On Wednesday, the Miyagi Prefectural Police (Japan), in collaboration with the police from Minamisanriku town in Miyagi, apprehended a 52-year-old man who is also a YouTuber in Nagoya City. The arrest is based on suspicions of infringing the Copyright Act, as the individual allegedly uploaded gameplay footage of visual novels and anime content. This significant event marks the first arrest in Japan related to the upload or streaming of game footage, as acknowledged by the Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA) in their official statement regarding the arrest.
Japan Police Arrest YouTuber for Uploading Gameplay and Anime Scene
According to the police, an individual has been sharing videos on the internet that feature gameplay footage from Nitroplus’ Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace game, and they have been earning money through advertisements displayed on these videos. Additionally, the suspect has reportedly edited and uploaded footage from the Steins;Gate and Spy×Family anime, complete with subtitles and narration. Kadokawa, the rights holder for Steins;Gate and other properties, has stated that the suspect has been uploading videos of various anime since 2019.
The specific video that allegedly violated the guidelines set by Nitroplus and Kadokawa is said to be an almost hour-long “Jikkyō Play” video, which is similar to “Let’s Play” videos popular in the English-speaking online community. This particular video has amassed over 800,000,000 views. In recent years, some Japanese YouTube users have been creating what is known as “fast content” or “fast movies.” These are short videos that summarize movies or TV series using actual footage, edited with subtitles and narration.
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Media companies and game developers often establish guidelines regarding the streaming and uploading of their game content by creators, as well as the monetization of such content. However, there is currently no industry-wide standard for these guidelines, and developers typically create them on a per-game basis. These guidelines are intended to discourage the sharing of spoilers and prevent content creators from profiting off story-heavy games by uploading significant story content. For example, Spike Chunsoft has previously issued highly specific guidelines for their Danganronpa games, specifying events like “until the first chapter” or “until you have your seventh ally.” Other companies have varying degrees of restrictions on streaming or sharing certain story content or interface elements. Some examples include Aniplex and Type-Moon’s recent visual novels, Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- and Witch on the Holy Night, Atlus’ Persona series, and Bandai Namco Entertainment’s Tales series, some of which may prohibit the streaming or screenshotting of the entire game. Game consoles themselves often provide features that allow developers to restrict recording or capturing screenshots during specific parts of the game.
On the other hand, there are companies and games that have more relaxed guidelines when it comes to gameplay footage uploads and monetization. This is especially true for action games or combat-heavy titles, where user input and individual playthroughs make the content created by the uploader unique. Companies like CAPCOM have often permitted the monetization of gameplay footage from their games such as Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, and Devil May Cry. Nintendo allows monetization of gameplay footage as long as the content creator is part of the YouTube Partner Program (previously, Nintendo had a more restrictive Creator’s Program in place from 2015 to 2018).
CODA, a trade association consisting of major entertainment, media, and publishing companies in Japan, has a goal of combating worldwide piracy and actively promoting 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, and Toei Animation, among others. In April 2022, the International Anti-Piracy Organization (IAPO) was formed, comprising companies and organizations from over 13 countries. CODA, the Motion Picture Association of the United States, and approximately 450 members of the Copyright Society of China are key participants in this new organization.
In June 2020, Japan’s parliament passed a revised copyright law to expand its scope, specifically targeting individuals who knowingly download illegally uploaded or pirated manga, magazines, and academic works. The revised law came into effect in January 2021. The revision also included a ban on “leech sites,” which aggregate and provide hyperlinks to pirated media, starting from October 2020.