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[QUOTE] From Rebecca Tushnet, Economies of Desire: Fair Use and Marketplace Assumptions

On a more doctrinal level, respecting creativity as a human force should lead us to think differently about fair use, among other things, by encouraging us to take account of noncommercial motivations even in contexts current doctrine sees as commercial. Joanna Russ, the feminist science fiction writer, suggested that the“what if” of slash fanfiction was “what if I were free?” What would I read, what would I write, what relationships would I have with the external world and with other people? Asking “what if I were free”is very different from the claim-staking of the rhetoric of opensource software, which focuses on the idea that open-source software is “free as in free speech, not as in free beer.” That common phrase has always struck me as hiding within it many unexamined and problematic assumptions about what free is with respect to speech and how it relates to a commercial marketplace. What free is with respect to women’s voices, of course, has been fiercely debated at least since John Stuart Mill (and his wife) wrote The Subjection of Women. Slash and other fanworks come from a background of constraint, where acting as if we were free to write our own versions is a different kind of act than using our already-extant freedom to create open-source software instead of proprietary code. Women as writers have rarely had the luxury of exclusive control to give away.

One aspect of that unfreedom has been an inability to participate in the money economy on the same terms as men. Fanworks represent an alternative outlet for creative energies.

Rebecca Tushnet, Economies of Desire: Fair Use and Marketplace Assumptions

[QUOTE] From Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy

Yet, it’s easy for us to miss the active in the mere watching. It’s rude to turn around and watch people watch a movie. It’s a crime to try to film them singing in the shower. We live in a world infused with commercial culture, yet we rarely see how it touches us, and how we process it as it touches us.

[QUOTE] From Mel Stanfill, Fandom, public, commons

Of course, fandom has never been isolated from market values, not least because it tends to respond to capitalist-produced media. But normatively, the counterpublic hailed by fan texts was a noncommercial one. This has given rise to contentions that Kindle Worlds is not really fan fiction, that E. L. James betrayed the fans of her Twilight fan fiction, and that both of these cases are not really fandom. In Karen Hellekson’s (2013) inimitable phrase, “if you define fan fiction as ‘derivative texts written for free within the context of a specific community,’ then this isn’t that. True, they are fans. And they write…fiction,” but who’s doing what alone is not enough to make it fan fiction in the absence of those norms of authorship and ownership. Indeed, “you could even say that Amazon is turning the term ‘fan fiction’ into fan fiction itself, lifting it from its original context and giving it a new purpose and a new narrative, related to the original but not beholden to it” (Berlatsky 2013). However, considering that fandom must be continually reconstituted through being addressed, and given this question of generations and fannish continuity, is there a critical mass of fan subjects who will feel hailed by industry’s invitation?

Mel Stanfill, Fandom, public, commons

[QUOTE] From Salil K. Mehra, Copyright and Comics in Japan: Does Law Explain Why All the Cartoons My Kid Watches Are Japanese Imports? p54-55

Perhaps most notably, by offering works that arguably “push the envelope” more than the works of the formal manga industry, dōjinshi may produce examples of innovation that create new opportunities for the entire industry. Indeed, mainstream manga publishing companies have in the past brought the styles and ideas of “hot” subcultures into their own product lines. New genres fostered by the dōjinshi markets– genres that are often quite risqué – have been at times been adopted by mainstream commercial manga publishers. (Examples of such genres include lolicom (sic) and yaoi.)

Salil K. Mehra, Copyright and Comics in Japan: Does Law Explain Why All the Cartoons My Kid Watches Are Japanese Imports? p54-55

[QUOTE] From Anna von Veh, Kindle Worlds: Bringing Fanfiction Into Line But Not Online?

So if being online is so important to fanfiction, why has Amazon not adopted this central mechanism which could have drawn millions of views to its own online site? One reason may simply be that they are relying on sites like Wattpad to generate the traffic to Kindle Worlds. The other may have to do with content control. The plural “Worlds” in Kindle Worlds marks a clear separation between the different fanbases; there will be no boundary crossing here. For fanfiction, boundary crossing of various types is the point. Trying to constrain the unconstrainable is an inherent paradox in a model based on content control. Of course, one way to attempt to control content/text is to contain it in a book rather than have it online where control is always subject to slippage. However, the existence of Fanfiction itself undermines this attempt. Amazon and the licensors have a difficult balancing act. Most licensors would want to retain control over the content that appears online and therefore restrict official content, whether it be original or fan-generated, to their own fan sites; it might indeed be very difficult to keep the licensed Worlds separate in one online environment. So one could argue that the “form” of the ebook in this case, where online would normally be the “native” medium, answers primarily the needs of the licensors rather than those of the fans and readers. This is not to say that Kindle Worlds shouldn’t have ebooks; even in the fanfiction communities, people create ebooks of fanfics for free download. It is the fact that Kindle Worlds appears to be only about ebooks that is the issue in the context of fanfiction. Anna von Veh, Kindle Worlds: Bringing Fanfiction Into Line But Not Online?

