Thursday, February 7, 2008

I Hate it When I'm Right:

I must be psychic.

Why I am worried, and you should be too:

SiamGX, a regular contributor to many things involving Cosplay, not to mention many a commercial anime endeavor, the host of Anime Select’s first Tokyo Reporter series, our very own !Pon itself, and participant in the New York episode of Cool Japan has just had just had his Youtube account Ban-hammered hard. Now taking into account that much of Youtube contains pieces of video which violate some nebulous copyright regulation in some form or another this might seem nothing but a culling of various videos for new owner Google to show the rest of the IP world that they are serious about protecting profits while at the same time allowing the gobs of web traffic to flow free enough to keep the advertising revenue at a good level.

Well fellow North American Otaku readers (and Cosplayers especially), as you continue to learn more about this incident you will surely see what a truly dangerous precedent this represents. The over 50 original video productions that SiamGX had made available on Youtube were nothing near the blatant violations of copyright that oh so many fansubs and AMVs embody. Yet only one was tagged and resulted in the complete destruction of the entire library of work. No, not Mortal Peep Fight with over 2 million views, no not any of the original creation “Dosanko-Gaijin” episodes… no my friends, what was the target of a “violation of copyright” flag from TV TOKYO themselves, was nothing more than a COSPLAY VIDEO. It contained no proprietary music, no pieces of animation what so ever, just people dressed up as “proprietary characters.”

Anyone who read the previous post on this blog from October 16 2007 (“Hey baby, how bout you pull your top up and show me the fine print?”) may have thought that such a era of dystopian fandom where a simple home-made costume and engaging in the Japanese-inspired tradition of “Cosplay” would be subject to a fee for the copyright holders enforced by various goon-squads, was something quite far off on the horizon of fandom, and almost impossible in these American States United, where our constitution seems to guarantee the right to dress up weird and make fools of ourselves so long as public safety is not in danger. It would seem that such a nightmare is now on the doorstep of American fandom and is being delivered by a Japanese company no less! With this action, a Japanese company no doubt steeped in the traditions and allowances of Japanese anime fandom, has made it evident that they have absolutely no intention of extending such courtesies to us across the Pacific. That company is TV Tokyo..

If this sounds almost impossible to believe, then let me summarize the very important message that was delivered at the New York Anime Festival in December of 2007 (TV Tokyo has offices here in New York by the way). A lot was said, and if you want to hear it exactly, then stop by the Ninja Consultants. As a professional in the home media and licensing business since 1996, I can tell you that there was only one thing that Japanese reps came away from that presentation with. One single impression that has now been sadly confirmed by the fall of Geneon and the seeming implosion of ADV, and that is; Japanese anime doesn’t make money in the U.S. on DVD because of the internet. That’s it. That’s all they came away with, and if you listen to the questions that the Japanese specifically asked, it becomes apparent that that specific issue was all they cared about. Once that message got in their heads, aggressive consulting companies jumped on everyone from Soujitz to TV Tokyo, VIZ to Kodansha, and “guaranteed” they could show them how to safeguard their properties on those big bad internets. In reality all they will do is feed these gullible Japanese companies basic strategies long since proven to be counter-effective and which simply serve generate resentment in existing fanbases.

Believe me, if there is one thing that Japanese companies are slow to do, it is figure out when something isn’t working. From the great gouging of Sony Pictures by Peter Guber and John Peters, to the travesty that was the American division of the Japanese talent agency Creek & River Inc, they take a very long time in realizing their methods are causing major problems in the very market they are trying to correct. Major problems which will hurt their bottom line and drive people out of a lifestyle that they love.

This dangerous precedent of successfully arguing copyright infringement over simply wearing a costume has now been set. First it will be the high-profile cosplay videos and fan generated Cosplay-content web-sites that are forced down for fear that they are somehow detracting from the content which is being sold as a home media product, and that has already begun. If this goes on unopposed, the conventions themselves that will come under pressure to control and regulate the costumes you chose to wear to their events. Pressure exhorted on conventions to deny entry to cosplayers based on their choice of costume, and to limit or even exclude all together cosplay events by the Japanese rights holders of the characters themselves, will be great enough that the impact of that pressure will most assuredly be felt.

I have cosplayed once in my entire life over 10 years ago, and don’t intend to ever again really, but that does not mean that I am simply as shocked as I can possibly be, that this development has happened so unexpectedly and to such a rapidly growing area of the fandom. If you do nothing, I fear for my Cosplay friends.

You didn't read the fine print kid.


Daryl Surat said...

Cosplay is being eradicated, you say?

FANTASTIC. Today is truly a wonderful day. Decades now have I rallied against the venomous cosplague that has infected fandom like an attention-whoring cancer, and it finally has paid off. I eagerly welcome the day when the cosplayers are restricted, corralled, and excluded with open arms.

I love it when you're right.

Anonymous said...

best day all time all my life

TheL.O. said...

HUZZAH! This is great new my friends! Now lets just take it one step further and completely get rid of it!

Anonymous said...

Way to make people worried over nothing. If Japanese companies really thought cosplay was copyright infringement, they would have shut down the cosplay contests at their own Japanese events and they haven't.

The Angry Otaku said...

Ah so people do read this thing.

