POSTED BY DANNY CHOO On Thu 2010/02/18 22:50 JST in Japanese Pop Culture

Was over at the COSPA HQ the other day to snap a section which will appear in OTACOOL 2. The section is a feature where one of the directors and I talk about the cosplay industry in Japan and around the world. You can also see more pics at the Kotobukiya Publishing Blog.

As we look at photos taken around the office, I thought I'd answer some commonly asked questions about OTACOOL. Its been interesting to see dorama going on which seems to be increasing awareness of the book ^^;

What is OTACOOL?

Otacool is a publication which features aspects of otaku culture by harnessing CGM (Consumer Generated Media).

Does OTACOOL belong to Danny Choo?

No. "Otacool" is being registered as a trademark of Kotobukiya. My role for OTACOOL 1 and 2 is to rally folks from around the world and help them profile their work in the publication. I will not be involved in OTACOOL3 but maybe involved with OTACOOL 4, 5, 6 and 7.

When is the deadline?


Who does my content belong to once I've submitted it?

The Kotobukiya legal blurb is worded in a way to prevent them from being sued. It does not mean that Kotobukiya owns your work outright. Kotobukiya may use your photos to as promotional posters or fliers to help promote the book.
You still get to use your own photos as you wish and Kotobukiya will not come after you if you use submitted photos elsewhere - they are your photos!

Why the harsh legal blurb?

I think it was a combination of Engrish and poor translation and also to protect Kotobukiya. Being sued is not fun and Kotobukiya does not fancy being sued. Kotobukiya discovered that some people submitted photos *of other cosplayers* claiming that it was them @.@ If these photos were published then Kotobukiya would have been in a spot of bother.

For this reason, Kotobukiya will send out a mail to each cosplayer who was selected to be in the book and ask them to submit a photo of themselves sitting next to a computer screen displaying the OTACOOL site.
This mail is due to go out from today spanning over the weekend. If you receive the mail, please attend to it as soon as possible or Kotobukiya will have to select others instead of you.

I'm a photographer and want to be credited for my photos

Kotobukiya apologizes for not asking for the photographers name in the original submission requirements. However, Kotobukiya has never stated that photographers would not be credited either. Its the responsibility of the cosplayer to submit the photographers name.

If you are a photographer and think that your photos are going to to be submitted without a credit, you then need to discuss that with the cosplayer as there is nothing Kotobukiya can do about this. Its like the police not getting involved with domestic quarrels - kushty?

I want my tailor, studio (where photos were taken) and parents to be credited

Yes these were actual requests ^^; Due to lack of space and time, unfortunately we cant do this and folks who really wish their parents to be credited should withdraw their application.

Who made the selection for the cover and book?

I asked for Kaname to be on the cover and Kotobukiya selected the rest. Their team also selected all the cosplayers to be in the book and they also chose the illustrator for the official mascot.
As for the cosplayers selected to be in the book, I have only seen a small selection. The Kotobukiya publishing team manage the production. I merely provide Mirai Gaia as a platform to collect CGM data.
From what I have seen however, I saw a wide selection from all over the world. The Worldwide Cosplayers post has a selection featuring male and female of all shapes n sizes. Not all are exactly Miss or Mr universe but its not about the looks/skill level but more about the passion.

Why is that silly moo on the cover and not me?

Well why should you be on the cover and not silly moo?
Looks like everybody on the cover got a bashing. There is space on the cover for just over 20 but a few hundred submitted. The cut off date for the cover was actually quite early because the cover was needed first for promotional purposes.

Kotobukiya is the publisher and they are paying for the production - I think they have a right to choose who goes on the cover. If they left it to the masses to choose, the cover would never get completed as bob's ideal is different from fred's ideal. Hell if I had the decision, Yagami Light would still be alive.
Another case of the following quote.
I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. -Bill Cosby

Why is that crap cosplayer on the cover?

We got folks arguing that cosplaying is about the skill level but we think its more about the passion.

Whats in it for me (the person submitting photos)?

