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    Why Studio Khara’s New Fan-Art Guidelines are Dangerous

    The events of today have set my gaze towards the future. I have no idea where we all are destined to go, yet on the horizon I can see some worrisome looking clouds beginning to form. I worry what their implications are. How will it impact the world around us? Is this a singular moment, or a portent of what is to come? 

    It is no secret that I enjoy the Evangelion franchise. The show has stuck with me since childhood and I have long since lost track of my number of viewings. I am going to watch the upcoming Evangelion movie and more than likely enjoy it. Hell, I am going to rewatch the show a dozen plus times in the future as well. Because it is art. And with that comes the crucial separation of art from artist.

    Image courtesy of Evangelion

    I want preface this article with that sentiment. This article might not be pretty, nice, or concise; my goal here is not to change your opinion on Evangelion and its creator or kill your darling.

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    As the title has stated, Studio Khara has posted guidelines for Evangelion fan art. “Derivative” works are encouraged so long as they adhere to the rules. Those are as follows.

    1. Fan activities should generally be done without monetary compensation or for commercial purposes. This includes using it to promote another work or service. Evangelion rights management company Groundworks must be contacted for permission to use the IP for commercial purposes.
    2. Fan works (video, images, novels, etc.) that follow the guidelines can be posted on social media services, illustration uploading services, novel submission services, and video uploading services, as long as these services mainly deal with all-ages content and have rules against profane content/behavior.
    3. Please ensure that you and your fan community have respect for the source material.
    4. Please refrain from creating works that: are hurtful to the source material or to another person; are created to further a specific religious or political agenda; express hateful points of view; are overly violent, grotesque, pornographic, or otherwise offensive; infringes on another creator’s ownership rights; or are works that could be mistaken for an official product.
    5. Official images can be used for citation or referencing purposes, but this must be the only purpose for the usage, and you must please refrain from generally using video, music, and audio.
    6. Fans can submit works to the following premium services, as long as they follow the guidelines of those sites and agree that their accounts will not be used primarily for Evangelion fan content or for excessive monetization purposes: YouTube Live, Twitch, pixivSketch Live, Nico Nico Doga, Patreon, PixivFanbox, Ko-Fi.
    7. Do not release fan creations to announce something with a separate scope. Only release fan creations within the scope of the guidelines or under a similar license.
    8. Regardless of the contents of the guideline, the copyright owners reserve the right to halt a fan’s activities in order to protect their personhood (honor, reputation, the attribution of their name, the identity of their work, etc.)
    9. The guidelines are subject to change at any point, depending on public reception and changes in society.

    These rules are quoted from Anime News Network and are not an official translation. As such, they are to be considered a guideline to the official rules presented in the document on Studio Khara’s website.

    Image courtesy of Evangelion

    This is where my earlier warning takes effect. This is where we must look the storm in the face and recognize it for what it is. This next section will be long. I respect you if you don’t want to read it all. This is by all intents and purposes the end of the news part of this article. You will miss nothing of importance.

    I went into reading the above rules under the mindset that they applied exclusively to the monetization of Evangelion fan art. I now realize that is not the case. The first rule outright states that you are not to use Evangelion fan works for commercial purposes without explicit permission from the rights management company Groundworks. That fact alone makes me wonder if this is Kharas doing or Groundworks. I suppose it doesn’t matter.

    I wonder, can I even use these images? Will I be allowed to link a trailer?

    Only one rule is dedicated to preventing the monetization of Evangelion fan works, and this rule technically doesn’t even need to be stated based on existing copyright law, but we’ll get to that much later if you can bear with me. Does this signal another motivation for this? I have to wonder, does doujinshi count as fan works? Legally they are protected by the Japanese government as parody. But will these guidelines allow Khara to sidestep that law? After all, it is no longer a matter of copyright infringement, the issue rests with artists going against the direct wishes and rules of the parent corporation.

    The other rules are oddly hypocritical. Talking about how you can’t create works that are violent or grotesque. That your content must exist as an all ages product. It’s all very confusing to me. They have seen their own movies, right? I wouldn’t exactly call them all ages content. Even the damn TV show wasn’t exactly for kids. Does showing characters nude or with semen all over their hands not count as potentially pornographic? But f*ck, what do I know. I’m just a fan of all this stuff.

