After his arrest went viral in May, a Japanese YouTuber has just been sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of one million yen, 6,337 euros at the current exchange rate, for uploading videos and streaming games as Steins;Gate and animes like Spy x Family. It is the first time in the history of Japan that a sentence like this has been reached.
What happened? Shinobu Yoshida is a 53-year-old YouTuber who already made headlines in the West after learning of his arrest last May. He was accused of profiting from copyrighted content by uploading video game videos like Steins; Gate to YouTube on a channel full of other examples of what is commonly known as “fast content.”
Now a Japanese court has just sentenced him to two years in prison with a five-year suspended sentence and a fine of one million yen, more than 6,000 euros at the exchange rate, for sharing three videos on YouTube without prior permission between September 2019 and May. 2022 and including spoilers and edited fragments.
The key is in the “fast content”. The idea behind this type of videos, with much more lax legislation in the West compared to Japan, is to offer you a summary of a movie, series or game by showing images of it while its own narration explains what happens and offering additional details to put you in context.
The summary of a season of a series would be the clearest example that you can find on YouTube, and channels like Movie Recaps have made movie summaries an art for the platform’s algorithm, but videos like The Let’s Play in which, based on fragments of gameplay and edited cuts, someone explains what is found in a video game from beginning to end.
The judgment of spoilers. After acknowledging at the beginning of August that it knew it was infringing copyright but that it continued to do so because of what it meant in terms of profits, the Japanese agency CODA (Content Overseas Distribution Agency), which filed the complaint, now assures that these types of videos are a copyright problem that affects owners and users alike.
“CODA views this decision as an important achievement in preventing the further spread of harm caused by the publication of gameplay that violates the publishing guidelines and has recently become a problem.
Similarly, the unauthorized use of cartoon “quick content,” in which the creators have invested time, effort and money to obtain unjustified advertising revenue, should not be tolerated.
Furthermore, publishing content that contains spoilers exposes the core of a narrative work, and the damage and impact on rights holders can be enormous.”
Yoshida will not go to prison. Although the prosecution demanded two years in prison and a fine for being “a malicious act that tramples on the effort of content production,” the suspended sentence will prevent him from being automatically imprisoned. The YouTuber should not go to prison unless he commits a crime during the next five years.
Lines of action regarding the publication of content, like the one we link to, are common in Japan. It is common to complain about not publishing gameplays after a certain chapter or that Vtubers ask the brand for permission to be able to play the game live. In any case, the monetization of the videos seems to have been key in aggravating a sentence that sets a complex precedent for Japanese YouTubers.
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