Photo: SoraNews24
crime

Bootleg anime cakes? Charges filed against Tokyo woman for selling unlicensed Demon Slayer sweets

18 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

When you hear about anime copyright violation in Japan, the culprit tends to be someone selling unlicensed DVDs, posters, or figures. Last week, though, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police busted someone for selling bootleg anime cakes.

On Nov 9, charges were officially filed against a 34-year-old woman living in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Starting in the summer of 2019, the woman began making and selling cakes decorated with chocolate pen drawings of the cast of "Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba."

The woman conducted the "Demon Slayer" cake business through her Instagram account, and customers would send her image files of the artwork they wanted her to use for their cakes, with prices ranging from roughly 13,000 to 15,000 yen. The woman was able to sell hundreds of "Demon Slayer" cakes in this manner, with estimates of her earnings being as high as 6.5 million yen.

▼ The cakes

Eventually "Demon Slayer’s" rights holders stumbled onto her operation and reported it to the police. “I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t think I’d be able to sell ordinary cakes,” the woman said in her statement.

Whenever charges are brought against someone in Japan for derivative works of anime art, “But what about dojinshi?” is a question that gets quickly raised. It’s worth remembering, though, that sales of fan art aren’t so much legally protected in Japan as they are benevolently tolerated by rights holders, and even then there’s a collection of unspoken agreements that fan artists are expected to abide by. In essence, most anime publishers agree to turn a blind eye to fan art as long as it’s produced in small batches and offered for a limited time only at in-person events. That bundle of conditions, ostensibly, contextualizes any money earned as coverage of the costs of artistic expression, not economically motivated profit.

The actions of the Demon Slayer cake maker don’t really check those boxes, though, seeing as how she was running a continuing enterprise through the Internet and her self-admitted reason for using the anime’s characters wasn’t because it was the most artistic way she could express her love of the series, but because she wanted to increase the number of cakes she could sell. Reproducing official art, as opposed to creating her own original chocolate pen drawings of the characters, would also probably preclude any sort of “edible dojinshi” type of defense.

As with the recent charges against a man for “destroying” the A.I. censor mosaic in Japanese adult videos, it doesn’t appear like the woman would have gotten in any trouble if she was merely making the cakes and posting photos of them online for her own amusement. It’s the selling of the cakes and soliciting commissions for them that the rights holders take issue with, and even then, it’s possible she could have gotten a pass if she’d followed the dojin code. But like Icarus, she soared too high in her ambitions, and now her figurative wings have melted like so much chocolate left in the oven for too long.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/KyodoNHK News Web

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Tokyo woman in trouble with the law after selling high-priced Evangelion bootleg posters

-- Hayao Miyazaki considers Demon Slayer his rival, Studio Ghibli producer says

-- Kyoto man arrested for opening packs of Demon Slayer key chains until finding one he wanted

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments
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What a sad story! Woman makes a buck; doing something she loves; making people happy. Big business shuts her down and sticks to selling approved cheap plastic rubbish from China.

Couldn't they have approached about licensing the cakes first?

5 ( +11 / -6 )

But this is free publicity. Why knock it?

1 ( +6 / -5 )

My take is that she fell foul of the law (though I thought copyright violation would be a civil tort rather than a criminal matter) because she reproduced actual images from Demon Slayer. Had she interpreted the characters according to her own imagination - so that the cakes she baked did not resemble copyrighted images - she may have been okay.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Demon Caker,

2 ( +5 / -3 )

My friend has a family owned bakery. Last year she was nice enough to make my son a SpongeBob cake for his birthday... She didn't sell it, it was a gift. Maybe the fact that this woman was selling and advertising online is where she fell afoul of the law. Still seems pretty harmless to me though

10 ( +11 / -1 )

This is so wrong , why arrest her, license and PARTNER with her and share the profit, instead of killing her business and her talent.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Demon Layer cakes?

Agree with other comments.Why not partner with small Japanese entrepreneurs,rather than outsourcing to China, Vietnam,etc?

Oh,I know.Less profit margins.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

DaninthepanToday  07:14 am JST

Woman makes a buck; doing something she loves; making people happy.

The ultimate cardinal sin in Japan

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The unlicensed use of non-Japanese characters is rampant in Japan. Who hasn't seen numerous Snoopy characters used without license?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When my kids were the wife's father would buy them an Anpanman cake every year, just his round face.

Pretty hard to make your own art from that. But that cake shop sells a lot of them.

It is just a cake that will be gone in a day, and a woman trying to make a buck. It's money they would never have had anyway. It is another case of going after a little person who would cause no damage finacial to the company or their image.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Personally i am against bootlegging but in this case she was just trying to make a living by making cakes. I hope the right holders aren't going too far and harsh on her. A warning to stop should be enough. No need to make her life difficult in these trying times.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

In essence, most anime publishers agree to turn a blind eye to fan art as long as it’s produced in small batches and offered for a limited time only at in-person events. 

This fan art is produced in batches of most probably exactly one per design and offered once a year at a very limited inperson event

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I definitely think it's a missed business opportunity for the Demon Slayer people. Instead of feeling threatened by her abilities and reporting her, they could have collaborated with her to make some sort of special anniversary or offer that would make fans happy and enjoy the manga/anime content in another way. She wins, they win and the fans win.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Anyone get that video in the article to work??

Henry MontagToday  09:55 am JST

A little late to the party, JT? This was already in the news last week. Even the video you linked to was from last week.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes, it’s nowadays a minefield to start or do a business and bring a developed idea onto the market. In fact the obstacles and probable accusations are nowadays more expensive than the potential small profit that can be expected. For example, I’ve developed a puzzle game set for everyone, children and adults, with different difficulty levels etc., and intended to sell it according the Tokyo games , using the Olympic rings or other logo design and all such, but I’ve put it fast back into the desk. It’s a pity, but very obvious we are in an era now, where downsizing or destroying businesses as well as attacking businesses and owners with anything copyright or ‘woke’ is the big credo. Everyone is happy, when own economy and businesses are destroyed, as it could contribute to a better climate or as a rage for not having similar chances and careers, whatever, the reasons are endless, although irrational. I am not so much keen or willing to expose myself to that even more than already done.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Lol demon slayer is more violent than the joker

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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