Is Cosplay Illegal Now? What the TPP Means For Me.

cosplay fail

By W.T. Bane

Recently amongst my normal nerd news sites that I peruse, I have seen many articles dealing with the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and its proposed effects on the nerd community. This has gone from mild speculation to rampant conspiracy theories.


The Cosplay Lawsuit: What You Need To Know



If you would like to read more on what the TPP is in general, click this link for one of the best explanations of it. The section that is troubling to the nerd world concentrates on intellectual property, particularly “Any derivative work, like fan art, cosplay or doujin manga, can fall under a criminal offensive even if the original rights owner doesn’t file a complaint. (”


People are freaking out that they are afraid they they won’t be allowed to cosplay or make fan art due to this. There are sites throwing their arms up in a frenzy in fear of all the possible outcomes. They say it will be illegal to cosplay. It will be illegal to make fan art. It’s going to ruin conventions.

Most likely it won’t. Let’s get real for a second. Cosplay is now too big to enforce against. Look at anyone of the largest conventions in the U.S. with New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con International, Salt Lake Comic-Con, and Dragoncon; all of them reach close to or breaking 100,000 attendees, with a very large portion of them in attendance in cosplay. How on Earth is that supposed to be enforced that that many people in costume are violating the law at one time? They will not have the police and lawyers at the front gates writing tickets for everyone.

I mean, just looks at all these Deadpools
I mean, just looks at all these Deadpools

Also most companies will probably be willing to allow fans to have permission to cosplay as their characters simply because it is free advertising. There are so many anime shows that I had never heard of until I approached someone at a convention and asked what were they from, simply because their costume was amazing and I wanted to see more of what it came from. While Marvel/DC don’t need the free advertising, smaller companies or more obscure shows/comics do. 

Who this most likely will affect in the cosplay world is the “professional cosplayers.” These are the ones with special cosplay Facebook or Twitter pages who try to sell merchandise like posters or prints of themselves dressed as characters they have no legal rights or permission to.

What’s the difference?

When I cosplay as Bane, I walk around and take lots of pictures with people and pose with other fans dressed as Batman or Joker or other Gotham mainstays and we all have a good time. I don’t make any money off of cosplaying Bane, and therefore I’m not taking any money away from DC by doing so.

However if a female cosplayer was to dress as Catwoman, and charge $10 a print for an 8”x10” of her as Catwoman, she is essentially making money off of DC. That’s where the line will likely be drawn, someone making money off of posing as a character they don’t own, or has yet obtained a license or permission to perform.

It may be impossible to stop 50,000 people from cosplaying, but stopping 10 cosplayers who are trying to sell prints of themselves at a booth is much more likely to be targeted and much more easily enforced. They will be the most likely target.

The bigger name cosplayers who have hundreds of thousands to millions of followers like Nicole Marie Jean, Leanna Vamp and Jessica Nigri will likely be able to obtain a license from the property holders for their more popular character cosplays, but those with less reach may find themselves in more of pickle.

The other areas this will affect is fan art. Again this likely will apply in a manner similar to above. No one will likely care if you draw a Pikachu and hang it on your fridge, but if you draw a Pikachu and a Ewok battling it out to the death and try to sell it at a convention, you may find yourself at the mercy of the new TPP agreement. Same applies to those who 3D print weapons from films or games and sell them online for a profit without license. 

For some of the freakouts of this proposed agreement see links below.

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13 thoughts on “Is Cosplay Illegal Now? What the TPP Means For Me.

  1. Sadly the statement, “Let’s get real for a second. Cosplay is now too big to enforce against.” is exactly why it would be attacked. Cosplay is “BIG” and there is money generated by the gatherings. At the very least forcing the organizers to comply to licensing legal issues alone may introduce costs that destroy it. Of course the looming threat of legal action and the lawyers fantasizing about sleazy profits from the TPP will come into play. All parties will be scrutinized while calculating who is the easy prey.
    I hate lawyers….

  2. So what you’re saying is that if you’re an already established professional cosplayer, you’re fine. But if you’re just barely emerging into the business, good luck?

  3. This article is written with as much blind faith as near sightedness can achieve. One could argue that the Jews were too big to enforce but Hitler found a way. If the national guard showed up at a convention and said “none shall pass”, do you think the show would go on?

    Using words like “not likely”, “will probably” & “how on earth” demonstrate the authors willingness to make assumptions and not state fact or conduct research. Scary really.

    When draconian laws with one world connotations are passed, people should be concerned.

    It seems that the only thing that people learn from history is that few people learn anything from history.

  4. Hi. I’m the original photographer of the headline picture above, who’s copyright was technically (indeed literally) violated when this article decided to use it as a headline without seeking my permission. It’s okay though, I’m certainly going to allow this one because I think the subject is worthy of discussion and perhaps my instance demonstrates how easy it is to fall foul of existing copyright laws – even when not attempting to profit by the action.

    Interestingly, the image (above) used for this article was linked to a Meme webpage where this same image was labelled “Cosplay Fail” by whoever pinched it from me. What is interesting is that these three “Cosplayers” in that photograph actually WON the competition they were attending and were declared the winners by Fox Studios representatives… even over some very serious costumes by seasoned Cosplayers and 501st members that also attended the event.

    My wife is a seamstress and costume designer for film and television and she Cosplays. Today she was asked by Marvel to sign over her rights to her own likeness in images taken last weekend at a Convention where she was photographed in a Marvel costume she had made. The contract/waiver asks her to “relinquish all rights to her own likeness” without limiting these rights to the specific image or costume. By agreeing, she dismisses any right to claim compensation in any form from the future use of her likeness. The Marvel release/contract even reserved the right to any potential “exploitation” of her likeness without reimbursement. I’ve suggested that she re-word the contract and send it back to them. Neither of us like the idea of her likeness showing up someplace without her approval. The fact that another photographer took the image complicates the situation even further.

    My opinion may be unpopular, but whilst I believe that Cosplayers should be able to dress however they like, it’s a different thing when they sell autographed pictures of themselves dressed in ANY type of identifiable costume. That’s literally actionable by the copyright holder should they wish to sue. So-called “Professional Cosplayers” are certainly in violation of copyright laws by generating income and financial benefit through another artist’s (or copyright holder’s) creation. The same applies to artwork sold in “Artist Alley” in most convention halls. Those people crafting plush Daleks and selling T-Shirts at T-Fury are the most obvious offenders. An exception is “satire” in some instances. But the Cosplayers selling prints of themselves in costume are literally breaking the laws enacted to protect the creative rights-holders.

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