all over again…

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