Fans, YA Librarians: 1

I’m going to talk a little bit about anime fandom and briefly mention anime and manga in libraries. Next time I’ll look at the quiet demise of the University of Texas’s UTopia Project. Anime fans are an interesting bunch, and I’ll try to write more about fandom in the blog.

Holly and I were at HEB, a local grocery store chain. The largest version of the store carries books and DVDs, including an anime section. Holly stopped me when she noticed this last week, stopped me, and asked, “Could you have imagined that ten years ago we’d be seeing anime at HEB?”

I understood why she paused. A decade ago anime and manga were gaining in popularity, but nowhere near as ubiquitious as they are now. Back in ’94- and don’t I feel old now- some friends of mine and I started the anime club at Syracuse University. Anime was already making appearances in the U.S. and already had it’s first mainstream anime magazine (Animerica, in ’92) and was the topic of a few conventions, although a given college student might not know what the word meant. At the time, with a few American-released exceptions shows were still mainly obtained by sending tapes to fansubbers, who copied shows for people from their master copy (which still may have been a fuzzy 5th generation copy) and mailed them back for the cost of shipping. Fansubbing, in which fans subtitle the show, was a step up from the earlier method of sending tapes and obtaining scripts to read along with as the show played. There were ethical rules involved that still persist in modern fansubbing. They’re a topic for a later post, but at their heart was not to do harm to your community and industry. There were copyright discussions as the practice grew, but for the most part this became an established norm, and I believe helped to popularize the medium and several individual shows.

Anime and manga took off. The Internet was a huge part of this process, as it allowed communities of fans to find one another and made finding fansubbers and distributers much easier. The Anime Web Turnpike and the Big Anime and Manga Resource List provided links to fan pages with information about the show, however tangentially. At the time, you could write to the presidents of anime companies and expect a serious and prompt response. They were fans, too.

Things have changed, naturally, for the better and worse. Fandom has changed. A convention in 2006 looks very different from a convention in 1994. The conventions are bigger, the audience tends to be younger, and far more people cosplay (“costume play,” or dress in costume as various characters, a term popularized in Japan). (For a scary example of cosplay that has at least partly made public view, if you catch the “Who wants to be a Super Hero?” commercial for the reality television series, you can catch “Man-Faye,” a male dressed as the female character Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bepop. Most cosplay isn’t quite that disturbing.)

The companies have changed as well. They’re a great deal larger and many are far more impersonal. Some of them frown on the practice of fansubbing, some of them turn a blind eye. Some company representatives have reportedly said that fansubbing was all right when they were fans early on, but now that the market is established it should be discouraged (which really rings hollow to me). Some companies reportedly watch the activies and distribution of fansubbers to determine which licenses to acquire. Conventions have to worry about fanart and copyright infringement. Anime is also much, much easier to purchase and find online. New anime acquisitions are announced at by companies at conventions regularly, and P2P has played as big a role in the fansubbing realm as it has for other cultural exchanges.

HEB made us pause, but we’ve seen other signs of how popular these things are. Libraries appear to be playing a role. Viz media had a booth at the last Texas Library Association vendor room. The Houston Chronicle recently ran an interview with a Young Adult librarian, who noted the popularity of manga with the young adult crowd, mentioning Fruits Basket as popular with girls (a truly cute show involving the interactions between a girl and people who are possessed by animal spirits of the zodiac) and Fushigi Yuugi as popular with boys (an older title full of fantasy and magic, originally published in a girls’ comic in Japan. Shh.). Manga has also been challenged in libraries, and that’s a subject I’ll talk about later.

PERFORM Act to restrict recording, broadcasting rights

PERFORM Act to restrict recording, broadcasting rights From Ars Technica, a disturbing story about the way some members of Congress think about technology and copyright law with the new PERFORM Act, and this just after the scary new intellectual property bill (via Library Juice).

Copyright Resources

Haven’t been posting much recently because I’m working on the next version of Several people on ALA’s copyright advisory network group, including me, have been creating lists of resources. I hope to be able to put up the new version of the site later this week/weekend.

For the part of this collecting process involving books, I’ve been in the library and online. I find the Amazon reviews of some of books we have listed interesting. I’m slightly surprised at the accusations of communism and marxism directed towards the authors of some copyright-related books… occasionally very heated reactions against proposed reforms to copyright and IP law. I wonder if the authors read them (looking at Lasica, Lessig, Litman, Stallman, Vaidhyanathan)?

At any rate, if anyone has any good copyright resources that must be listed, let me know.

Smithsonian Agreement Angers Filmmakers – New York Times

Smithsonian Agreement Angers Filmmakers (New York Times, free registration required)

I had been hoping this was an April Fools joke, since I first heard about it on that day, but no such luck. The news has actually been around since early March.

