In light of the recent Star Athletica vs. Varsity Brands trial, the legality of public costume-wearing–known as “cosplay”–and affiliated hobbies has been questioned. The trial centered around a disputed copyright claim between two clothing manufacturers who designed and sold popular cheerleading-uniform designs.
How then, will this seemingly unrelated trial affect the outcome of the Japanese (and increasingly American) pastime of cosplay?
As it happens, the ruling of the courts will determine the definitions of “interpretation” of a work, and “original” work. Cosplay will either be defined as “original” creations of individual persons, or as “interpretations,” and thus copies, of other people’s intellectual property.
Whatever the ruling, one thing is clear. The gray area that will be locked in as a precedent can have a significant impact on many cosplay enthusiasts.
As Andy Hou, an anime enthusiast at Whitney High School, says, “It’s going to be interesting to see the dynamics of cosplay change throughout the course of this ruling, just because of the unpredictable nature of the situation.”
Hou continues. “Obviously, there’s the question of the ruling, which may or may not affect cosplay, but also whether anime companies choose to prosecute ‘illegal’ cosplayers. Cosplay is, after all, a billion-dollar advertising-industry, and these people are only helping out the companies.”
From San Diego’s ComicCon convention to New York’s ComicCon conference, content creators of anime and comics all generate hefty revenue from the press (and subsequent advertising) from dressed-up cosplayers. Whether these corporations and creators would pursue a lawsuit against their most avid fans is unclear, but the precedent set by the ruling could put the corporations in the upper legal position.