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The concept of copyright in early-modern Japan 
Christian Dunkel (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)
Ryoko Matsuba (Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures)
Takaaki Kaneko (Ritsumeikan University)
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Ellis Tinios (Ritsumeikan University)
Pre-modern Literature
Wednesday 25 August, 10:15-11:45 (UTC+2)

Short Abstract:

This panel seeks a better understanding of the concept of copyright in the early modern publishing industry. We argue that the modern idea of copyright does not apply to early-modern Japan and seek to point out those options that were availa-ble to publishers for protecting their business interests.

Long Abstract

The Tokugawa government tried to control commercial publishing throughout the Edo period. However, it was concerned with controlling the content of publications rather than protecting the financial interests of publishers, authors and artists. The panelists will reveal a system of self-control among publishers intended to avoid infringement of copyright. This will be achieved through careful examination of sets of printing blocks, of their sale and reuse, and the republication of popular designs

In 1722, the government reinforced its censorship regulations by introducing the requirement that henceforth all artists and publishers needed to record their names in now mandatory colophons in all commercially published books. These regulations had not only lasting effects on the publication processes, but also led to the creation of useful documents. The first paper will examine variant states of colophons that appear in Bunpô soga (first published in 1800) along with archival documents tracing copyright issues that arose between its original Nagoya pub-lisher and a leading Edo publisher.

How was copyright expressed in the Edo-period? Woodblock printing dominated the commercial publishing throughout the Edo-period. The owner of the printing blocks (hangi) was the copyright holder. Just examining the printed books is not sufficient. To understand notions of copyright in the printing industry, a careful analysis of hangi is essential. It is also essential to compare original texts in 'legitimate' printings, partly plagiarised texts (ruihan) and the outright plagiarism of texts in pirated editions.

The third paper will introduce the production of facsimile reproductions in the 19th century. The active production of facsimile colour prints raises the question how publishers could create them since they were based on copyrighted material. The social background behind the demand for reproductions will be considered along with artists' understanding of copyright in the 19th Century. By studying these copies, we can add to our understanding of the global popularity of Hokusai and cast fresh light on print production in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Accepted papers: