Strict Japanese laws against uploading footage of video games has seen the first ever arrest, for someone who streamed all of Steins;Gate.
Although content for movies and music is closely monitored on YouTube and Twitch there are almost no restrictions over what you show for video games, despite them also being copyrighted property. Or at least that’s the case in the West, but not so much in Japan.
Japanese laws haven’t caught up with the advent of Let’s Play and streamer content and it’s still illegal to stream or upload any video game without the publisher’s permission. This is rarely enforced, as most publishers recognise it’s good advertising, but one has drawn the line when it comes to visual novels.
Visual novels are basically digital books, with little or no interactivity, so uploading a playthrough is a much bigger deal for them, since you’d essentially be seeing the whole thing and there’d be little point buying the game after.
Steins;Gate is a particularly popular franchise in Japan (in the West visual novels are very niche and most of the more successful examples, like Ace Attorney, are atypically interactive for the genre) and it’s at the centre of a peculiar new legal drama.
52-year-old Shinobu Yoshida has gained the dubious honour of being the first person ever to be arrested for uploading video game footage, after he posted a stream of him playing Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace to YouTube.
The game was initially released in 2011 (on Xbox 360, of all things) and has subsequently been ported to various other formats. Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC editions came out in 2019 – the only versions of the game to be released in the West.
Not only do the uploads make it pointless to buy the game if you watch them but Yoshida was earning money from ad revenue, which seems to have been the final straw for publisher Mages – which is owned by FromSoftware parent company Kadokawa Corporation.
According to Japan Today he uploaded three separate videos, with the other two being for the Steins;Gate anime and the unrelated Spy x Family. The two animes were not complete episodes, and purposefully did not include the endings, which seems to imply he thought they were working under different rules than the game.
Or then again maybe not, since apparently he’s admitted to his crime and stated that: ‘I knew it was illegal, even as I was doing it.’
He’s probably already wishing Phoenix Wright wasn’t a fictional character. Although he’ll probably get away with a fine equivalent to around £900.
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First appear at YouTuber is first man to be arrested in Japan for posting video games clips