    Image courtesy of Evangelion

    Art can be hateful. It can be violent. It can be grotesque. Oftentimes it’s messages can be horrific and I do not agree with every message materialized by said art. I do not have to. No one does. But it remains art. The problem comes with the message inherent to it, not the work itself. But we are not forced to interpret art in a single way. As soon as the work is placed into the world it becomes the property of the consumer. “The death of the author is the birth of the reader.” It is up to us to interpret a work and to give it true meaning. 

    I find myself asking why? Why do all of this? What do they have to gain but contempt from fans? Will fans even notice? I hope they do. These rules go beyond just drawing or doujinshi. Technically the rules are for “fan activities” and “fan works”. I would ask for clarification, but that would go against the best interests of Studio Khara. So long as the rules remain vague, they can apply to whatever Khara wishes.

     

    It disgusts me that I feel like I should be jaded against this. As someone who is academically studying comics as an art form, I should be used to it. Marvel was strict about this even before the mouse took over, and DC is owned by Warner Brothers. If you know anything about them the issue should be obvious. I’m worried this article will get a cease and desist just for mentioning them. But these are American corporations. It’s almost expected of them. You don’t usually see this sort of thing coming from a major Japanese studio. 

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    Art. I keep saying that. I keep thinking this goes against the very concept. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I just don’t understand what art is. 

    Me irl

    Bullshit. 

    When I first heard of this I thought it would be simple. A style guide perhaps? Something to define how everything has to look. I don’t know what I hate more: that, or what we actually have. Because what we have here is a blasphemy against the very concept of art.

    You know what art is? It’s a trade of ideas. It’s presenting an opinion or an emotion or a feeling (or anything really) in a manner that practically begs for a response or outside interpretation. Laying the essence of a thing bare for all to see. It is expression in a thousand voices. And this whole thing just comes off as Studio Khara trying to shut those voices up.

    And why? Copyright laws? Money? If that was the case then all you need is the first rule. Did you just get f*cking bored? Did you make the first rule and feel that there was just too much blank space you needed to fill? Are you too upset with people using your characters to express their emotions? What’s wrong with that?

    Image courtesy of Evangelion

    But that’s just doujinshi and fan fiction. What about fan art? I feel like that gets hit the hardest. You can’t sell prints you make of Evangelion characters. Hell even making a print and posting it, let’s say on deviantart, is enough for a cease and desist according to rule two. 

    What if you get commissioned? You as an artist get commissioned to make something Evangelion related. Is that enough for the rules to kick in? It is a commercial work after all. 

    Image Courtesy of Evangelion

    I feel scared considering doing Evangelion fan art for fun. Which is bizarre to me. Isn’t the purpose of fan art to be fun? Why else would I do it. It is a way for me to relieve stress while also showing appreciation for a show I enjoy.

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    In the matter of law, none of this is necessarily new, but it’s rather rare for a company themselves to come out and address the public with something like this.

    I’m just going to quote my boss and editor, Mitch Borgstrom, on this. He does a far better job of putting how I feel about this into words:

    “The upsetting part is that when you look into the letter of the law concerning copyright violation, almost all fanart is in violation. In many cases, cosplay even violates copyright law. But the thing is, nobody cracks down on it. Because how can you? As a company, how could you publicly sue someone for expressing love over your work? It would be the WORST PR move ever. Everyone would bash the f*ck out of the company that did that. Imagine Disney representatives showing up on an exhibit hall floor and serving all of the artists in artist alley with copyright lawsuits. 

    People would Riot. 

    And I understand that’s not what’s happening here, but when you make guidelines like this that make mention of monetary gain and whatnot, it almost reads as a threat.”

    Image courtesy of Evangelion

    A threat. I don’t think I would have found that word in a million years. But he is right. It does feel like a threat. In more ways than one. A threat against artists, a threat against the unspoken peace between companies and adoring-fan produced artworks. A threat that the blind eye of god will no longer be turned towards us. Is this the storm? Will this be a singular moment? Or are there more to come? 

    That is my fear. A fear that Khara will not be the only ones. I worry that this will become a trend. It seems unlikely I know. But I’m sure you’ve heard a hundred comments about this year and unlikely events. I’m not going to add another one.

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    1. As always I enjoy hearing your perspective on matters such as this. Especially since the creator of Eva has stated his opinion on how he feels about fans interacting with his work. What I mean is would these guild lines seem less outrageous and dangerous if it was the creator speaking on behalf of his work instead of a company or would it still be a form of unneeded censorship/ filtration on fan created works?

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