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Publishing in English: Cultures of Publishing

An upcoming guide to English-language publication for Japanese scholars


This section provides a brief overview of the structure of publishing in Japan and the US (and most of the Anglophile publishing world), including information on the history, the relationship between authors and editors in the two cultures, and outlines key differences in interpretation of Fair Use in Japan.  Further discussion of Fair Use is also contained in the section on Copyright.


Industry Structure and Market Segmentation 

Contrasts in the Author-Editor Relationship 

Fair Use and Japan’s Quotation Provision

What is a Monograph? 

Questions of Copyright in Translated Works


Japan as one of the most highly literate nations in the world has had a vibrant publishing industry since traditional times.  In postwar Japan where many commute on public transportation for long periods of time small format books of serious content (bunkobon), popular fiction, manga, and an array of newspapers and periodicals helped the Japanese publishing industry to thrive, the large-scale sector of the industry was very diverse served by large chain booksellers, and small bookstores and train-platform kiosks that served an active foot-trade.  Beginning with the SONY Walkman in the early 1980s hand-held devises increasingly became the commuter’s choice.  By the 90s, cell phones, games, online content, e-books, and a profusion of very small format, large capacity personal computers radically cut into the profits of print media.

In the West print media also flourished in the early postwar period but was not as strong as its counterpart in Japan.  Home-delivery of newspapers, magazines and journals were especially strong from the immediate postwar into the 1970s but have since been largely replaced by mass media, initially by television, and more recently by online media.   During the 80s large chain booksellers such as Walden Books, Barnes & Noble, and Crown Books spread widely from main-street to the shopping mall and were widely expected to destroy traditional small independent bookstores.  Instead the rise of Amazon and other online markets destroyed the chains and left many of the small independent bookstores thriving as a local alternative to the online merchants. 

In the West academic publishing is a distinct and often economically precarious segment of the publishing industry.  Whereas in Japan books by academic authors may be published by major firms, are strongly marketed and sell vigorously, few academic books in the West sell well by comparison.                                                                  

Industry Structure and Market Segmentation

In Japan publishing firms are often privately held, family firms, or those dominated by a small group of long-term, virtually hereditary, leaders.  Such firms tend to be more traditional in their leadership styles and very top-down in their orientation.  In Japan publishers often produce a broader range of materials than their Western counterparts.  A major Japanese publisher may produce everything from serious scholarly works, to popular and mass-market fiction, comics, sports and soft-core pornography, as well as newspapers and periodicals.  

By contrast, in the West publishing firms tend to be more segmented into imprints that specialize greatly by genre, audience, and marketing strategies.  Increasingly Western commercial publishing has been absorbed into huge international publishing conglomerates under which dozens of specialized imprints may exist.  It is still relatively uncommon for a Western publishing conglomerate to span the full range of print categories from scholarly work to pulp fiction and sports that one might see in Japan. 

Of greatest importance for this guide is the fact that Western academic publishing is largely a separate niche from commercial publishing, made up of small, only marginally profitable imprints that produce print-runs that are tiny by comparison to commercial presses.  In Japan there is little distinction between academic and commercial  publications and it is essential for those planning to publish with Western academic presses to understand the differences in style, reach, and profitability between Western academic publishing and scholarly works that may be published in Japan. This guide focuses on helping Japanese authors to publish in such English-language academic publications, and therefore our discussion focus on that niche within the Western publishing field and the contrast with Japanese publishing as a whole.  While the profit margin for Western-published academic works may be scant, the prestige of publishing with a well-regarded Western press can be greatly beneficial to a scholar’s career. 

Contrasts in the Author-Editor Relationship

In Japan the editor and publisher often play more extensive supporting roles in the production of a book than is the case in the West.  For example, Japanese publishers may assume the responsibility for getting copyright clearance and permissions for use of visual images on behalf of an author of their publications.  In the West the responsibility and expense of securing rights and permissions lies entirely with the author.  Western publishers usually have very specific requirements about the wording and scope of written permissions documents that will usually cover a range of present and future formats (link to/insert  generic wording from a publisher’s guidelines regarding present and future publications, foreign language rights, e-books etc (link).  This Website offers editable templates for such documentation that conform to the content required by publishers in the West and may be acceptable to Japanese rights owners. To assist Japanese authors we provide Japanese language summaries/FAQs about the content of those letters. 

Japanese editors are also reputed to play significant roles in shepherding authors through the writing process, in personally seeing that authors adhere to production schedules and deadlines, conversely, Western publishers expect authors to be self-motivated and focused on the completion of a manuscript, and editors usually are not involved in a manuscript until the actual production phase of the publication.   

Fair Use and Japan’s Quotation Provision

In developing its Image Use Protocol (IUP) Website NCC researched differences in the publishing cultures of the US and Japan that directly related to location, permissions and legal use of Japanese images.  I the course of that research the bi-national team that made up the IUP task force discovered that people in both countries were frustrated and confused by the process.  

The task force heard numerous stories from users of images about frustrating experiences with gaining permission and in even receiving responses from image owners in Japan.  Initially language barriers, insufficient contact information, or lack of knowledge of the appropriate protocols for requesting permissions were assumed to be the reason for lack of responses.  However following extensive discussion with Japanese publishers the task force learned that Japanese copyright law has different requirements for permissions depending on how the image is to be used. Specifically, if an image is being used as “supplemental, illustrative, or in reference to understanding the discussion [of a scholarly argument] and strictly subordinate to the main text” (Translated from the original Yoshida, Taisuke. Chosakuken ga meikai ni naru 10-sho (Shuppan Nyususha, 2005: p. 218-219), usage is viewed as reference, which exempts the user of images and portions of text from the requirement to obtain permission from the copyright holder. The law distinguishes this use from cases in which the text is mainly introductory to or constitutes commentary on the image, in which case the image or text becomes the “main” focus of the discussion, not “subordinate” to the discussion. 

