Copyright rules and legality of fansubs
Since I have seen some (slight :) ) demand for a new thread on this old subject, I thought that writing up a new and improved version of my old thread could be in order. Before proceeding, please know that a lot of what is said here is also present in the old thead and the "licensed" linked from the main page of AnimeSuki.
What is this copyright thing anyway?
It should be pretty obvious, really. To own the copyright of a certain piece of art (writing, music, film etc.) means that you get to control who can make copies of and distribute the said piece of art.
What are the rules concerning copyright?
The rules vary from nation to nation, as each country has their own set of intellectual property laws (of which copyright is one). Most developed countries have laws conforming to the WTO Trips agreement. That agreement is in effect an extension of the Berne Convention that deals with what the signing parties (countries that is) are supposed to put into law concerning intellectual property.
Who owns the copyright of anime?
The original producer owns the copyright of any material. This will usually mean that the company that commissioned the anime owns the worldwide copyright...as far as copyright agreements go, at least. The copyright may then be sold (or more often licensed) to other companies in different parts of the world. This means that whatever anime you are watching, someone owns the copyright of it.
What does this mean for fansubs (and AnimeSuki)?
As per the Berne Convention, any substantial distribution of copyrighted material produced within the union (the signing countries, that is) is illegal. This is a cold hard fact. Exactly how the signing parties have implemented this in their laws vary according to, among other things, their concept of fair use. The convention states that the copyright holder should have the right to prosecute to recover damages done by the person or organisation performing the copyright infringement. It does not mandate that the state should prosecute such crimes, but neither does it prohibit it. As always, your mileage may vary.
In any case, people participating in filesharing could potentially be a target of prosecution in many countries. In some countries, even linking to copyrighted materials is illegal, and in such jurisdictions a site like AnimeSuki would be illegal.
I live in country X, have my country signed these silly agreements?
If your country happens to be USA, Japan, Australia or anything in Europe, then most certainly it has. The full list can be found here.
My country has not signed Trips or the Berne Convention...Or the material I distribute is not produced in the union. Yay!
Hold your horses matey! You still have to check with your national board of commerce if you happen to have a separate agreement with the state where the material is being produced. Furthermore, the Berne Convention has several clauses protecting material produced outside the union, but distributed inside the union within a certain time limit. Even more sneaky; if the producer has an office or is a national of a signing country, then the rules will still apply. So be really, really sure before you start claiming legality of your filesharing.
Wow! I really feel like debating all this!
Sure, go right ahead, but please refrain from doing so until you have read up on the agreements that I have provided links to.
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