Two top visual novel publishers have threatened anyone who posts gameplay videos of their games with legal action, claiming it is copyright infringement and akin to piracy.
Makers Visual Arts (having just released popular lolicon title Kudo Wafter) and Aquaplus (White Album) are warning players that uploading videos of their games to sites like NicoNico Douga constitutes copyright infringement and that they face years in jail and huge fines for unauthorised distribution if they disobey company demands that they cease uploading.
A number of other game publishers have in recent months been grumbling of people redistributing footage of their games, and the problem is felt to be particularly acute for visual novel publishers – these titles are games in name only and a video essentially duplicates the entirety of the “play” experience, removing, it is argued, the need to actually buy the game as surely as if the game itself had been offered up for download.
The eroge industry in particular is especially sensitive here, as it is apparently already suffering massive piracy rates, although many of the complaints in this instance actually came from annoyed players reporting videos posted to NicoNico Douga.
On the other hand, allowing copyright holders to claim copyright violation over mere images of their games sets a rather dangerous precedent – critical videos and images of their products could become the grounds for suppression and even legal action designed to quash damaging information about games, such as bugs or inferior gameplay.
This may not be a problem in places with robust “fair use” legal doctrines like the US, but although Japan has similar statutes apparently no court has ever actually accepted a fair use plea, which when coupled with the spineless tendency of most Japanese to roll over for any institution suggests potential for abuse is rife.