Those who frequently visit YouTube are familiar with the copyright claims from many different parties who take down videos. But the Japanese ones are an even more interesting case.
Copyright is a law that protects intellectual property for a limited time. Copyright exist to compensate the creator for the work he or she has created. Examples are musicians, photographers, moviemakers, but also studios who create intellectual property. They have the right to earn money on the products they’ve created. But times are changing and media consumption has taken other more dynamic forms. Companies are trying their best to make sure they get each and every penny from the spread works.
While this is not the case for all companies and I don’t try to argue that copyright is nonsense. Though the fact remains that in the long run letting go of strict copyright laws can help your own product. Giving people the possibility to search your product, experience it to some extent and share it, creates advertising. It creates brand ambassadors that promote the product.
This post was triggered because I wanted to search the full length version of the Nagi no Asakura opening song, obviously one of the best openings in anime in the 2013 Fall Season if not the whole year. To my not so surprise, the song was copyrighted in a video. The sound was muted and I even couldn’t relive the about 1.30 minute piece. This wasn’t the only case. I had a soundtrack playlist a while back and one day almost everything was deleted, it was claimed by the copyright holder.
A lot of companies have learned that banning all outings of your product will limit the exposure and a large consumer group will turn against you. Companies like Ubisoft and Activision have learned that banning people from posting gaming videos will work against you. When people create content around your product, it will create exposure.
Those are mainly Western companies. Japanese companies have apparently not yet discovered the internet, at least not its full potential. They ban and claim every media product that belongs to them on sites such as YouTube. From pieces of video to audio, they get ‘confiscated’ by the copyright holders. This creates displeasure with consumers, but also limits the overseas exposure. Leaving the content as it is, gives opportunity for more exposure and while the actual product might not be sold, merchandise and the likes can take flight and generate revenue. But why do Japanese firms copyright all the content?
To give answer to that, you must take the domestic market into account. Traditional sales in Japan still generate revenue some way or another. While Western companies have experienced it first hand, some of them have realized that there has to be another business model because of dropping sales. And some of them want to remain in the 1960’s. While Japan is technology wise very developed, media distribution is still pretty traditional.
The most clear example of the traditional thinking I can give, are the odd cell phones over in Japan. They look like phones we know from before the IPhone era. Apple has brought change to the Japanese market, but it’s an indication that media consumption is still traditional. There is no real need to innovate, because the products still sell.
This way of thinking doesn’t stimulate to innovate or experiment. There are services like NicoNico that provide some digital alternative. Licensing is a, though traditional, way to expose your product to a wider audience. I believe that to gain ground oversees and gaining more revenue, is to allow certain content to be tolerated, get it on the radar of more people and create those fans you are looking for.