Police Arrest Japanese YouTuber for Uploading Gameplay, Anime Footage
posted on by Rafael Antonio Pineda
Miyagi Prefectural Police as well as police from the Miyagi town of Minamisanriku arrested a 52-year-old man and YouTuber in Nagoya City on Wednesday on suspicion of violating the Copyright Act by allegedly uploading gameplay footage of visual novels, as well as footage of anime. The Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA) organization noted in its own announcement of the arrest that this is the first arrest in Japan made over an upload or stream of game footage.
According to police, the suspect uploaded footage of Nitroplus' Steins;Gate: My Darling's Embrace game, earning money from the video's ad monetization. The suspect reportedly also edited and uploaded footage from the Steins;Gate and Spy×Family anime with subtitles and narration. According to Kadokawa (the rights holder for Steins;Gate, among others), the suspect had been uploading footage of other anime since 2019. The video that allegedly violated Nitroplus and Kadokawa's guidelines is reportedly an almost hour-long "Jikkyō Play" (somewhat analogous to "Let's Play" videos in the English-speaking sphere) video.
In recent years, some Japanese YouTube users have uploaded "fast content" or "fast movies" — short videos that summarize movies or series with actual footage, edited with subtitles and narration. Nikkei puts the amount of viewers of Jikkyō Play or Let's Play style videos as over 800 million worldwide.
Media companies and game developers often set guidelines for how much and which sections of their games content creators are allowed to stream or upload, and which content is allowed to be monetized, though there is as-yet no industry-wide standard, and developers often create guidelines on a per-game basis. Such guidelines are created both to discourage spoiler content, as well as prevent content creators from uploading story content in a story-heavy game and profiting off of it. Spike Chunsoft has previously set extremely specific guidelines on their Danganronpa games which specify exact game events, such as "until the first chapter," or "until you have your seventh ally." Still other companies forbid streaming of certain story content 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 may forbid streaming or screenshotting of the entire game. Functions within the game consoles themselves allow developers to prevent users from recording or screenshotting the game during such times in the game.
On the other hand, other companies and games only have very loose guidelines on gameplay footage uploads and monetization. This is common in action games or other combat-heavy games where user input makes gameplay footage original to the content creator. Companies such as CAPCOM have often allowed monetization of such footage from their Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, or Devil May Cry series, and Nintendo allows monetization of gameplay footage as long as the content creator is part of the YouTube Partner Program (Nintendo previously had a more restrictive Creator's Program in place from 2015 to 2018).
CODA is a trade association comprised of some of Japan's biggest entertainment, media, and publishing companies, aims to reduce worldwide piracy and actively promote the international distribution of Japanese content. CODA includes 32 Japanese companies such as Kodansha, Shueisha, Shogakukan, Aniplex, Kadokawa, Sunrise, Studio Ghibli, Bandai Namco Arts, Pony Canyon, Toei Animation, and more. Companies and organizations from over 13 countries formed the International Anti-Piracy Organization (IAPO) in April 2022, with CODA, the Motion Picture Association of the United States (which has six members including Sony Pictures and Netflix), and approximately 450 members of the Copyright Society of China at the center of the new organization.
Japan's parliament enacted a proposed revised copyright law in June 2020 to expand the law to punish those who knowingly download illegally uploaded or pirated manga, magazines, and academic works. The revised law went into effect in January 2021. The revision also banned "leech sites" that aggregate and provide hyperlinks to pirated media starting in October 2020.
Update: Clarified the "800 million" number as viewers of Let's Play videos worldwide, instead of the suspect's videos. Thanks, Icey.
Sources: Nikkei, via Yaraon!, CODA, PR Times
Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.
Disclosure: Bandai Namco Filmworks Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., is a non-controlling, minority shareholder in Anime News Network Inc.
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