[QUOTE] From Thomas Lamarre, Introduction to Mechademia 6: User Enhanced

in the wake of government policies in Japan promoting Akihabara as a tourist destination and championing otaku culture as a new national paradigm for economic prosperity, some otaku were quick to point out that the prosperity of otaku culture was built by otaku, not by government policy makers or corporations. It was otaku prosperity, and otaku wanted not only credit for it but also their share of it. Such a response returns to and deflates the mass deception theory. It demonstrates not only the increased significance of user activity but also an increasing awareness on the part of consumers about their role in the generation of value in the context of commodity-worlds. As such, even as user enhancement results in value-added commodities, the value of those com modities, taking the form of commodity-worlds prolonged both by producers and consumers, is not solely the property of corporations. And the questions of “To whom does a commodity-world belong?” and “Who belongs to it?” are becoming a site for the construction and contestation of social paradigms. Thomas Lamarre, Introduction to Mechademia 6: User Enhanced

[QUOTE] From Fan-Yi Lam, Comic Market: How the World’s Biggest Amateur Comic Fair Shaped Japanese Dōjinshi Culture, p244-245

Though its most important function is still to provide a physical place, Comic Market has also become a symbol of the otaku and dōjinshi communities. It is not only by a wide margin the biggest dōjinshi event in Japan (and therefore related to many subcultural and independent media in Japan), it is also the oldest such event, and the one most famous in the mass media. As the center of attention, with its size and its links to the industry, it is undeniable that Comike possesses the power and the means to influence social, market, and even political developments. In recent years it has not been reluctant to use this power. Whether through conferences on copyright issues or on the establishment of a “National dōjinshi fair liaison group” (Zenkoku dōjinshi sokubaikai renrakukai) in 2000, it has taken on the responsibility of representing and of regulating Japanese dōjinshi culture.

Fan-Yi Lam, Comic Market: How the World’s Biggest Amateur Comic Fair Shaped Japanese Dōjinshi Culture, p244-245

[QUOTE] From Suzanne Scott, Repackaging fan culture: The regifting economy of ancillary content models

My concern, as fans and acafans continue to vigorously debate the importance or continued viability of fandom’s gift economy and focus on flagrant instances of the industry’s attempt to co-opt fandom, is that the subtler attempts to replicate fannish gift economies aren’t being met with an equivalent volume of discussion or scrutiny.

There are a number of important reasons why fandom (and those who study it) continue to construct gift and commercial models as discrete economic spheres. This strategic definition of fandom as a gift economy serves as a defensive front to impede encroaching industrial factions.


Media producers, primarily through the lure of “gifted” ancillary content aimed at fans through official Web sites, are rapidly perfecting a mixed economy that obscures its commercial imperatives through a calculated adoption of fandom’s gift economy, its sense of community, and the promise of participation.

Suzanne Scott, Repackaging fan culture: The regifting economy of ancillary content models

[LINK] New fan-themed issue of the journal Participations

The tenth issue of Participations, an online open access journal for audience studies, has a section full of new articles about fan culture. The section was put together by the Fan Studies Network, a network for fan studies researchers.

I haven’t had time to read any of the articles yet, but it sounds like there’s some very interesting stuff in here about many fandoms and fan practices – from Doctor Who, Glee, and Star Wars to Tumblr, kink memes, fandom and politics, and dojinshi. Here’s a list of all the fan-themed articles in the issue (all links go to PDFs):

Bennett, Lucy & Tom Phillips: ‘An introduction: The Fan Studies Network – new connections, new research’

Booth, Paul & Peter Kelly: ‘The changing faces of Doctor Who fandom: New fans, new technologies, old practices?’

Busse, Kristina: ‘Geek hierarchies, boundary policing, and the gendering of the good fan’

Chin, Bertha & Lori Hitchcock Morimoto: ‘Towards a theory of transcultural fandom’

Ellison, Hannah: ‘Submissives, Nekos and Futanaris: a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the Glee Kink Meme’

Hills, Matt: ‘Fiske’s ‘textual productivity’ and digital fandom: Web 2.0 democratization versus fan distinction?’

