Summary of Save Miku - May 2012Edit

Executive summary: a very short versionEdit

Japanese authors usually upload Vocaloid videos to NicoNicoDouga (aka "Nico"). This site is hard to use for overseas fans, so people often reupload to YouTube. Fan subtitled translations nearly always end up on YouTube, not Nico.

In late 2011 and early 2012, many translated Vocaloid videos started disappearing from YouTube. Someone claimed some videos violated their copyright, so YouTube deleted the videos. It also deleted uploader accounts that had many other videos.

Japanese fans responded with the initial "Save Miku!" campaign. They called uploaders to file counter-claims to YouTube, so that accounts would be restored. The videos of the campaign were very popular, and Western fans created much fan art on the "Save Miku" theme. But nearly no counter-claims were filed.

It turned out that Western uploaders were not sure of the copyright status of the Vocaloid works. And many of them did not have enough understanding of the Japanese language to find out. And in a counter-claim one has to state "under threat of perjury" that they have the permission to upload.

Moreover, some producers were actually against such reuploads - especially because some translations were very bad. These producers did not like the "Save Miku" campaign, because it seemed to support copying and translation with no respect for copyright. The Japanese Save Miku Wiki was in the center of very hot debate, and eventually closed. (It is now being reconstructed with new names, but needs more people to help).

In the meantime, this English-language "Save Miku Overseas" Wiki was founded. We wanted to investigate the actual copyright situation and the fraudulent claims. This is now one of the original and longest-running "Save Miku" communities; some of the original Japanese materials were saved and translated here.

English speakers and Japanese speakers collaborated on this Wiki. Over the months, we found the following main points:

  • Most copyright claims were, with no doubt, false. They used some obviously fake names (like "Tempura") and some names of companies that were, in reality, unrelated (like "Media Interactive").
  • Some well-known producers do allow non-commerical derivative use (like translation). But sometimes they prefer to be contacted, just to know about it. And others don't publish any text allowing it. In this case, the uploader must contact the producer to find out if reupload and translation is OK.
  • Many Vocaloid musical works are under the Piapro Character License (PCL). But this license only applies to members of the Japanese Piapro site, and if uploaders are not members, they can not use it. Also, this license sometimes applies to the music but not the video. To become a member, one needs to fill in Japanese language forms, but it is doable with automatic translation.
  • Japanese verse is complicated. When beginners in the Japanese language translate it, they often get things wrong. Also, using electronic translation produces very bad results. WIth bad subtitled translations, fans can not understand the video correctly. And original producers can be quite displeased with these translations.
  • There is a significant difference between Japanese and overseas Vocaloid fandom. In Japan, many Vocaloid fans (and especially producers) are adult and male; they often have limited Englosh, or none at all. Overseas, most Vocaloid fans are young ladies, and they usualy have no Japanese. They think in different ways and have nearly no contact with each other.

We gathered informaiton on the deleted videos and tried to establish contact with producers and uploaders. But this is not always possible, especilaly with uploaders, who will often shy away from any communication. The false claimers have managed to scare some of them.

By the end of February, as we gathered the information, the original wave of attacks has ended. It is possible that the villains understood that a wave of counter-claims could lead to their identification and perhaps even prosecution.

Some "copycat" attacks, probably by different groups, were seen later, but the feeling of "Miku going away" is no longer here. (After a Japanese contributor of Save Miku Overseas informed the Japanese police, the copycats apparently ended too, though we do not know if there was a connection. And, they could come back).

Some authors have proclaimed that the problem is solved. There were even statements that Crypton and YouTube have resolved it. But in reality, there was no Crypton statement that the problem is resolved.

There are no major attacks currently. But the root problem has not been resolved. There is no clear communication between the Japanese and overseas Vocaloid fans.

To avoid the possibility of false copyright attacks, the uploader must know the copyright terms for the video. (We summarized terms from some popular producers on this Wiki). They must also make sure the translation is good enough - one really needs the help of a Japanese person or a language expert to get it right. And it is also advisable to contact the producer, even if just by a brief note, telling them about the translation.