The Smithsonian- a public archive and museum- is making an exclusive deal with Showtime. Documentaries that feature exhibits or personnel from the Smithsonian will have to be shown on Showtime first, and not PBS or other forms of distribution. Officials say that the deal “was not meant to be exclusionary,” but that’s completely untrue. They’re using public resources to sustain themselves in an exclusionary manner. While finances are obviously an issue- and not just for the Smithsonian, but museums and archives in general- this type of abuse of public goods has some pretty terrible implications. We’ve seen this type of behavior from museums and archives before, particularly when there are monetary problems, but these types of actions tend to defeat the purpose of why we have these public services in the first place. Without public access, public institutions are not serving their purpose.

Blizzard- AGAIN?

Public Citizen | Press Room – Software Company Wrongfully Interfered with Sale of Guide to Popular Video Game on eBay

Here’s more on the Blizzard story from CNET. Blizzard’s restrictive policies and in this case, abuse of the DMCA, are far more destructive to Blizzard’s goodwill and recognition than any guide could possibly be.

CIS: Weaving threads

Siva Vaidhyanathan has published Critical Information Studies: A Bibliographic Manfesto in the journal Cultural Studies, also available on that link through his website. He’s also posted some reactions and a description of that journal issue about Critical Information Studies, which includes some really interesting people. The journal includes articles by Kembrew McLeod, who famously trademarked Freedom of Expression (TM). (I had a copy of that trademark hanging outside my office for the better part of a year.)

This looks like a really great inter-disciplinary framework. It’s also exactly the kind of thing I’m studying- I’m familar with a lot of the resources in that bibliography. This is really a great concept. I look forward to reading and hopefully, contributing to this area in the future.

I’d add Peter Hirtle to the bibliography, too. ^_^

Diddy infringing on fragrance? and other news.

Not quite. Fans of Diddy/P. Diddy/Puff Daddy will be relieved to know that the *trademark* issue was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. The US Patent & Trademark Office does not deny anything having to do with copyright, news writers. 😛

An article in the newspaper for Virginia Tech states that “[c]opyright laws [are] becoming increasingly more absurd. While I do tend to agree with this statement and am sympathetic to his views and those of many of the quoted sources, I am curious to what the author means when he states that “[w]hile I can rip, mix and burn a CD I purchased without fretting, according to American law, were I to try the same thing with a DVD, I could be thrown in prison for near a decade and/or be fined upwards of a quarter-million dollars.” Is he talking about first sale, Rio, private use, or circumvention of copyright protection technologies? Also, would be nice if he wrote about the problems authors are facing.

In sad news, the release of the PS3 is being delayed, apparently due to problems with COPYRIGHT PROTECTION TECHNOLOGIES. Come on, guys, you’re killing me. It’s bad enough that I might not be able to watch DVDs from the competing new standard, but this is ridiculous.

Across the pond, the British Library may be moderating the DRM debate at the suggestion of one of their politicians. The article notes multiple interested groups with a stake in the debate, including creators, publishers, and the public. This will be interesting to watch, and hopefully productive.

Boing Boing: House introduces mandatory radio-crippling law

From a Boing Boing story noting that the US House of Representatives has introduced a mandatory radio-crippling law.

There are serveral disturbing parts of the proposed law, dubbed the Audio Broadcast Flag Licensing Act of 2006. The relatively short full text of the bill can be found on Thomas at the Library of Congress.

One of the most problematic portions of the bill would prohibit “unauthorized copying and redistribution” of digital radio. The bill itself has language that MIGHT allow exemptions such as fair use or the myriad other exemptions, but it isn’t clear, and the bill relegates these uses to the “custormary use of broadcast content by consumers.” I find the terms customary use and consumers disingenuous. “Customary use” smacks of the problematic “historical use” that some content publishing industries are advocating as a replacement for fair use. Historic/Customary use is not sufficient to protect the public interest in copyrighted material. “Consumers” completely ignores members of the public who are not necessarily what a market would consider consumers- like, say, instructors teaching in the classroom, for one example.

SF author self-publishing online

Very interesting, and I hope the author makes money on this attempt. If this technique is successful, I wonder how much the novelty of the situation will play into the success… I’m interested in the book, but I only found out about it due to the unusual story behind its authoring and publishing. (But c’mon- wizard cats? Where can you go wrong?)

Boing Boing: US copyright head: world

Boing Boing: US copyright head: world “totally rejects” webcasting restrictions

Very interesting article about the controversial “webcasting provision” of the new proposed WIPO broadcasters’ treaty. The treaty would very much broaden strong copyright protection by adding yet another complex layer on top of copyright law- giving webcasters rights that they do not (and should not) have at this point in time. It makes fair uses more difficult for the public, by adding additional liability to people making fair uses of copyrighted work. It would give casters more authority than the copyright holders in many cases, which I would think should be objectionable by copyright holders as well as the public.