Lamerichs, Nicolle: ‘The cultural dynamic of doujinshi and cosplay: Local anime fandom in Japan, USA and Europe’

Pett, Emma: ‘”Hey! Hey! I’ve seen this one, I’ve seen this one. It’s a classic!”: Nostalgia, repeat viewing and cult performance in Back to the Future

Proctor, William: ‘”Holy crap, more Star Wars! More Star Wars? What if they’re crap?”: Disney, Lucasfilm and Star Wars online fandom in the 21st century’

Sandvoss, Cornel: ‘Toward an understanding of political enthusiasm as media fandom: Blogging, fan productivity and affect in American politics’

Whiteman, Natasha, Joanne Metivier: ‘From post-object to “Zombie” fandoms: The “deaths” of online fan communities and what they say about us’

Bury, Rhiannon, Ruth Deller, Adam Greenwood & Bethan Jones: ‘From Usenet to Tumblr: The changing role of social media’

McCulloch, Richard, Virginia Crisp, Jon Hickman & Stephanie Jones: ‘Of proprietors and poachers: Fandom as negotiated brand ownership’

Freund, Kathrina & Dianna Fielding: ‘Research ethics in fan studies’

Jones, Bethan & Lucy Bennett: ‘Blurring boundaries, crossing divides: An interview with Will Brooker’

Delmar, Javier Lozano & Victor Hernández-Santaolalla & Marina Ramos: ‘Fandom generated content: An approach to the concept of ‘fanadvertising”

Sturm, Damion & Andrew McKinney: ‘Affective hyper-consumption and immaterial labors of love: Theorizing sport fandom in the age of new media’


[QUOTE] From Abigail De Kosnik, Should Fan Fiction Be Free?, p120-123

Over the past decades of sharing their transformative works, fan fiction readers and writers have generally felt wary of commodifying a form of cultural production that is essentially derivative and perhaps subject to copyright infringement lawsuits.


Digital appropriation artists have developed a number of monetization models: royalties, distribution agreements, reasonably priced licenses that permit remix practitioners to sell their appropriations legally, and small-scale compensation intended only to reimburse remixers for their outlay. Although fan filmmakers and game modders have experimented with these models, fan fiction writers have not conducted similar experiments in marketing their works.


Fanfic authors who think that selling appropriative art is always and absolutely against the law are mistaken. No such case law exists, and many appropriating artists make money from their work today without constantly encountering legal trouble.

Why, then, do fic writers resist earning income from their output? Many scholars of fan studies claim that fan fiction is, and must remain, free—that is, “free of charge,” but also “free of the social controls that monetization would likely impose on it” —because it is inherently a gift culture, as Hellekson describes in this issue. In fact, even the fan organization, the Organization of Transformative Works, one of whose goals is to redefine fan works as transformative and therefore legal, states: “The mission of the OTW is first and foremost to protect the fan creators who work purely for love and share their works for free within the fannish gift economy.”

(…) writing fan fiction for personal gain —financial, psychological, or emotional— aligns with the fact that self-enrichment is already inherently an important motivation for women to produce and consume fanfic. For some women, belonging to an affinity group or discussing stories with fellow writers and readers is not the primary reason for engaging with this type of fiction. The rewards of participating in a commercial market for this genre might be just as attractive as the rewards of participating in a community’s gift culture; and the existence of commercial markets for goods does not typically eliminate parallel gift economies.


If fans successfully professionalize and monetize fan fiction, the amateur culture of fic writing will not disappear. Although fans have legitimate anxieties about fan fiction being corrupted or deformed by its entry into the commercial sphere, I argue that there is far greater danger of this happening if fan fiction is not commodified by its own producers, but by parties foreign to fandom who do not understand why or for whom the genre works, and who will promote it for purposes it is unsuited for, ignoring the aspects that make it attractive and dear to its readers.

Abigail De Kosnik, Should Fan Fiction Be Free?, p120-123

[QUOTE] From Fan-Yi Lam, Comic Market: How the World’s Biggest Amateur Comic Fair Shaped Japanese Dōjinshi Culture, p240-241

Since the 1980s, it has become common for talented dōjinshi creators to be recruited by professional companies and become popular on the mass market. Many famous artists have had a past in the dōjinshi scene or are still involved. Artists—including Ozaki Minami (1989–91, Zetsuai) or CLAMP (2003–9, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle; 1992–present, X: 1999)—became famous in the dōjinshi world before conquering the professional market, and artists such as Koge-Donbo (1999–2003, Pitaten) and Hiroe Rei (2002–present, Black Lagoon) are still very active, regularly selling dōjinshi at fairs. Dōjinshi like Masamune Shirow’s Black Magic (1983) or Minekura Kazuya’s Saiyuki (1997–2002) were directly converted into popular professional works.

Professional artists selling dōjin products on the side have been a common practice for a long time. In the summer of 2004, 5 percent of all circles participating in Comike were headed by a professional mangaka or illustrator, while another 10 percent had some professional experience. Similarly, it is common for erotic game producers to allow their underpaid artists to sell their drafts and sketches as dōjinshi, giving the artists a second wage and the company free promotion.

[QUOTE] From Bertha Chin, The Veronica Mars Movie: crowdfunding – or fan-funding – at its best?

This also brings to light some people’s uneasiness and concern that money raised through this (Veronica Mars) Kickstarter project is not going towards an indie project, but instead towards a studio film that Warner Bros is essentially too cheap to finance. It obviously brings up question of fan labour and the monetisation of fans, which big conglomerates (such as the Disney-backed Fanlib years ago) have been trying to tap into. And it’s precisely why this post is being written.