If the uploader is sure they did things right, they do not need to fear a false claim. They can always fie a counter-claim. But while uploads without research continue, another wave of spiteful attacks - for whatever reason - is always possible.

It is also interesting to note how the claim system is effectve for censorship. One can file a false claim - and then. even if a counter-claim is filed, the video is offline for about two weeks. Such an attack can be critical for time-sensitive videos, like political campaigns.

What is VocaloidEdit

Vocaloid is a piece of proprietary software that performs artificial singing. In theory, one just types the lyrics, sets the notes in the score, does some tuning, and hears a great song. In practice, however, the "greatness" considerably depends on the tuning skill.

Vocaloid does not really make its singing up "from scratch"; despite the name that can be read as "Vocal android", and the science fiction that the fandom often plays with, it is not a real singing robot. (That one actually does exist in Japan, is called Synsy, and sounds nice. But it is hard to tune and not very popular). Vocaloid uses phonemes recorded by a human. Different human voices are turned into different "Vocaloids", each with their own name and picture.

Yamaha decided to let other companies make Vocaloid voices using its engine. First Vocaloid releases were made in 2004 in English in Japanese, were advertised as virtual vocal instruments, and enjoyed little popularity. Then in 2007 Yamaha made the second version of the engine, and Crypton Future Media, the company doing Japanese Vocaloids, decided to market each Vocaloids based on an elaborate anime-style character. A proper Vocal Android would be created - not built, drawn, but drawn by a famous illustrator named KEI. Thus, Miku Hatsune was born, and the Vocaloid boom started.

Several Japanese companies make Vocaloids now, but Crypton is the most famous. While English Vocaloids also exist, and recently Spanish and Korean ones were added, the Japanese output is largest. As far as we know, only reuploads of Japanese works were attacked by false copyright claims. So we concentrate on these works here.

How Japanese fans create Vocaloid worksEdit

Creating a successful Vocaloid work is usually a collaborative effort. Most such works are Japanese; for them, the collaboration happens in the Japanese language on Japanese sites.

A producer, who is well skilled in music, makes the song first. Sometimes the author of the text is different from the actual producer, but many producers write their own texts.

But very few producers also do their own videos. Instead, they can publish the song, as audio, on a collaboration site; the biggest of these sites is Piapro, run by Crypton. Then, interested artists pick it up and create pictures for the video.

The result is placed on NicoNicoDouga (known as "NND" or "Nico"), the Japanese video sharing site. Unlike YouTube, Nico has commends flowing over the video (though one can turn them off). So, the viewer quickly knows the reaction of previous viewers to the video, and can add their own reaction. Each popular work turns into a kind of small community.

Sometimes, after collaborating successfully on some works, one or several producers team up with artists, video makers, and perhaps text writers to make a more permanent creative team. Then, when the producer makes a song, they know the artists will make a video for it. The most internationally famous of such teams was "supercell", which consisted of a single producer (ryo, who wrote hos own texts) and several artists. Many well known works, like "Melt" and "World is Mine", are made by supercell. Later, the group stopped using Vocaloid, but other such groups do exist.

Because of such collaboration, attitude to copyright tends to be relatively lax (when no money is made). For an outside view, it would seem that they don't care about copyright altogether, but this is often NOT the case.

For songs on Piapro, there are well defined rules of secondary use, described in the Piapro Character License (PCL). When producers upload their songs, they place them under the PCL and select some options for allowed reuse (for example: does the secondary user have to name the original author?). The PCL is in Japanese but we have done some research on it: Piapro Character License research . Importantly, the user needs to be a member of Piapro to make derivative works under PCL.

Other works can also have written rules, or not have any. But in all cases, a set of unwritten rules also applies. A good derivative work (for example, video for a song) could be "given a free pass" much easier while a bad one might incur the wrath of the producer. Other unwritten rules are linked to Japanese culture and might be hard to understand for a Western person. For example, self-promotion is discouraged strongly.

