In 2002, American website Anime Tourist conducted a convention interview with two of the founding members of the respected Japanese anime production company Gainax, Hiroyuki Yamaga and Takami Akai. The two discuss their current and upcoming projects at Gainax, provided some details on their past at the company, as well as explaining some of the themes and such of their more famous works. Finally they speak on American localization of their works and American fandom.
An audience member asks the creators for their opinion on the music videos made from their work by American fans. Akai seems not to have been aware of them (the translation perhaps makes it a bit confusing), but Yamaga appreciates the fan-made works. He discusses the often-pointed-to model of manga and anime creators getting their start in the industry by writing and drawing dojinshi, or unlicensed fan comics based on copyrighted properties: "as Gainax, they got their start doing similar stuff so it's very hard for them to say, ‘No, We won't allow that.'" As a company, they have to plead ignorance that such fan material exists or else even Japanese copyright law would dictate that they shut infringers down. He points to the line between fan/hobbyist and professional as the deciding factor in whether or not infringing work is worth going after legally; in the Japanese manga business, the line is extremely blurred as young artists very often earn their stripes and build their skill on dojinshi before tackling original projects of their own. Japanese creators such as these may not be aware of the American arm of fan's use of their characters and work, but they are used to letting such forms of use slide within their Japanese fan culture.
Mehra explores the disconnect between Japanese (and American) written law and the tolerated success of dojinshi, a growing industry that could even be seen as direct competition for its copyright-holding cousin manga. Part of this issue is explained by the differences in which America and Japanese copyright law (especially that concerning character copyrights), though very similar on paper, are interpreted by courts and the common man. The few key differences include affording authors moral rights (Mehra points to the Konami case mentioned above as an example, given their ability to control how their characters are portrayed) and lacking a "generalized fair use provision." Mehra discusses the various reasons manga artists and copyright holders generally do not prosecute dojinshi artists; such reasons could include the social norms among artists where the good of the industry (in recruiting new talent, filling a niche unfillable by traditional manga, or catering to all its audience's favor) as a whole is placed before individual needs and the lower profitability of Japanese litigation (not to mention the average dojinshi author's common lack of real funds). Taking the dojinshi model, Mehra claims that "in some contexts, a certain level of fair use may help generate an economically efficient level of collective action;" in other words, allowing some level of infringement can foster a stronger and more creative artistic industry.
The reaction of the Japanese manga artist is examined here in relation to artifacts of fan culture. As manga and anime have penetrated foreign markets, it has brought some of that mindset with it, particularly to America. To begin with it sprang from fans' proactivity creating the American market itself, but the Japanese fan mindset has only been strengthened by the original authors' willful ignorance, and in some cases support, of classically infringing fan works. Despite the differences in American and Japanese case law concerning character copyrights, Japanese characters remain for the most part fair game for dojinshi, music videos, and the like on either side of the Pacific.