While I think it’s a valid point to bring up the issue of fan labour (or investment in this case?), and whether the success of this funding campaign [1] might prompt other media conglomerates to start seeking funding for other ventures this way, we must not forget at the very core of this, is the fans. EW is currently running a poll asking fans which other TV series they would fund for a film, while X-Files fans are asking if 20th Century Fox is paying attention to this campaign, and if a similar thing can be done to get a 3rd film green-lighted. Ultimately, fans choose to fund this project, and this is the voice that’s missing in some of the concerns raised; that somehow fans need to be educated that they’re financing a studio film, so they’re not actually doing anything for the so-called greater good.


Frustratingly, fan agency always gets left out in arguments which purports concern that fans are being duped by studios and networks. Perhaps, rather than assuming that fans are being duped into donating towards a studio film, thought should be given to implications the success of this campaign might bring to Hollywood’s system; or more importantly, the power fans can wield if they decide a Veronica Mars movie is deserving to be made.

[QUOTE] From Lawrence Lessig, Remix

We’ve already seen a similar frustration brew in the context of “fan fiction,” particularly around the Star Wars franchise. As with the Harry Potter story, Lucasfilm learned early on that there were millions who wanted to build upon Star Wars, and few who thought themselves restricted by the rules of copyright. Like Warner, Lucasfilm recognized that these fans could provide real value to the franchise. So under the banner of encouraging this fan culture, Lucasfilm offered free Web space to anyone wanting to set up a fan home page.

But the fine print in this offer struck many as unfair. The contract read:

“The creation of derivative works based on or derived from the Star Wars Properties, including, but not limited to, products, services, fonts, icons, link buttons, wallpaper, desktop themes, online postcards and greeting cards and unlicensed merchandise (whether sold, bartered or given away) is expressly prohibited. If despite these Terms of Service you do create any derivative works based on or derived from the Star Wars Properties, such derivative works shall be deemed and shall remain the property of Lucasfilm Ltd. in perpetuity.”

Translation: “Work hard here, Star Wars fans, to make our franchise flourish, but don’t expect that anything you make is actually yours. You, Star Wars fans, are our sharecroppers.”


But though the objective of profit is not a problem, the manner in which that profit is secured can be. The respect, or lack of respect, demonstrated by the terms under which the remix gets made says something to the remixer about how his work is valued. So again, when Lucas claims all right to profit from a remix, or when he claims a perpetual right to profit from stuff mixed with a remix, he expresses a view about his creativity versus theirs: about which is more important, about which deserves respect.


[QUOTE] From Fan-Yi Lam, Comic Market: How the World’s Biggest Amateur Comic Fair Shaped Japanese Dōjinshi Culture, p242

(besides Type-Moon) Two other dōjin games, Higurashi no naku koro ni (2002–6, When they cry) by the circle 07th Expansion and Tōhō Project (1996–present, Orient project) by the Shanghai Alice Gengakudan circle, later became commercial hits of a similar or even surpassing scale. However, this phenomenon is not some kind of “amateur revolution.” Type-Moon’s Nasu Kinoko and Takeuchi Takashi and 07th Expansion’s Ryūkishi07 had already made steps into the professional industry before becoming famous in the dōjinshi scene. Much like Shinkai Makoto—the fan-creator of the OVA Voices of a Distant Star (2002, Hoshi no koe)—these creators already had made a career in the professional industry and were adored by fans for their passion and talents, rather than for their amateur status.


[QUOTE] From Rebecca Tushnet, Economies of Desire: Fair Use and Marketplace Assumptions

Fanworks, as creative endeavors existing outside the money economy, are fundamentally based on the inexhaustibility of the imagination. Yet the creative desires fanworks express and satisfy are not alien to other, marketized creative works. Indeed, creators’ passions are strikingly similar across the boundary between “original”/authorized and unauthorized derivative works. That similarity has lessons for copyright’s incentivizing ambitions, as well as for a broader cultural policy that strives to allow people to express themselves creatively.


[QUOTE] From Kristina Busse: introduction to Fandom and Feminism: Gender and the Politics of Fan Production

Fandom is always more complicated than the stories we tell about it, and scholars need to be careful not to create an imaginary feminist idyll. Simply inverting the gaze may keep subject/object relations unquestioned—a concern that has become especially important as queer and trans studies have complicated any naive feminist binaries that may have held sway during early years of media fandom. Likewise, as (authors writing in this issue) De Kosnik and Russo illustrate, an unequivocal embrace of noncommodified fan work remains problematic within a world that requires paying the bills.