It is also noteworthy that most successful producers are adult males.

Overseas fans come in: translations and reuploads to YouTubeEdit

Western fans are drawn by the "energy" of Japanese Vocaloid works. But they are a very different crowd compared to the Japanese creators. In fact, according to YouTube statistics, most Western fans are apparently teenage and female. And, of course, they belong to a different culture and speak different languages.

They would often not be interested in grasping the finer points or etiquette. Instead, they assume that as the songs are made publicly available, and often created through free collaboration, no copyright applies (at least for non-commercial use). They brush the copyright issue aside, and concentrate on helping fellow Western fans enjoy the wonder of Japanese Vocaloid. And for that, they need to get through two hurdles.

First, NicoNicoDouga is not easy to use for non-Japanese speakers. Enbedding on non-Japanese sites is usually impossible. Even a link can not be used unless one the viewer a member - and a non-member gets a page that is all in Japanese.

There is now a workaround for linking: just use instead of in the URL; but this is a recent arrival, and stil provides no embedding. So, when Western fans want to talk about Vocaloid works on forums and blogs, they often want the works to be on YouTube. They download it from Nico and upload to YouTube. This is called "reuploading".

But even more importantly, fans are curious, and really want to know what a song is about. And most Western fans do not understand any Japanese. So they want some sort of English translation. This is usually not provided by the original author.

So, a translation is added by a fan (and, as we shall discuss later), this translation is not necessarily great). The subtitled video is then uploaded to YouTube.

The reuploaders and translators supposed that everything is fine because the work was out there for free to start with. And nobody bothers to check the real copyright status. Fans want to enjoy and help others enjoy, not to get caught up in judicial and ethical issues.

The Japanese fans, in turn, mostly just ignored the Western fandom because they were happy in their own Japanese-speaking circle.

Thus it went on for some years. Then, someone attacked.

The copyright attacks - how they work (the role of DMCA)Edit

In late 2011 and early 2012, translated Vocaloid videos suddenly started disappearing from YouTube. The YouTube pages said that the videos or accounts were deleted for copyright claims.

Most claims were false, but Google was obliged to remove videos because of an American law caled DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

According to the DMCA, any person can claim to a provider that an online material violates the person's copyright. The provider must remove the material speedily, with no due process. The person who published the material can then make a "counter-claim", and then the provider can reinstate the material. If the provider fails to remove material on a claim, the copyright holder can sue the provider.

Google implements a DMCA compliant process on YouTube. A copyright claim leads to automatic removal of the video.

If three claims arrive for videos on the same account, YouTube blocks the entire account. So, even videos for which no claim was made can be blocked. This is why so many videos disappeared. When the villains attacked three videos, an entire uploader account went down - and it could have hundreds of videos!

To restore the videos and account, the account owner has to file a counter-claim. In the counter-claim, they have to state "under threat of perjury" that they have valid rights to publish the work. "Under threat of perjury" means that, if proven wrong, they can be prosecuted as criminals.

It is interesting that accounts of the famous translator Damesukekun, who did know and state the facts about copyright, was not attacked. Quite possibly, the villains knew that many uploaders could not be sure of their rights, guaranteeing the impunity of attacks.

"Save Miku": call for counter-claims and more reuploadsEdit

The disappearing videos (attacks caused a shock in the fandom. While the originals remained safe and sound on NicoNicoDouga, Western fans suddenly lost access to many translations.

The first to react were not Westerners themselver, but sympathetic Japanese people. They came up with the "Save Miku!" slogan and the initial Save Miku promotional videos.

The text in the videos called uploaders to file counter-claims. The original text and videos can be seen here:

Soon after that, someone (possibly Western) came up with another idea. People were to download translated Vocaloid videos from YouTube and reupload from their own account. The idea was that copyright claims just would not come fast enough.

