Shueisha in Hot Water Over Suicidal Copyright Policy, Hitting High Profile Creators


Shueisha, publisher of such popular manga as One Piece and Dragon Ball, and the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, is in hot water over a series of copyright strikes that have left several fans’ Twitter accounts in danger of suspension, and even some artists that they have employed in the past.

Artur, creator of the Library of Ohara One Piece fan site and YouTube channel, shared on Twitter an email that he and many others had received from a third party acting ‘on behalf of Shueisha’ to enforce the company’s ‘exclusive copyrights,’ which were supposedly ‘being infringed.’

Included in the email are a series of tweets containing material from either One Piece, Dragon Ball, or Dragon Ball Super. According to Artur, copyright strikes were submitted for ‘manga panels, anime screenshots,’ and ‘even FANART,’ thereby putting their Twitter accounts in danger: if too many strikes are received on a single account, then that user is in danger of being suspended.

For creators like Artur, this simply isn’t an option: he has been forced to alter his bio to remove any mention of Eiichiro Oda’s series to match his DMCA’d profile picture.

Fenyon's Dragon Ball Illustration
One of Fenyon’s illustrations from his official website.

Shueisha’s wave of copyright strikes has even affected artists they have worked with in the past. Fenyo, a popular Dragon Ball illustrator whose talents have been used for official promotional images and merchandise of Akira Toriyama’s series many times, said that his Twitter was ‘locked once’ and that ‘If it is erased [referring to his art], it will not be revived’ for fear of suspension. His work is still available to peruse on Instagram and his website, however.

One user said that virtually every series published by Shueisha was being targeted with copyright strikes, but the biggest examples appear to have come from Dragon Ball and One Piece-related content. This is ironic, given that the company recently celebrated the latter series’ global popularity with its very first worldwide character poll and New York Times ad. Yet, it appears to be affecting overseas fans the most. The word ‘Shueisha’ is currently trending worldwide.

Why the sudden policy change? Many have pointed out that Japan’s new copyright law came into force at the beginning of this year, but Irodori Comics founder (NSFW) On Takahashi pointed out that the law doesn’t have anything to do with fanart or portions of official art; rather, it is intended to more strongly police illegal uploads of entire chapters.

More likely, then, is that this third party representing Shueisha is going far too gung-ho in enforcing this new copyright policy. Perhaps it’s something to do with automation or a bot. Hopefully, the company takes note of the worldwide outrage and makes steps to change tack fast, as this could very quickly end up undermining the good standing that it has built among consumers and creators alike.

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