DMP and the Age of Consent

Well, this doesn’t endear DMP to me. Christopher Butcher wrote an interesting piece pondering if some of the manga/anime/art working its way from Japan to America might not risk being termed child porn by the more conservative (link no longer available). He specifically mentioned Digital Manga Publishing (DMP) because of the range of their yaoi titles which, combined with a fan demand for non-edited works (aside from translation), might result in trouble down the road. And he used the cover of their book Almost Crying as an illustration, because it’s got a boy on the cover who clearly appears pre-adolescent.

My Only King cover

DMP sent him a cease and desist threat (well, actually, a threat that there could be a cease and desist) for him to remove the image. So he did, and then he hot-linked to the Amazon-posted cover, which is also what I’ve done here. (And what’s with the cheery greeting leading into the legal threats?)

Publishers just don’t get it these days — the material is out there, and you can’t stop ideas you don’t like by overreacting. Inserted lines of dialogue claiming that your young school characters are really in college won’t protect you if one of the censors gets a burr up their butt about the images. I don’t know if DMP does that specifically, but their claim that all of their characters are above the age of consent doesn’t match the visuals in some of their yaoi I’ve read. (See the My Only King cover to the right.) They can’t, really, since “boys that look like girls” have to be young and prepubescent.

And now, thanks to what Techdirt calls the Streisand Effect, more people (like me) are talking about their products in precisely the context they wanted to prevent, because they couldn’t be nice about it. (Although, given how companies think, that probably was them trying to be nice, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt going forward, unless this becomes a pattern.)

If someone says something you don’t like — whether a bad review of a comic you like or something like this — pulling out the big guns isn’t going to do anyone any good. It’s going to make them more stubborn about their opinions, and it’s going to make you look bad. Trying to argue someone out of a negative opinion will often simply reinforce that negative opinion.

Publishers and creators have to be willing to take honest opinions gracefully… or people won’t want to do business with them. The best response, in my opinion, would be something like “We’re concerned that your audience may have gotten the wrong impression from your comments. All of our characters are over the age of consent, and (whatever other factual comments you feel you need to make).” Don’t assume motives, especially if they’re negative assumptions; don’t blame people for disagreeing with you; and don’t make a bad situation worse by acting immaturely. (Oh, and if you don’t want to continue being talked about, don’t threaten a valuable blogger who’s a great resource and a friend to opinion-makers.)

To top this all off, next on my review list was looking at the DMP titles they kindly sent me. Getting a box filled with a company’s whole line is astounding, overwhelming, and guilt-producing. I’ll do my best to forget all this by then.

10 Comments

  1. Ed Sizemore

    Johanna, Age of consent has always been a burr for anime and manga. The Japanese have no problem with teenage nudity and sex. Even series like Ranma 1/2 and Inu Yasha feature under 18 toplessness. One anime company tried to get around this issue, by having a short informational video on their DVD’s. The video said that even though it appeared the characters were wearing high school uniforms, in fact, they were wearing community college (or its equivalent in Japan) uniforms. However, looking at the relationship of the characters and the kind of school activities they were participating in made it evident the characters were in high school.

    I thought this would be a dead issue since the Supreme Court ruled that characters of fictional works didn’t not have to be over the age of eighteen. If I remember, Lolita was sited by the Court as an example of acceptable art that dealt with sexuality and minors.

  2. Ed- The specific problem is in visual depictions, where there are laws regarding child pornography enacted that seek to circumvent existing Supreme Court decisions. If I get some time, I’ll try and find the article I read from the CBLDF’s BUSTED magazine online somewhere, about the new law. It’s called ‘the child protection act’ or something, and it specifically targets visual depictions (it was intended to combat things like hyper-realistic 3d renders and stuff, but line illustrations (comics) ended up being just as bad, in their eyes.

  3. “Trying to argue someone out of a negative opinion will often simply reinforce that negative opinion.”

    Sounds like a debate club primer :)

  4. “Cease and decease,” giggle!

  5. Chris, Are you talking about the amendments to the Protect Act of 2003? If so, the text of the act says that it forbids only computer generated images that are Indistinguishable from pictures. It explicitly says the act doesn’t apply to cartoons, drawings, paintings and even statues. If there is another law you that the CBLDF is talking about, let me know.

  6. Wasn’t there a recent proscecution with an imported hentai comic in Canada not to long ago? DMP has a different set of legal concerns.

    I agree with your sentiment about reviewing any further DMP books. I was meaning to say some nice things about Yellow and Antique Bakery, but considering the way the company reacts to hearing things they don’t like being said, I feel better not talking about them.

  7. This probably never would have happened if Isaac Lew was still there. I’m guessing he would have enjoyed the debate instead of clenching so hard.

  8. As I mentioned at Chris’s site, this sort of thing is far from what I expected from DMP given the contact I’ve had with them in the past. I’m hoping that this is an isolated incident, not a sign of the company’s current attitude.

    I am sort of worried, however, that we might see more defensive responses like this from manga publishers in the aftermath of the Bakersfield manga incident, especially in regards to works with gay themes and underage characters.

  9. Ed, what the Supreme Court says only matters if you can get there — and given that a local prosecution on obscenity grounds has already cost the CBLDF $60,000, it takes a LOT of resources to get there. Most censors count on people not being able to fight them locally. It doesn’t matter who’s right — it matters who can send in the cops.

  10. “Publishers just don’t get it these days”

    It’s not surprising that they would send (or threaten to send) the C&D, but they don’t actually have a solid claim there, either. Reproducing a single image for specific commentary on that image in a noncommercial context is a classic example of fair use.

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