[META] AdaCamp, Wikimania, and Console-ing Passions wrapup, part one: Fanworks as open source cultural goods

This is the first in a series of posts on fandom-related thoughts springing from three conferences I’ve attended in the past month, AdaCamp, WIkimania, and Console-ing Passions. All three consolidated into one great fandom and open source idea extravaganza for me. These after-conference posts come royally late, but I think the time elapsed has helped me clarify my thoughts a bit. I’ll be talking mostly about AdaCamp, although I’ll reference Wikimania and Console-ing Passions a couple of times when relevant. A few quick basics. As Staci Tucker summarized at Fembot,

“AdaCamp is an Ada Initiative unconference focused on increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. The invitation-only event gathered professionals, fans, hobbyists, academics, and activists to build community, discuss issues impacting women across open technology, and strategize ways to inspire positive change and build community resources.”

The Fembot post neatly lays out the basics of AdaCamp, who was there, what was discussed, what was eaten, and so on, so I’ll just refer to that one for all those things and dive straight into some personal reflections on fans and fanworks in open movements. (AdaCamp has a policy of not referring to conference attendees by name without permission, so there will be a lot of “someone said”.) What I took away from all three conferences is that more and more people see strong links between fan communities and communities built around open source and other “open” things. Especially at AdaCamp and Console-ing Passions, I had the pleasure of talking about fandom and open source with many great people engaged in either or both of those communities. I agree with them that it would be very beneficial for both fandom and “open” movements to recognize that they’re both creative communities that have very similar principles, goals, and issues, and that they can help each other solve said issues instead of laboriously re-inventing the wheel. Issues include but are not limited to the lack of women in open source, and the precarious legal position of fanworks. I think it’s important that we start talking about this a bit more loudly. First of all – what is “open” stuff, anyway? There’s plenty of nebulous definitions around, and since adding to them isn’t the purpose of this post, I’ll just mention my personal definition and leave it at that. This is a tad confusing since we talk about open “things” a lot, but “openness” is basically a characteristic of a process. It’s the way things are made or accomplished that makes them open or not. The key aspect of all open processes for me is that they empower people to do things for themselves, because the inner workings of said things are visible, and because people have the tools to change said things and share the results with others. Open processes tend to crystallize into movements of people who see a similar philosophy behind all those open processes, but most people who create things using open processes are either unaware of or uninterested in the philosophical side; they just use open processes because they work. It’s certainly not unheard of to see people who identify as members of fandom or some “open” movement to frame fannish activities like fanwork creation as something that fits in with more famous “open stuff” like open source software. Skud does it here, and the Ada Initiative did so by explicitly inviting fans to AdaCamp. I’ve discussed the concept with many fans and academic colleagues, and it even pops up in a couple of academic works. Still, the idea that it may be correct and useful to frame fanworks as a sort of “open source cultural good” definitely isn’t broadly accepted yet. Lists of open stuff tend to include all sorts of creative works and activities, from software to ways in which people organize themselves to do something collectively. However, most lists of open stuff that I’ve seen – like this one – don’t include any sort of “open” cultural work. The Wikipedia article that lists “open” things that function according to a philosophy similar to the one behind open source has a subsection for “arts and recreation”, but it only has a brief mention of copyright getting in the way and no examples of “open” cultural works. That’s a pretty conspicuous blank in those long lists. It suggests that most human activity has an “open” equivalent these days, except for cultural works. That’s not very desirable: if there’s one thing that’s important enough that it should have a parallel movement of people creating the open equivalent of it, it’s cultural creation. And when you think about it, it’s also not very likely that we would somehow manage to invent an open equivalent for every possible activity except cultural creation. There’s just no way we can fail to invent an “open source” way of making cultural works. I’m firmly on board with the idea that we invented that particular process of cultural creation ages ago, and fanworks are one of its most representative results. Before we start picking apart the relationship between fannish stuff and open source in later posts, let’s go back the beginning and consider why fanworks can be considered part of the same “open” movement that also encompasses more well-known “open stuff” like open source software, open access in academia, and large-scale peer production like on Wikipedia. As mentioned earlier, open processes empower people to do things by exposing how those things work and giving individuals the tools to make changes and feed them back into their communities (whereas in the non-open alternative process, individuals are not allowed or able to make changes). Some examples of open processes are very clear-cut. Open source software is the most famous and uncontested example of open stuff for a reason: it’s pretty eye-catching and easy to understand. Nobody needs to be convinced that it’s empowering to be able to change the technology around you. It obviously works, and it obviously results in useful technological tools, and it’s all (mostly) nice and legal. But I’d argue that fanwork is a great example of open stuff, too. It’s just as empowering to be able to change the culture you live with, to be aware that changing that culture is possible, and to have the tools to do it. People in fan communities know that legitimate culture-making isn’t just about making a perfectly “original” thing and laboriously building an audience for it. It’s also about building on what others have made, about analyzing what’s going on in the media everyone’s watching and making it better, and about feeding those improvements back into the community of people who are also watching that “original” product so they can build on your improvements in turn. And just to get the porn thing out of the way at once: “making it better” includes everything from writing critical meta about social issues in a show to creating the sex and relationships-focused content that the source book or film doesn’t provide. For very many people, adding more shipping and more porn about their favorite characters is really, truly one the big thing that makes their favorite media better – more fun, more meaningful, and easier to share and enjoy with others. In the next post, I’ll consider what fan communities might have to offer to open source communities and vice versa.

