Japanese and overseas communities have reacted to YouTube disabling U.S. access to content, as Google pressures Japanese labels and rights-holders to sign up for paid service YouTube Red.
In Japan, where copyright laws are much stricter than those of many other countries, it’s not uncommon for new music releases to only get partial airplay on the radio or a short promotional video as a means to prevent piracy. Marketing methods like these, along with including special CD-only merchandise or perks, have contributed to CD sales still making up the majority of Japan’s total music sales, despite the format slowly becoming obsolete worldwide. No doubt this is one reason why the country got off to a much slower start when it came to embracing free online streaming sites, such as YouTube, and capitalizing on the global market the way K-pop set out to do.
But just when it felt like more and more Japanese companies were finally jumping on the YouTube bandwagon, the video-sharing behemoth decided to roll out YouTube Red, a premium, ad-free subscription service that includes the ability to view videos offline or download them to your mobile device for up to 30 days.
Although YouTube claims that they have 99% of creators on board with the new subscription-based system, unfortunately a large number of Japanese labels are part of the one percent that has yet to sign on, and as a result their content is now unavailable to American fans—a development with came as quite a blow to fans of Japanese music in the U.S.
While fans have the option of choosing whether they would like to keep watching free videos with ads or upgrade to a more optimized viewing experience, if creators want to keep making revenue from their content, they have no choice but to agree to the new YouTube Red system.
Some labels have yet to respond to YouTube’s requests, and until they sign on, their content has been region-locked from American viewers.
Here’s an incomplete list of labels that have yet to agree to YouTube Red’s terms:
Nippon Columbia (J-pop, rock artists) Sony Music Japan (J-pop, rock, visual kei artists) AKS (AKB48 and sister groups except NMB48) Up-Front/zetima (Hello!Project groups) Pony Canyon (male and female idol groups, J-pop artists) P-Vine (J-pop, blues, jazz, and punk artists) Teichiku (Japanese enka, kayokyoku artists) Danger Crue (J-rock, visual kei artists) Stardust (J-pop artists, including Momoiro Clover Z) Dreamusic (J-pop artists) Zankyo Record (J-pop, rock, and jazz artists) Dir en grey (and possibly other bands managed by Free Will)
Avex (J-pop, rock artists) Universal Music Japan TOY’S FACTORY (Idols and J-pop artists, including BABYMETAL) A-Sketch (J-rock artists, including ONE OK ROCK) HIP LAND MUSIC (most artists)
This is problematic for Japan, since offering offline viewing and downloading capabilities isn’t something that Japanese streaming services are familiar with, and it makes it harder for Japanese companies to monitor when, where, and how content is being used in accordance to Japanese copyright laws.
Unfortunately it not only affects labels that create content, but also labels without license rights, such as Sega’s Hatsune Miku Channel, which posts Vocaloid music owned by Incstoenter.
But unlike regular music content, the Vocaloid community thrives mostly on user-created content made from Vocaloid software, and a number of U.S.-based Vocaloid content creators are also suffering as a result. Many fans say they now plan to move over to Niconico Douga, Japan’s leading video-sharing site, to get their Vocaloid fix, but for creators this could seriously damage their viewership numbers.
Recently the Japanese Vocaloid community caught wind of the issue, and many of their reactions have been less than sympathetic.
“Isn’t this good news for Japan?” “This is great opportunity for Niconico to get more popular in America.” “What’s the big deal? They should just move to another platform.” “This is all the work of other Asian countries that are anti-Japan. They’re trying to get Japanese culture content removed.” “I hope they block more and more anime. They should put a stop to illegal streaming. If they want to see it, they should pay for it.”
Because copyright policies are so strict in Japan, it may just be a matter of waiting for labels to sort through YouTube Red’s new agreement before content is restored, like with Victor Entertainment. Still, considering how most Japanese labels are reluctant to sign other similar services such as Spotify, there’s a chance that many will not.
For the time being, since YouTube Red is only available in the U.S., and therefore only affects American users, Google has plans to expand the service to other international markets from 2016. At that point, only time will tell whether Japanese music-related content will still be available in your country or not.
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