In June 2008 NCC held the Image Use Conference in Tokyo to present the IUP Task Force's recommendations to the Japanese publishing field.  During discussions it became apparent that even the representatives of major Japanese publishing entites were not aware that US and other foreign publishers require permission for images that are being used in their publication regardless of whether that image is uses as a main or subordinate part of the argument.  Similarly, in Japan the use of text references to works subordinate to the principal argument may be more lacks.  Discussion at the June 2008 Conference helped clarify those differences to stakeholders on both sides, leading them to realize that many had been looking at the same question -- the need for formal permission for images -- from quite different, and almost mutually exclusive, vantage points.  

In her report to the SWET Newsletter, July 2008, editor Lynne Riggs noted that “University of Tokyo Press editor Fukushima Shôta, and with Ôta Ryûji, veteran editor at the mammoth commercial publisher Shôgakukan, confirmed that reproductions of photographs, maps, charts, and art work are used relatively freely in academic and educational (kyôyôteki) publications under the rules of “in’yô” (quotation)."  

What is a Monograph? 

As Keiko Ikeda notes in her essay another characteristic of Japanese publishing is the extent to which academic authors publish volumes of interrelated essays on a given subject, some or all of which may be republished or reworked from previous lectures or essays. Japanese authors who become known as authorities on a given topic may publish frequently, producing works that may be more a synthesis of thought and opinion than new or original scholarly research.  (Link to sections on forming an argument and the problems of direct “translation”).  

The book-length monograph of original scholarly work by a single author is the principal type of volume published by most Western scholarly publishers and Western publishers usually refuse to publish works that have been previously published in other venues or that are direct translations of original works in another language.   

 XXX   Questions of Copyright in Translated Works:

First of all, when you wish to use images copyrighted overseas, which country's copyright law should you obey? As a rule, you are required to follow the copyright law of the country in which you plan to use (publish) the images. Therefore, in the context of this guide, if you wish to publish images which originated in Japan, in the United States, you must obey U.S. copyright law, or in Canada, Canadian copyright law, not Japanese copyright law.

In North America, whether for commercial or nonprofit use, it is common practice for a publisher to require an author to obtain image reproduction permissions from the copyright holders for publishing purposes.

In the example of image use, one must take into consideration the various kinds of "rights" that may pertain. They are: copyright held by the author of the image itself (two-dimensional art work or photograph); copyright held by the creator of the object in the image; copyright held by the publisher of an image published previously; the ownership rights held by the owner of the object in the photograph, which may be a museum, a temple or a individual person; and portrait rights held by the photographed person in the image. Depending on the kind of images you wish to use, you might be required to obtain permission from any of these, or from multiple right holders. For instance, in order to use "a photograph of a painting owned by a museum, which has been previously published," one must obtain permissions from: i) the artist who created the painting, ii) the publisher who created the photograph and iii) the museum who owns the painting. "When Permission is Required-Sample Cases" discusses the various kinds of permissions required for using different kinds of images. Sample request letters and consent agreement letters for different cases are offered in "Permission Request Templates".

In the United States limited use of copyrighted material, such as distributing photocopies in the classroom or for lectures, or using images in slides or Power Point presentations as well as using images as reference to discussion may be permitted under the U.S. copyright doctrine of fair use The purpose of the fair use provision is to promote the study of science, the arts and literature by waiving the complex process of obtaining permissions for using copyrighted material. Among the determining factors of fair use are the purpose, character, size of the portion used and the effect upon the original work's market value, etc.  The Association of Research Libraries' (ARL) Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries provides a fully downloadable and detailed guide for academic libraries on these subjects. 

In Canada the equivalent to the U.S. fair use doctrine is called fair dealing. However, the Canadian fair dealing provision is known to be more restrictive than fair use in the U.S. For instance, except under special circumstances the Canadian fair dealing provision does not honor "educational use," therefore it does not allow for the showing of a video or film, or the distribution of copies of copyrighted material in the classroom without permission or special license 

Special attention should be given to image use. Even if the reason for use is merely as reference; often it is necessary to use the entire image, which is different from simply using portions of a written work. In such a case, a cautious approach should be taken in applying U.S. fair use or Canadian fair dealing provisions.

*UPDATE: The Canadian Government amended the Copyright Act of Canada in 2012 to expand the scope of fair dealing. Originally, fair dealing covered five purposes that included research, private study, news reporting, criticism and review.  As education, parody and satire were added to the list of purposes, educational use is now a legitimate purpose covered under the fair dealing provision, allowing educators to use resources such as publicly available material from the internet within a structured educational context. It is still necessary to be cautious about image use, however, as safeguards exist to protect the interests of copyright holders.

On the other hand, Japanese copyright law has different requirements about the need for permission depending on how the image is to be used. In some cases, Japanese law considers the use a citation and waives the requirement to obtain permission. If an image is being used as "supplemental, illustrative, or in reference to understanding the discussion and strictly subordinate to the main text" (Translated from the original: Yoshida, Taisuke. Chosakuken ga meikai ni naru 10-sho (Shuppan Nyususha, 2005: p. 218-219), the usage is viewed as reference, which exempts the image user from the requirement to obtain permission from its copyright holder. The law distinguishes this use from cases in which the text is mainly introductory to or commentary on the image, which means the image becomes the "main" part of the discussion, not "subordinate" to the discussion. Because of this different requirement of copyright law in Japan, Japanese publishers and authors do not always understand the need of North American scholars to seek permission to use Japanese images. Therefore, North American image users need to clearly explain North American legal requirements for publication of Japanese images. This difference is referred to in a sample letter in "Permission Request Templates".

North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources
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