[META] How much money do doujinshi creators actually make? Some statistics from Comiket

We’ve mentioned before how fanworks are often sold in large quantities in Japan and many other countries, mostly in Asia but also elsewhere. Japan’s doujinshi conventions are probably the most famous examples of “money” markets for fanworks.

How much money do doujinshi creators actually make, though? Does anyone turn a real profit from these fan activities? Let’s check out some statistics. (In other words, this is a data dump post.)

It’s hard to come by any vaguely reliable numbers about doujinshi sales, especially numbers that focus on the situation of individual creators instead of more general market size estimates. Doujinshi creators in Japan do have to pay taxes on any profits they make from doujinshi sales, because these profits count as income from “self-published works”. Otherwise, though, doujinshi exchange is pretty much a shadow economy that goes mostly unrecorded. It’s also a fairly complicated shadow economy, involving sales not just through the thousands of doujinshi conventions that take place every year, but also through mail order, online auctions, and especially doujin shops, physical stores in all major Japanese cities that sell new and second-hand doujinshi.

However, we can get at least a general idea about what a doujinshi artist may earn by checking out the statistics that Comiket has published about its participants. The twice-yearly Comiket is the largest convention for the sale of self-published works in the entire world, and it’s mostly devoted to doujinshi (details in this excellent PDF presentation). Comiket is one of the oldest and most influential of all doujinshi conventions in Japan, and a significant minority of Japanese doujinshi circles seem to sell their works exclusively at Comiket. So, while the data below are only for a single convention, they probably can give a general idea of how many fans can make what kind of money with doujinshi.[1]

The numbers below are from a 2009 survey that was held among circles who were applying to participate in Comiket. A circle is a unit of one or more fans that publish a doujinshi. In the past, making a doujinshi was too difficult and expensive to manage by oneself, but home printing technology and specialized doujinshi printing companies now enable many fans to publish doujinshi by themselves as single-person circles; at Comiket, these single-person circles now a comfortable majority. Circles with two or three members are still fairly common, but more than that is rare (says an older 2003 survey). Keep in mind that all the losses or profits reported for the surveys described below are per circle, not per individual doujinshi-creating fan, so both losses and profits will be shared by multiple people in many cases.

The survey was held among applicants for Comiket 77 and asked them about their earnings through doujinshi sales in one year, presumably 2008 (Note: the first version of this blog incorrectly said it was for one edition of Comiket only). Roughly 33000 circles responded to this survey.[2] The results were reported in December 2011, in the catalog for Comiket 81. Wherever it’s provided in the report, I’ll give separate data for circles with a female representative and with a male representative, a distinction that I expect will be of interest to a lot of people.[3] The number of circles with a female representative (about 21500) was roughly double that of the number of circles with a male representative (about 11500). There is some debate about what percentage of visitors to Comiket are male or female: there’s no registration for visitors, and surveys about the topic contradict each other, with some settling on a majority of male visitors while others report a female majority. In the case of circles, who do register and where reliable data is available, there are clearly more female than male creators participating.

Circles were asked how much money they lost or earned with their sale of doujinshi during one year. Note that the dollar amounts are based on a June 2012 exchange rate, and are only there for clarification.

Lost 50000 yen or more (lost $638-more): male 14%, female 16%
Lost between 0 and 50000 yen (lost $0-$638): male 53%, female 50%
Earned between 0 and 50000 yen (earned $0-$638): male 15%, female 17%
Earned between 50000 and 200000 yen (earned $638-$2553): male 8%, female 10%
Earned more than 200000 yen (earned $2553-more): male 10%, female 6%

The circles who lose money are clearly in the majority, with 67% (male) and 66% (female) in the red. Earnings of less than 50000 yen are probably negligible in a lot of cases: this would barely cover transportation and hotel costs for a circle that has to come from outside of Tokyo. 15% of circles with a male representative and 17% of circles with a female representative reported such limited earnings.

These results emphasize how much doujin fandom is about being fannish, not about making a profit. The vast majority of creators will never get close to earning back even their printing costs, and they know it. When asked about what they liked the most about Comiket, “I can show my work to other people” was the top answer (41,5%), followed by “there’s a festival atmosphere” (21,3%) and “I can meet friends and acquaintances that I normally can’t meet” (13,1). Only 4,2% of circles chose “I can sell a lot of doujinshi there” as Comiket’s primary attraction.

However, there clearly are highly popular circles who do make a lot of money from their fannish activities. At the far end of the scale, between 50000 and 200000 yen could be anything from “covered the price of my Tokyo hotel room” to “covered the rent of my house for a few months”. Over 200000 yen is a handsome amount of money. In total, 18% of circles with a male representative and 15% of circles with a female representative made what I’d call a significant profit of more than 50000 yen. That may not sound like a large group of people, especially compared with the overwhelming percentage who make no profit at all, but a small percentage of 33000 responding circles still represents a large number of creators. Several thousand circles apparently made more than 200000 yen during a single edition of Comiket in 2009.