Being featured in a high profile publication is like free advertising which reaches out to many people out there who you could potentially work with in the future. I'm not paid when I'm on CNN, BBC or wot not but am honored to be featured in the media - paying for advertising on these networks costs $$$$$ alone!
Its the Win Win deal. CNN get to broadcast a story and I get to be profiled. Asking for money to be profiled would be crazy.
Constant coverage in the media (which I do not ask money for) has lead to many new comrades, opportunities and clients who currently use or will use my company's services. This opportunity alone is priceless and folks should think long term rather than short term.

Nobody is being paid a single yen for the submissions. Cosplayers get to work with a top Japanese brand and profile their work to the world. Cosplayers work hard at what they do and we want to share their passion with the world.

Folks who are not cool about not being paid to be in OTACOOL should not submit their entry. Submitting photos and then complaining after only makes one look incredibly smart and clever.

There are many Japanese producers who read OTACOOL1 and who will read OTACOOL2. From previews of the submissions over at figure.fm, a few cosplayers have been selected to get *their own* cosplay book to be published in Japan and worldwide!

There are also rooms that were featured in OTACOOL1 that I want to feature on my up n coming TV show - details on this later.

Monetizing from consumer generated content is evil

There are some folks who say making money from CGM is evil and that it takes advantage of people. Nobody is forced to submit their content to be published. OTACOOL is a Win Win deal where both sides benefit. Our society is based on Win Win deals. You need milk so the farm produces it and sells it to you - anything wrong here?
Another example of monetization of user content is deviantart.com - they place ads around the site because advertisers want to reach out to users accessing that consumer generated content. deviantart.com also charges money to remove the ads.
Now here is the interesting thing - many folks who were complaining about their content being monetized actually upload their photos to Deviantart.

Other examples of services that monetize from CGM content are GMail, Flickr, Twitpic, Hotmail and so on. CGM Monetization is nothing new.

Hmmmm wonder why I used milk as an example. Must be too much staring at Karin's eyes ^^;

Will everybody who submitted photos be in the book?

I initially thought "yes" but then I heard that submissions went up to about 500 @.@
So the answer is "no" because we don't want to have to sell a magnifying glass for you to see all entries. When I last asked, 200 cosplayers will be featured in the book.

The title of the book is "worldwide cosplayers" so Kotobukiya have been choosing equal amounts from each region around the world.
There were a particularly a lot of entries from Singapore alone and we was thinking it was only fair to publish a Singapore version of OTACOOL2. However, it looks like many Singaporeans have already withdrew their entries because they didn't get on the cover and because of a misunderstanding that they could not credit their photographer - even though nobody said that photographers could not be credited!
Tis a shame because a Singapore OTACOOL Ver. would have been (Ota)cool.

I heard you had copyright issues?

You bet! Cosplay is known as the Grey Zone. Copyright owners cant and will never give full approval for fans to cosplay - the reason is because they need to protect their licensing business. While companies like Cospa sell licensed cosplay costumes, most cosplayers make their own stuff and generally don't pay the copyright owner to cosplay as one of their characters.

For example, lets take the copyright owner of an anime called "Karin's Big Eyes" and lets assume that the copyright owner is Studio Ryomo.
Studio Ryomo makes money from licensing out the use of the characters who appear in "Karin's Big Eyes." If Studio Ryomo was to say "sure go ahead and cosplay as our characters for free", Studio Ryomo would be effectively destroying their license business.
Licensing is big business and the large corporate American companies that I've spoken to about the subject take it very seriously because its a business model that generates in some cases billions of US dollars.

Kotobukiya has had to contact over 50 copyright owners about publishing all the photos in OTACOOL2 - all photos in the book are of cosplayers who are cosplaying without official permission from the copyright holder - yes that includes me.

None of the copyright owners can officially endorse cosplaying and say "sure go ahead" because it will hurt their lucrative licensing business. Some copyright owners turned a blind eye and then some of them said "no." Because of this decision by some of the copyright owners, many fantastic cosplay submissions wont appear in the book and there is nothing we can do about that.

