Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


Jaime E. Muscar

First Page



This note examines the legality of fan translations of Japanese comic books, known as manga, and video games distributed over the Internet, with special consideration given to the application of the fair use doctrine. Technology related to the distribution of media online grows exponentially compared to the law governing this technology. Although much recent litigation has limited the online distribution of traditional media, both copyright holders and courts have largely ignored a fringe segment of this distribution. This fringe includes manga and video games. Manga can be easily shared online by scanning images, and video games are now frequently converted into ROM images that can be played on a computer and freely distributed. Much of the original source material comes from Japan and is in Japanese. Therefore, in order to present these media to an American audience, the material must be translated into English. Because the source material was never officially translated, or was so poorly translated as to alter the original, fans translate the material themselves prior to distribution. So far, most copyright holders have not pursued legal action beyond "cease and desist" letters. Changes in the marketability of these materials suggest, however, that the copyright holders may soon stop tolerating this practice.