Mangaka Leiji Matsumoto Discusses the Joys and Tribulations the Internet Brings to Creators
World-renowned mangaka Leiji Matsumoto ("Galaxy Express 999," "Space Cruiser Yamato" etc) also chairs the Copyright Board of the Japan Cartoonists Association and the Association of Copyright for Computer Software (ACCS). He spoke about the effects of piracy on manga and animation, and how the proliferation of personal computers and the internet has influenced the creative process.
From Nikkei PC Online
It's been 3 years since you first chaired ACCS. How do you view the current situation surrounding copyrights?
Matsumoto: The volume of pirated goods has been increasing to unprecedented levels. I believe that the circulation of pirated goods is well over 100 times that of legitimate retail versions.
I was one of the very first adopters of online publishing in Japan. There was one incident where an overseas website was hosting "The Ring of Nibelungen," which I began publishing online in 1999, in its entirety. However, when I sent contacted them to say "using parts of the work to introduce it was fine, but please don't reproduce it in whole," I received an apology from the webmaster. Things were much more relaxed in those days.
Nowadays, the equipment needed to make copies is available to anybody for cheap, and as a result, we have cases such as one where a single individual was selling 340,000 pirated DVD's. There is no way to stop the chain of copying, where a pirated copy is made from a pirated copy of a pirated copy, and in some cases the end result is that you can't even tell what the original looked like. There are cases where alterations have been made to the original work during that pirating process, resulting in the proliferation of an altered creation.
What sort of steps do you think are necessary to counteract this?
Matsumoto: I think that right now, we are in a transition period where problems are occurring because technological advances are outpacing our means to regulate them. I think that there are going to be 2 types of approaches that are going to be needed.
The first one is the technological approach. I'd like to see mechanisms in place to prevent copying from happening, such as un-scannable printing technology or locks to prevent copying on files on the internet. I'd like manufacturers of copying equipment to aid in the protection of copyrights by implementing countermeasures in their products.
The other one is an education campaign to instill the moral that "you can't sell other peoples' work without permission" in all people. I'd like this to occur on a global basis.
I've seen pirated copies of my own work circulated throughout the world. Even if one author sues or makes an appeal, they get no response, and they're made to feel like they're fighting thin air. The reality is that unless a public organisation comes to the front, there is ultimately no way to negotiate cross-border settlements. I'd love to see the creation of an international copyrighting agency.
Good work has a purpose and objective to it, a reason "why" it was made. The creator is the one sending that message; that's why we need a system in place that rewards the creator. Because he or she is the only person in the world who can create that work.
The problem of piracy can be described as a negative aspect of the proliferation of the internet and information technology.
Matsumoto: In terms of spreading knowledge and recognition, the internet and technological advances contain both positive and negative aspects. I feel pure joy as a creator to have my work introduced to the world and have many people enjoy it. Unfortunately, it's probably true that piracy has a part to play in that as well.
When I was publishing works online, I provided an environment where readers could freely post Christmas messages, in an effort to take advantage of the interactive nature of the internet. This experiment resulted in people sending me opinions like "I felt like I was going on an intergalactic trip within the author's work." These voices from readers are a great source of joy for authors.
The increase in readership was also thanks to the internet. When the website I was publishing my work in Japanese online, I was getting 30,000 hits a day, but when I opened an English version of the site, I got 360,000 hits a day, a 10-fold increase.
What sorts of attitudes or beliefs do you hold about your work?
Matsumoto: I was always careful to make sure that my work did not tread over any cultural, religious or historical beliefs and values that different tribes or countries may have. This was because I didn't want to write anything that would offend somebody in another country. With the proliferation of the internet, this sort of thinking will only become important.
It is fine to create works that pick up on cultural differences based on your strong beliefs as a creator, but you must not pick on foreign cultures or traditions just for jokes and laughs. There is no international friction in the worlds of manga and anime. I think that manga and anime have the same sort of power as sports, to act as a common foundation to connect people.
Mangaka continue creating their work not for money, but because they love writing. When I was talking with fellow mangaka, somebody asked "don't you feel guilty getting paid to draw manga?" and everybody answered "I do." Mangaka truly love manga, so if they really want to write something then they'll do so, even for free. Because of that, up until now they have not been very interested in copyrights. However, we must prevent situations where our works are rewritten without permission by piracy, and we are mistakenly judged according to those pirated copies. I want people to understand that protecting intellectual properties is important for reasons greater than money as well.