Unfortunately, neither method really worked. The reuploaders could not file counter-claims unless they knew the exact copyright terms for the videos. And they often did not have enough command of the Japanese language to find out! As for the new reuploads, without fresh information on copyright status they could not be very useful. Also, they sometimes forgot to credit the original producer - thus, creating a new problem.

"Save Miku": the sites, the "Korean" bugbear, the art, and the end of original attacksEdit

The Japanese fans first organized the original "Save Miku" wiki on AtWiki, a Japanese language engine. They collected information on which videos got deleted and issued rousing calls for protest.

Unfortunately, the discussion on the situation became very hot. It was unclear who could be doing it, and some fans were quick to blame Koreans. There is a lot of historical conflict between Japan and Korea, so Japanese-Korean flame wars are a favourite pastime of certain people on both sides (a typical pattern worldwide - compare debates on Northern Ireland).

In the informal "top tens" vote for who should sing at the Olympics at , Miku won in a hot contest with some K-Pop groups. The attacks started at about the time she gained clear victory. (Note: the vote is informal; it does not guarantee that Miku will actually sing in the Olympics in 2012). So, the suspicion was that Koreans are "attacking Miku" in revenge for her victory in the vote.

The anti-Korean flaming, sadly repeated by some news sites that just gathered information from Japanese forums, gave "Save Miku" a bad image. Also, some people (including some producers) accused "Save Miku" of supporting the breaking of copyright. The heat was too much for the original wiki and it closed. New Japanese wikis are slowly developing:

The worldwide fandom reacted with a wave of art in support of "poor persecuted Miku". Much of the art can be seen in the DeviantArt community: .There is also a big "Save Miku" Facebook group at and some smaller groups . A Web site was opened at , but never completed.

Soon after the original Japanese Wiki, a Western fan found the news on, got thoroughly lost in the Japanese Wiki (not knowing the language), and started the Overseas one at . Several Japanese people joined, and helped a lot. Some further information was gathered on, where several more Japanese people shared their information.

This Wiki appears to be the oldest surviving Save Miku community. Its aim, from the start, was to investigate the issues, and hopefully to help uploaders get the certainty they need to file counter-claims.

We did our best to bridge the language and cultural barriers. This article summarizes our findings.

"Who did it?"Edit

There is no clear information from which country or group the attacks came. They made an impression that they were from Japan, as they used some Japanese names; but this could be deliberate deception.

Our findings on the names are listed here:

Most noteworthy is the use of the name "Media Interactive, Inc". It is a real Japanese company. But it eventually wrote on its website that it had not done the requests.

However, half a year earlier, "Media Interactive" was involved in suspending the account of Lady Gaga over what may have been genuine copyright issues (the account used Japanese TV footage of her). This is where the impostors likely got the name of the company.

The real copyright situation and "producer viewpoint"Edit

Eventually, thanks to the great work from the Japanese side, we did find out the copyright permissions for works of several major producers - which in many cases, but not all, would permit translatons (with credit). What we found is listed here:

Some producers have expressed a dislike of the original "Save Miku" as they thought it called for endless free reuploading, without consulting the producer at all. Indeed, many producers prefer to be consulted if a translation is done; some others simply like to keep their work on NicNicoDouga (which they consider somewhta like their circle of friends) but not YouTube.

It is quite important for reuploaders and translators to learn to check the copyright status of works. The fact that a work is "out for free" does NOT mean it can be reuploaded and translated without limits.

The problem of bad translationsEdit

Whether or not the producer permits secondary use, a bad translation can very wel lose the original meaning of the work. While some fans can think a bad translation is better then no translation, the producer might not think so, because it distorts the meaning of what the producer wanted to say.

The current situationEdit

Around the time we found out much information about the real copyright status of Vocaloid works, the original attacks stopped. It may be a coincidence. Or it may be that they were afraid of a wave of counterclaims and eventual prosecution.

The way forwardEdit