Title: Why companies can profit from fanworks in Japan's hybrid economy for dōjinshi
Authors: Noppe, Nele
Issue Date: 5-Jul-2013
Conference: Making And Sharing (MASH) edition:1 location:University of Maastricht date:4-5 July 2013
Abstract: The market for dōjinshi (Japanese fan comics) is one of the most well-known examples of an established system in which fan creators routinely monetize their fanworks. Distribution of print dōjinshi takes place on a massive scale in Japan, with millions of works being exchanged every year in a gray market that some estimate to be worth several hundred million euros.

While the focus of dōjinshi fandom is clearly fannish, the dōjinshi market is a very hybrid economy in which the rules of a fannish gift economy are combined with the characteristics of a market economy. Direct support from various kinds of for-profit companies is indispensable for making dōjinshi exchange work. The copyright holders whose source works are used by fans reap mostly indirect benefits, but there are also many other kinds of commercial entities involved who profit very directly from fanworks. Companies are responsible for providing dōjinshi creators with art materials, printing dōjinshi, organizing dōjinshi sales conventions, distributing dōjinshi beyond conventions through a network of dōjinshi resale shops, transporting dōjinshi to and from distribution sites, and printing anthologies of the most successful fanworks that end up being sold in regular bookstores. The companies that provide all these services advertise directly and openly to fans to earn their business, and appear to be reaping significant profits from their involvement in fanwork exchange.

The seemingly smooth interactions between dōjinshi creators and the companies who profit from their dōjinshi seems remarkable when contrasted with negative attitudes towards monetization of fanworks in many comparable English-speaking fan communities. In this presentation, I analyze what all the aforementioned companies contribute to the dōjinshi market, how they are compensated for their involvement, and why fans have no objections to the fact that these companies profit heavily from fanworks while (most) fan creators themselves actually lose money while taking part in dōjinshi exchange. I will provide a brief overview of how dōjinshi exchange works, who is involved, and how they are compensated financially or otherwise. Then I will move on to a more detailed analysis of the role of printing companies, second-hand shops, and other commercial entities that are indispensable to the functioning of dojinshi exchange, and attempt to frame dōjinshi's balancing act between fannish and commercial interests in a way that also clarifies how (un)likely this kind of system is to ever work for English-language fan communities.

This presentation is a follow-up to a talk I gave in July 2012 at the conference Console-Ing Passions in Boston, titled "Who gets paid when fanwork makes money? The example of the dōjinshi market". That presentation was a more general introduction to the flows of money in dōjinshi exchange, and it can be found at
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Japanese Studies, Leuven

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