In a world where anyone can publish anything to the world, copyright and ownership of content has become an increasingly interesting, complex and controversial field.
In Australia, a work is copyrighted as soon as it is created. Every drawing, song, story, sculpture, multimedia creation – all are copyrighted, unless the creator chooses to release some of their rights, under a Creative Commons licence (read more about Creative Commons at the Copyright Copyleft wiki, which I created to help educators understand these issues).
Today, Cory Doctorow reported in the Boing Boing blog that Nintendo has chosen to claim ownership over gamer fanvids on YouTube. What does this mean, and why am I blogging about it?
Put simply, many keen Nintendo players create fanvids, commonly known as ‘let’s play’ videos which are basically videos that show them playing a particular game. In these videos, they share tips, easter eggs (hidden extras), show off their skills and generally contribute to the gamer community. An example of a let’s play fanvid is below:
As Doctorow notes, at the moment a search for ‘let’s play’ on YouTube brings up over 9 million videos, many of which have been created by at home gamers. Although these videos have been created by the gamers, they are based on content that belongs to Nintendo, and Nintendo has decided to monetize these videos by placing advertising around, before or after the videos, income from which will flow to Nintendo, rather than the owner of the video.
This decision has set the gamer community alight; they acknowledge that Nintendo is within its legal right to do this, but question whether it is a sensible move to upset so many gamers; you can hear more of this discussion here.
There is no doubt that now Nintendo has made this move, others will follow. In fact some gaming consoles actually have the capacity to record the game as it is played built in.
The concept of fanvids and fanfiction is not new, or limited to video games. In fact, in Japan, it is a major industry.
Known as Dōjinshi, this fan fiction, based on popular manga series, is so well accepted it is sold at major events, the best known of which is Comiket, the most recent of which attracted over 560 000 visitors. Unlike in many western countries, where fanfiction is seen as a breach of copyright, in Japan it is tacitly accepted as a source of marketing for the ‘official’ publications, and as a breeding ground for discovering new upcoming manga artists.
It seems like Nintendo wishes for its gamer fans to see their move as one which promotes co-existence, similar to the dojinshi model – after all, they aren’t banning videos which contains their content, they are simply profiting from it. From the gamers’ perspective, their videos are not replicating the game, as every player will have a unique experience – they are simply sharing their own.
We will increasingly see issues of ownership of content arising, as technology allows us to remix content and publish it online – and concepts such as copyright, intellectual property and creative commons need to be in the forefront of every content creator’s mind. If you are interested in learning more about this, a great place to start is Bound by Law, a graphic novel available for free download or for purchase through Amazon, which explores the concepts of copyright, intellectual property and fair use in a digital remix culture. It is a fantastic read, and educational to boot!
Produced by Duke Centre for the Study of the Public Domain.