Evidently, the reason why so many circles end up in the red is because they don’t sell enough doujinshi to make up for the costs involved in creating them. The percentage of circles who reported selling a certain number of doujinshi during one year was as follows:

0-49 sold: 32%
50-99 sold: 20%
100-149 sold: 13%
150-299 sold: 14%
300-499 sold: 9%
500-999 sold: 7%
1000-1499 sold: 3%
1500-2999 sold: 2%
More than 3000 sold: 1%

Responses weren’t presented separately for circles with male and female representatives. However, a previous survey from 2003 indicated that there was very little difference in numbers of doujinshi sold between those two groups of circles.[4]

A third of all circles sold less than fifty doujinshi, and half sold less than a hundred. Given that a single doujinshi tends to cost somewhere between 300 and 600 yen when bought at a convention[5], less than fifty sold won’t get you very far. These data are for the total number of doujinshi sold by every circle, so they don’t show exactly which individual doujinshi sold how much.[6] However, more survey data emphasizes again exactly how influential really succesful circles are. It seems that roughly half of all doujinshi that changed hands during Comiket 76 were made by only 13% of circles, those that sold more than 500 works.

Even if most circles sell few doujinshi and earn nothing or next to nothing, it clearly wouldn’t be correct to characterize all creators in doujin fandom as just recuperating printing costs and absolutely not interested in making money. There have been some widely publicized incidents involving extremely succesful doujinshi creators, for instance one in 2007 about a Prince of Tennis doujinshi creator who neglected to report over 65 million yen in income from doujinshi sales to taxes. There are also circles who get accused by others of being in it for the money instead of out of fannish love for the source work. I’ve also heard several suggestions that these days, there are professional mangaka who prefer to participate in doujinshi conventions because they make more with doujinshi than with their commercially published work. There have always been many professional mangaka who also make doujinshi, so this is nothing new in and of itself, but people making more with doujinshi than with their professional manga sounds like a fairly recent development to me. It’s not surprising, though, given the long decline of the commercial manga market. If a mangaka sells doujinshi, at least they can keep all the profits instead of having to share with publishers, distributors, and so on.

This was a lot of data with little analysis, and again, these are only the numbers for one single convention. There are other ways in which circles sell doujinshi and potentially make money, so this picture is very incomplete. But in any case, it should be obvious that the “non-commercial” nature of the doujinshi market isn’t as clear-cut as all that. (Neither is the “non-commercial” nature of fanworks exchange in English-speaking fan communities, of course.)

Writing this, I wonder what I even mean by “non-commercial”. I think fans everywhere tend to characterize their markets as non-commercial not so much because money is absent, but because the intent to make money is absent. In and of itself, this is a meaningful and valid definition of “non-commercial”. However, it’s not a definition that everybody understands or agrees with.

[1] Off topic, but I’ve always found this interesting: you can also tell Comiket’s dominance from the publication dates of all doujinshi in Japan. Of a hundred Harry Potterdoujinshi I selected for a research project a few years ago, 31 were published in August or December, and virtually none in July or November. This baffled me until I realized that August and December are when Comiket is held, and July and November is when everybody’s scrambling to get their newest work finished before Comiket. Very many circles try to have their new works “premiere” at Comiket, where the pool of potentially interested fellow fans is so large.
[2] 35000 circles participate in every edition of Comiket and around 50000 apply to for one of those 35000 slots, so 33000 respondents is probably a fairly representative number. People could skip questions on the survey, so the number of respondents varied per question. I’ll skip the precise number of respondents for each question to keep the post a bit simpler.
[3] There’s not necessarily any sort of hierarchy inside circles that have more than one member; it’s just that one person needs to act as representative when the circle applies for conventions and such. According to the 2003 survey, about 70% of circles with a female representative consisted of only one person, while 47% of circles with a male representative were actually just one fan. No data seem to be available about the genders of the non-representative circle members.
[4] But just to back that up, here are the numbers from the 2003 survey, which was published in this book.
0-49 sold: male 38,3%, female 34,2%
50-99 sold: male 21%, female 20,9%
100-149 sold: male 12%, female 12,9%
150-299 sold: male 11,2%, female 14,2%
300-499 sold: male 6,4%, female 7,6%
500-999 sold: male 5,5%, female 5,9%
1000-1499 sold: male 2,2%, female 2,1%
more than 1500 sold: male 3,6%, female 2,2%
[5] Prices can be cheaper when a doujinshi is sold second-hand in a doujin shop, or sometimes more expensive in the doujin shop if the work is a classic by a famous artist. They can get a lot more expensive in online auctions, especially for buyers outside of Japan.
[6] Circles usually bring several different titles to Comiket, a mix of old and new work. The 2003 survey showed that three to five new titles per year is a common output for a doujinshi circle, although quite a few circles publish more than that, especially circles with female representatives. Sales figures from one convention are an indicator of popularity, of course, but they don’t give a good indication of the actual number of individual fans who read a particular doujinshi. Second-hand doujinshi are often resold through doujin shops, and like any other print medium, doujinshi are shared among friends, sometimes scanned and distributed over the internet without the knowledge of the circle, and so on.