Well, to respond to some comments:

I don't like to cosplay, simply doing it once a decade ago was enough. Cosplayers and the freaks who just have to take photos of them, muck up hallways at cons and the under 18 weebos who don't know how to act properly in public and lack an ability to tell when they are inconveniencing otaku society as a whole, are almost unbearable, and many otaku actively distance themselves from such elements as best they can. But if you subscribe to the above belief, you still shouldn't be happy about this and I'll tell you why.

You can hate cosplay and hope for its demise, that's fine as it would simply be an example of the ongoing internal evolution of fan culture. But make no mistake, what is happening in the situation mentioned here is very much Bad-For-Business, and I don't mean the cosplay business, anime convention business, or something ridiculous like that.

A video taken down, because the copyright violation is one of a Cosplayer violating a character right, does strike a dangerous precedent and opens the door to such a nebulous gray area of selective enforcement such as nothing with a positive financial impact shall ever be manifest.

This is a very NEW tactic which it would seem Japanese companies are implementing, hence my shock and constant noting that this seems to be the first time it's been carried out. In specific reference to Anon #2 to think that this would happen in Japan first or happen there at all simply is another example of applying colloquial reasoning to a very complex situation, something I railed against in my post from Feb 06 2008, yet continue to lament not having the power to correct. The reason one has not seen, nor will they see, any of this type of behavior carried out in the Japanese market stems from a trifecta of causalities which I shall list here in order of relevance from least to greatest. First; this kind of thing actually does happen there in many cases but you just won't see it. The use of anime characters for commercial purposes such as advertising is more prevalent in Japan than anywhere else in the world and as such is regulated and scrutinized to the point where the occasional faux pas that occurs outside the heavy self-regulation is not something you’ll hear about unless you are on regular terms with the legal department of Takara. Secondly, the Japanese market has generated a consistent and established set of legal precedents which have allowed for more freedom in what fandom can do, from get married in cosplay to sell hundreds of g-kits, doujinshi, or whatever, without a single point going back to the company, and even produce and buy those lovely mosaiced pr0n tapes of chicks dressed up as Cuty Honey getting nailed by some faceless dude all set to no music whatsoever. The regulations or lack thereof simply allow for these tings to happen and they’ve been happening for years while that market has evolved, and that has a direct impact on the Third and most relevant causality which is the revelation at ICv2. Speaking to the Japanese reps after this thing was over, in an aggressive attempt to start opening them up to new licensing strategies instead of continue to concentrate on home media, I was painfully aware that there was only one thing going through their heads. That notion was that they internets were so bad in America because of that big bad internet and those kids downloading stuff. In their mind, every download was a missed sale, and not an open opportunity for the sale of non DVD products. You have to understand that the way the “internet” is accessed in Japan is so fundamentally different than it is in American households that to put it as simply as possible all you can say is that the Japanese internet is used by Japanese mostly to talk to other Japanese via text and voice, and perhaps buy the occasional ting off of or read news about the world. The thought of using it to download video entertainment, and leaving an electricity gobbling computer on for extended hours is just something that simply is not done over there, at least not to the point where it could effect a national market for animated entertainment and the other media (such as manga) that goes with it. Unless you have lived over there in a typical setting, or have studied sociology to an extreme extent there is simply no better way to explain this.

It is this third causality that is the dangerous one, and the one that apparently leads to a diametrically opposed way of doing things, as well as a more active role by the Japanese companies to “protect their IP” in an effort to help American home media companies. Of course this effort comes off you smart people like you and I, as misguided good intentions at best, and potentially devastating at worst.

Now of course it is the Cosplayers themselves who have to take some blame for this happening. Their massive presence at anime conventions throughout North America has lead to the false impression that the market is much bigger than it is. Once again we run into a problem of a fundamental lack of understanding between two groups but this time it is the Japanese corporate entities which misinturprate. From a Japanese perspectiove seeing hoards of people willing to dress up in public as an anime character surely means all of those people would surely do something as less hard-core as buy a DVD, so for every 1 Naruto cosplayer at Otakon you can count on 3 DVD sales. Sadly there is a laundry list of why this thinking is wrong, from the average age and subsequent disposable income level of those being observed, to the obvious conclusions one is innately aware of if one has intimate knowledge of the American Market specifically.

The Japanese are becoming convinced that loking away from DVD right now would be “abandoning ship” and probably will trying to “fix the internet” so that their licenses earn those mountains of money they were supposed to, via DVD sales alone. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

The Angry Otaku said...

Oh. looks like I Killed It. If no one wants to read that tl;dr thing, that's fine. I wouldn't...

eeeper said...

Hey since anime isn't bringing in the millions and millions(of Yen) that the Japanese were obviously making last year, they've gotta make that paper somehow.

Think about it. Tomorrow TV Tokyo could announce that from Monday all Kanon cosplayers in Japan had to pay $5,000 in order to continue cosplaying as their favourite moronic characters. You betcha your last C-note there's be a line longer than the Red Sea outside T-TV's offices the next day. Only 50% of the kids outside will have cashed their parents life savings.

OK, follow the stupid logic. "Our customer base is willing to pay these fees. The American fanbase has even more money and they've been getting it for free! And not asking our permission! Quick! Call the people who run the internet! Why the hell didn't we see this before!?! Who was in charge of the licensing department? Yoshi? Yoshi, your arse is SSSOOOO FIRED!"

The Angry Otaku said...

Well nobody was making "millions," they were just expecting to and it never happened. I'd be pissed off too.

Eeeper said...

James, you can catch me at my gmail address, eeeperschoice. Sorry I meant to post with my blogger ID but was still logged in to my LJ