Go along to http://www.501st.com/ - many Star Wars cosplayers from around the world join the 501st. Now scroll to the bottom of the page. You see the following:-
The 501st Legion is a worldwide Star Wars costuming organization comprised of and operated by Star Wars fans. While it is not sponsored by Lucasfilm Ltd., it is Lucasfilm's preferred Imperial costuming group. Star Wars, its characters, costumes, and all associated items are the intellectual property of Lucasfilm. ©2010 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™ All rights reserved. Used under authorization.

Licensing for Lucasfilm is huge business - they cant and never will officially sponsor the 501st. Star Wars cosplayers make Stormtrooper armor and wear it for free.
Companies like Rubies need to pay a license fee to make Stormtrooper armor - see the difference?

The argument could be that Rubies is paying a license fee to sell product and that most cosplayers are only doing it for passion and fun. The difficult bit is when cosplay photos go up on sites like Deviant and even Cure - money is being made on advertising off unlicensed material.

While Star Wars cosplayers will never be recognized as official entities, through my interaction with folks at Lucasfilm, I believe they they are generally supportive of what we do in our mission to recruit more folks for the Empire and look for droids.
Some license owners don't seem as supportive though...

One of the scary things I heard of late is the possibility that copyright owners could start to crack down on cosplaying because cosplayers are using their intellectual property without permission - photos then go up to a website like deviant which is monetizing from the character material but the original copyright owner is not getting money - the fault is then with the cosplayer.
I recently heard about some cosplayers who have had their videos removed from YouTube with the reason of "character copyright infringement."
I certainly hope that anal copyright owners don't start a movement against cosplayers. More importantly, I hope that anal cosplayers don't stimulate the copyright owners to take action.

My understanding is that cosplay should be about fun and passion but I see many cosplayers treating it as a religion or regiment and take it waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to seriously. Its this attitude that has the potential to trigger the copyright owners to step in. At the end of the day, the intellectual property is owned by the copyright owner and not the cosplayer. Depending on the laws and licensing agreements in each country, cosplaying can be seen as copyright infringement.
I was surprised to see some cosplayers in Deviantart copyrighting their cosplay photos with their own name - not the photographer. Copyrighting intellectual property owned by others is probably not a good idea at all and as previously mentioned, under some jurisdictions, criminal sanctions can apply (gulp).

Have a look at the product page for Figma Yui. Good Smile is paying to license the use of this character and you can clearly see the copyright info below the photo (© かきふらい・芳文社/桜高軽音部 )
501st states the following on their site:-
Star Wars, its characters, costumes, and all associated items are the intellectual property of Lucasfilm. ©2010 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™ All rights reserved. Used under authorization.But many cosplayers copyright themselves instead of the license owner.

My Stormtrooper photos are used all over the Internets without a credit. Some of the photos have even been used in unofficial products ^^;
I have no interest or any right to go after these folks because I am fully aware that the Stormtrooper is the intellectual property of Lucasfilm - not mine. I never copyright any photos of me in armor.
Cosplayers who believe that they own copyright of themselves wearing and posing as copyrighted material run the risk of endangering not only themselves but also the rest of the cosplayers who are doing it for fun. Copyright owners are powerful and I've seen them do horrible things to fans in the past.

Lets work together to keep cosplaying fun and more importantly - lets keep it in the gray zone as a crack down by the copyright owners would not be fun at all.

Alternatively, how about coming up with original characters where we truly own the copyright like Salamander Gai? ^^;

I've babbled on for enough for today. I hope I cleared some bits n pieces up and apologize for the confusion with the submission process and Kotobukiya's legal blurb.

Dont forget to reply to Kotobukiya's mail if you get one. They clearly ask in the mail for your photographers name for each photo but it is your responsibility to credit them.

Thanks to professional cosplay photographer Shiroin/Ricky for advice regarding the production of OTACOOL2.