[ADMIN] The joy of loopholes

Last year, Andrea Horbinski wrote a self-introduction post here that started out like this: There’s a certain propriety to the fact that I’m sitting in an apartment in Kyoto, Japan, as I write this post. Three and a half years ago, on a Fulbright Fellowship to Doshisha University in Kyoto, faced with a lot of free time and nothing in particular with which to fill it other than reading manga, biking around the city, and searching for interesting things on the internet, I fell (back) into fandom, and thence into the Organization for Transformative Works. I didn’t know it then, but that was a transformative moment for me. I suppose there’s a certain propriety to the fact that I’m sitting in a graduate student office at Doshisha University in Kyoto as I write my own self-introduction post. My road to Doshisha, and into the OTW, was completely separate from and unrelated to Andrea’s, but unfolded so similarly that I almost feel like I can point at her post and just skip my own introduction. She even likes the same titles I do. But I’ll take this opportunity to assert my individuality. I’m Nele Noppe, a Japanologist by trade, currently in the middle of a PhD fellowship at a Belgian university but spending a few years in Japan to learn about doujin culture (doujinshi and related fanworks). My research compares how English-language and Japanese-language fandoms exchange works. More precisely, I’m interested in the architectures and circumstances of those exchanges: what technology is used, what the legal limitations are, what languages are used, what the involvement of non-fans is like, and how all that influences what sort of works are made. I’m endlessly intrigued by what happens when technology, law, and large groups of very determined and enthusiastic people collide. As for the fannish side of things, I grew up on Franco-Belgian comics, but the American Elfquest was my first really active fandom. After buying a Zetsuai 1989/BRONZE mook at a con, I tumbled into yaoi and never looked back. I spent my last years of high school poring over dearly-bought Japanese-language BRONZE and Kizuna tankobon with a tattered kanji dictionary in hand, and enrolled in a Japapanese Studies program as soon as I could. More than half of my fannish life was spent memorizing everything on Aestheticism, roving around the old Anime Web Turnpike, and chatting on Yahoo! mailing lists. LiveJournal,, and other big fannish hubs only came onto my radar after I wandered into Harry Potter fandom sometime around 2006. Right now, I write, read and draw mostly about Avatar: the Last Airbender, and lurk in a variety of manga fandoms. Avatar is a good fandom to be in right now, and not just because the new series The Legend of Korra rocks and I found a bunch of people who share my tiny OTP. As mentioned above, the clash of technology, fans, and law fascinates me no end, and parts of Avatar fandom have been getting into some pretty interesting clashes lately. Take the neverending string of online leaks from the new series, from clips to whole episodes. At first it seems to have been an insider who was smuggling out clips, but once they stopped, others took over and started tricking Nickelodeon’s website into giving up upcoming episodes early. Unless I’m mistaken, last week’s episode 5 was the first one that managed to air without being preceded by any leaks whatsoever. And of course everything that was leaked or uploaded to the official site was immediately re-uploaded elsewhere so fans outside the US could access it as well. Leaving aside the dubious legality of everything that’s been going on around Korra, what strikes me the most about this ongoing situation is how utterly unprepared Nickelodeon turned out to be to keep the leaks from happening, and people from sharing them around. (Viewer numbers for Korra were fantastic, leaks or no leaks.) Amazon met with a similar fate. The first part of the Avatar tie-in comic The Promise was supposed to be published only this January, but it was circulating online by November last year. Amazon made the issue available for pre-order and enabled the “look inside” feature, which shows every visitor a couple of pages from any book. A bunch of Avatar fans descended on the site, saved the handful of pages each of them could see, and started putting their puzzle pieces together. Nearly the whole comic had been reconstructed on Tumblr before Amazon realized what was going on and put some brakes on “look inside”. (Sales for The Promise were fantastic as well.) This is the sort of creative loophole-exploiting that, to me, is typical of the interesting times we live in. Individuals have technologies at their fingertips that even large companies couldn’t dream of just a few decades ago – and apparently can’t really grasp the significance of even now. The laws that govern the use of those technologies are completely out of sync with what people can actually do, or think they should be allowed to do. And there are a lot of people working together all around the world in order to communicate better and route around whatever hurdles are in their fannish paths. I expect that I’ll spend most of my Symposium posts talking about those things, and often from a transcultural perspective, given my focus on doujin. I’m thrilled to be here and get a chance to learn from you all.