In a groundbreaking development, the Miyagi Prefectural Police, in collaboration with the Minamisanriku police department, apprehended a 52-year-old man and YouTuber in Nagoya City on Wednesday. The arrest was made on suspicion of violating the Copyright Act by allegedly uploading gameplay footage of visual novels and anime. Notably, this marks the first arrest in Japan relating to the upload or streaming of game footage.
According to law enforcement officials, the suspect had uploaded videos showcasing Nitroplus’ Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace game, thereby generating revenue through ad monetization. Additionally, the individual edited and shared footage from the Steins;Gate and Spy×Family anime, complete with subtitles and narration. Kadokawa, the rights holder for Steins;Gate, revealed that the suspect had been uploading unauthorized footage of various anime since 2019. The specific video in question, an almost hour-long “Jikkyō Play” (comparable to “Let’s Play” videos in English-speaking circles), amassed a staggering 800,000,000 views.
The emergence of “fast content” or “fast movies” on Japanese YouTube channels has garnered attention in recent years. These short videos summarize movies or series using actual footage, meticulously edited with subtitles and narration.
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To regulate the usage of their content, media companies and game developers often establish guidelines dictating the extent and sections of games that content creators can stream or upload, as well as the permissible monetization of such content. However, there is currently no standardized industry-wide framework, with guidelines typically tailored on a per-game basis. These guidelines aim to discourage spoilers and prevent content creators from profiting off story-heavy games by uploading crucial narrative content. Notably, Spike Chunsoft has issued highly specific guidelines for their Danganronpa games, specifying events such as “until the first chapter” or “until you have your seventh ally.” Other companies restrict streaming of particular story segments or interface elements to varying degrees, such as Aniplex and Type-Moon’s recent release of the Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- and Witch on the Holy Night visual novels, Atlus’ Persona series, and Bandai Namco Entertainment’s Tales series, some of which even prohibit streaming or screenshotting of the entire game. Game consoles themselves feature functions that allow developers to restrict recording or capturing screenshots during such critical moments.
Conversely, some companies and games adopt more lenient guidelines concerning gameplay footage uploads and monetization. This leniency is commonly observed in action or combat-heavy games where the content creator’s input leads to unique gameplay footage. CAPCOM, for example, has frequently permitted the monetization of footage from their Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, and Devil May Cry series. Nintendo also allows monetization of gameplay footage for content creators who are part of the YouTube Partner Program, following their previous, more restrictive Creator’s Program that was active from 2015 to 2018.
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The Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA), an organization consisting of major entertainment, media, and publishing companies in Japan, plays a pivotal role in combatting piracy and promoting the international distribution of Japanese content. CODA’s membership includes prominent entities such as Kodansha, Shueisha, Shogakukan, Aniplex, Kadokawa, Sunrise, Studio Ghibli, Bandai Namco Arts, Pony Canyon, and Toei Animation. In April 2022, CODA, along with the Motion Picture Association of the United States (which includes Sony Pictures and Netflix), and approximately 450 members of the Copyright Society of China, spearheaded the formation of the International Anti-Piracy Organization (IAPO), which comprises companies and organizations from over 13 countries.
In a bid to strengthen copyright enforcement, Japan’s parliament passed a revised copyright law in June 2020. This amendment expanded the law to penalize individuals who knowingly download illegally uploaded or pirated manga, magazines, and academic works. The revised law came into effect in January 2021, concurrently outlawing “leech sites” that aggregate and provide hyperlinks to pirated media starting October 2020.
The arrest of the YouTuber in Nagoya City serves as a significant milestone in Japan’s efforts to combat copyright infringement, shedding light on the evolving landscape of content usage and distribution in the digital era.
Source – CODA, PR Times, Nikkei, via Yaraon!