If you’ve been keeping up with the cosplay world lately, you might have heard that the government in Japan has plans to clarify things when it comes to cosplay copyright laws.

In this post, I will discuss the situation regarding the cosplay copyright laws. We’ll talk about why they could potentially be changing and what you can do about it!

Will cosplay be illegal?

While cosplay is always in a grey legal area, I wouldn’t worry too much about these proposed changes to cosplay copyright laws. If you’re cosplaying for fun, you probably don’t have much to worry about. Even the Japanese government said that they don’t want to change too drastically, as it could “drive people away from cosplay.

I feel like they’ll change the laws so companies will get to share the profits. So when a big name cosplayer is raking in tons of money by dressing up as their character, they get a piece of the pie.

Not quite.

But while we can always dress up as characters, we may be restricted in who we can cosplay as. It’s similar to live-streaming video games; some companies may not take it too well if you’re streaming their games. It’s one of those grey area topics.

But why all the changes?

I can understand why some companies want more control of their characters.

For example, maybe they don’t want their family-friendly character being sexualized by other cosplayers.

Another issue is that companies simply want a bigger slice of the money pie. Some cosplayers make a huge killing from professional cosplay, and maybe these companies who are making these characters want a cut of that. That’s definitely fair, and perhaps the main reason why the government in Japan wants to change copyright laws.

With all this said, I don’t think all companies will go crazy with copyright laws. But on the other hand, cosplay is free PR for the company.

In any case, while it’s not 100% clear what laws could or would change, many of us are worried the negative impacts that these new laws could have. Some include:

  • Not being able to cosplay a certain character at all, if being used for profit (e.g. live events, Patreon, Onlyfans)
  • Having to pay to cosplay certain characters, regardless if you’re a professional cosplayer or not
  • Not being allowed to post cosplay photos of certain characters on social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram)

My predictions

Original cosplay 1 (cosplay copyright)
We could see a surge of original cosplays (OC) in the future! Image by Công Đức Nguyễn from Pixabay.

While a lot of this does seem pretty crazy, cosplaying will NOT be entirely illegal. Definitely not. I feel like it’s a little of column A and a little of column B.

Again, cosplayers give free publicity for the characters they dress up as. Why would you want to take that away? Even if the Japanese government decides to go draconian on cosplay laws, not all companies will follow suit.

Because even now, some companies encourage cosplay and even hold cosplay contests for their creations. So not all all of them will be strict about cosplayers dressing up as their characters.

Here’s what to do if worst case scenario happens

Let’s say the cosplay laws do change for the worst (i.e. they won’t) and we are severely restricted in the characters we can cosplay. Not a problem! Here’s what you can do:

1. First things first, people will still follow you.

Just because you may not be able to cosplay your favourite character at a convention anymore, doesn’t mean your follower count will suddenly drop. Not at all!

Not all your followers on social media are not following you because you cosplayed a certain character. They follow you cause they like you for you! So if you can no longer cosplay a certain character, relax. Your followers will still be around. Remember that people follow you not because you did a certain cosplay but they want to follow you personally.

2. We may not be able to cosplay specific characters, but it doesn’t mean we can’t cosplay at all.

While we may not be allowed to cosplay certain characters, they can’t take away cosplaying outright. If anything, we could see a surge of OC (original character) cosplays! When one door closes, another one opens. So instead of seeing a bunch of popular cosplays,we’ll see a wider variety of beautiful, creative and original costumes!

3. You’ll still be able to cosplay MANY other characters.

Original cosplay 2 (cosplay copyright)
Not all companies will prohibit you from cosplaying their material. In fact, some of them WANT you to! Like wouldn’t this cosplay photo be great for a game or movie? Image by Victoria_Borodinova from Pixabay.

As mentioned before, not all companies will have the same attitude towards cosplaying their characters. Just like how some music labels and video game developers are lenient about streaming their content, cosplay will likely be the same way. Some companies will actively encourage cosplaying of their characters. So if a company doesn’t want us to cosplay their creations, not a problem. We’ll just cosplay someone else…maybe even their competition. 🙂

Let’s say

  • Brand A decides you can’t cosplay their characters under any circumstances, and all cosplay photos will be taken down with a copyright notice.
  • Brand B allows you to cosplay the character whenever you like but in certain circumstances where you earn a large profit, that profit would have to be shared with the company. And cosplaying their characters not allowed in certain situations (e.g. official events, lewd versions).
  • Brand C not only allows you to cosplay their characters for free, they encourage and hold cosplay contests for them.

In the end, I feel B and C are going to win the most. They’ll get the publicity and Company B’s case, they will still retain control of their characters. Company A would lose out on free publicity and maybe garner negative publicity for their tight control over their characters.

4. “Build your own sandbox

Original cosplay 3 (cosplay copyright)
No matter what happens, people follow you for YOU, not the characters you decide to cosplay. Image by Victoria_Borodinova from Pixabay.

Professional cosplayer GinnyDi said something that really resonated with me (and I’m sure her followers). Something along the lines of, “Don’t build your castle in someone else’s sandbox.” In this context, she was referring to not relying on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram to grow your following or brand. Because we all know, algorithms and usage policies change all the time. And it only takes one suspension or ban to ruin all that hard work you did on their platforms.

While GinnyDi was referring to social media, I feel this also applies when it comes to cosplay copyright laws as well. You should build your brand or followers on a platform you can control. For example, this blog is my very own website and I also have an email list. Even if I got banned on IG or Facebook, I still have this website and you guys are subscribed to me, and that can never be taken away from me.

This is especially important now that cosplay laws may about to change. All it takes is posting copyrighted material for you to get banned on one of the big social media platforms. To ease your mind and not worry, find a place to grow your followers. So no matter what happens with this cosplay copyright law change, make sure your followers are still with you, even if that happens.

TLDR: In the future, will it eventually be cosplay illegal? No. The rules for cosplaying may change, but we’ll still have plenty of other options for cosplay choices. Our favorite hobby is not going away. 🙂

What do you guys think about all this? Let me know in the comments below!


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