Library Wars, TPP And Copyright Negotiations

Flying back from Brunei where I attended the TPP negotiations, I caught the film Library Wars about censorship. It seemed somehow more than just a coincidence. A great story based on a popular manga by Hiro Arikawa, the action flick is set a couple of years in the future, when a militant group attacks book shops and libraries based on an obscure censorship law implemented to protect the public from smut. This also deals with copyright issues and freedom of speech.

Instead, the main protagonist, young Iku Kasahara (Nana Eikura) charms viewers with her good intentions, judo moves, and a search for the "prince" that once helped her save an important book that was about to be confiscated. Her friend Asako Shibasaki (Chiaki Kuriyama) is probable a better known actress abroad but the cast all manage to make the story believable and gripping. Short trailer here:

The Hollywood Review didn't like it much, but they also don't seem to get the political undertones. does a much better job explaining the realities on the otaku ground:

Library Wars is a movie that manages the rare feat of being both deep and entertaining. On one hand, it addresses the implications and fallout of government-controlled censorship. On the other, it presents an entertaining movie filled with entertaining action, comedic moments, and deep characters. If you enjoy action movies, romantic comedies, or thought experiments centering around censorship, Library Wars will not disappoint.

Here in Japan, for example, The Japan Playwrights Association, the Japan Theatrical Producers Association and the Japan Theatre Arts Association have jointly issued an appeal, opposing the Japanese government’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks, according to Japan Agri News:

The Japan Playwrights Association, the Japan Theatrical Producers Association and the Japan Theatre Arts Association has jointly issued an appeal, opposing the Japanese government’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks.
Referring to the TPP initiative in which the next round of negotiations is scheduled to start in Brunei on Thursday, August 22, the appeal expressed strong concern that controversial issues on intellectual property rights are negotiated without any public debating beforehand in Japan.
It asked the government to hold open debate sessions for the public and parties concerned to discuss the issue of extending copyright protection from 50 years to 70 years. It also demanded that the clause on investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, which allows companies to sue foreign governments for losses, be eliminated from the TPP agreement, since it could infringe upon the Japanese people’s interests.
Yoji Sakate, chairman of the Japan Playwrights Association, warned that if copyright protection is extended to 70 years, many scripts will become anonymous and cannot be utilized as theatrical works, thus becoming unused treasures.
The groups urged the government to disclose as soon as possible all the information which indicates both the merits and demerits of joining the TPP talks, and promise to withdraw from the negotiations if they turn out to be detrimental to Japan’s national interests.
Concerning non-tariff barriers, the appeal stressed that domestic laws and policies designed to protect the Japanese people should be given priority. The government should not be given a free hand to go forth with the negotiations without disclosing information or providing chances for public debate, the appeal stated.
They hope to ask other theatrical associations and arts and cultural organizations to support the appeal and stir up public opinion.
The playwrights association, which has actress and stage director Eri Watanabe serving as vice chairman, is comprised of 460 members, and the producers association has 150 members. The Japan Theatre Arts Association, with 340 members, has leading kabuki actor Koshiro Matsumoto and television producer Fukuko Ishii serving as directors.

Meanwhile, in Brunei, the secret free trade negotiations that handle these issues, and more, were running into serious problems as I left. More strict copyright rules, extended time frames for intellectual property protection, criminalizing parallel imports of DVDs and fan-art (including fan dubbing which is done by true aficionados - people who share manga and anime from Japan by doing their own translations and posting online) are all topics on the TPP agenda. Unreasonably strict copyright rules amount to much the same as censorship. It is all related to similar issues raised in Library Wars, so do watch and think.

“Where they burn books,” the German poet Heinrich Heine once wrote, “so too will they in the end burn human beings.”

Consumers in the digital age:

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei


The Civil Society stakeholders for the Brunei round of TPP negotiations are very disappointed that no formal report from the Chief Negotiators was presented, nor the opportunity for stakeholders to ask questions in a forum where all could hear the answers. 
At this round of TPP negotiations the stakeholder session ended with a mingling of negotiators with stakeholders in a stand-up format. While we found the negotiators to be friendly and open to questions, the setting did not enable many stakeholders to ask their questions and the answers given were not available to everyone.
There were a number of questions we would liked to have heard answers to, of these the most pressing are:
  • Will there be another round of negotiations?
  • Will a full timetable be released?
  • We know there are inter-sessional meetings planned for September, what, if any, arrangements are being made for stakeholder engagement at these meetings?
  • Will there be media briefings at the inter-sessional meetings?
The Civil Society represented at the Brunei round consisted of a number of NGOs and community organisations who have very limited resources.  To come to a negotiation round and not be able to question Chief Negotiators is a huge disappointment.
We continue to urge for greater transparency and accountability, and we ask again for the release of a draft negotiating text.


Hadyn Green
Consumer NZ
Yoshiko Matsuda
What is TPP?
Trish Hepworth
Australian Digital Alliance
Patricia Ranald
Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
Yasuaki Yamaura
Consumers Union of Japan
Yasuo Kondo
People's Action Against TPP (Japan)
Krista L. Cox
Knowledge Ecology International


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