A number of J-pop blogs on WordPress that posted links to illegal downloads have been taken down in the last couple of days. The following are recent comments I made on International Wota. They may be relevant to people who haven’t seen them there.

1.

March 6th, 2008 at 9:43 am

I think the reason for WP’s suspending the site might have been that they were embedding videos of anime shows. While technically all authorized linking to copyrighted content is against WordPress’s terms of service, some copyright owners seem to be much more active in crushing unauthorized distribution than others.

In contrast, UFW doesn’t seem to have lifted a finger all these years to do anything about the proliferation of their media content across the Interwebs. I wonder if they were just lazy, or didn’t have the resources to actively combat it, or if this was actually a conscious decision not to interfere after weighing the potential benefits and losses of letting it continue uninhibited. Certainly, if they had pulled PVs off YouTube like a number of other J-music industry entities (who might have forgotten the meaning of “promotional video”), they would never have gotten me to spill a large (and increasing) number of yen out of my wallet…

This is probably a good topic to have a deep discussion about sometime.

2.

March 6th, 2008 at 10:17 am

Some Boys! Blog’s embedded episodes of Kirarin Revolution were hosted on Google Video. I just did a search there and found nothing. Nor are the videos viewable from Google’s cache of the blog, whereas other Google videos on other WordPress blogs are visible when cached.

I’m guessing this is part of a larger TV Tokyo crackdown.

3.

March 6th, 2008 at 2:03 pm

From what I can tell, Some Boys! Blog did not actually have any unauthorized content on WordPress itself, other than cover art and lyrics, which while copyrighted, aren’t the major target of copyright-enforcing entities. The blog did have links to audio and video content on third-party sites, some of which appears to still be there. So it looks like it’s not OK (per WordPress’s ToS) to simply link to existing copyrighted material, whether or not you’re distributing it yourself. I personally don’t think an individual should be liable for putting up links to existing material (it’s often not obvious what material is legally distributed and what isn’t), but the laws and practices surrounding this are complicated.

4.

March 7th, 2008 at 2:06 pm

I’ve done a little research to try to pinpoint the origin of the WordPress shutdowns. I doubt that WP is doing it out of its own accord, but rather in response to specific DMCA takedown notices (the WordPress site specifically states that for copyright issues, they only respond to e-mailed DMCA notices, not just random users reporting illegal material). Assuming that this wave of shutdowns was initiated by a single entity, it would be useful to identify which one.

A number of J-music copyright owners have in the past made active attempts to remove illegally distributed media, and in light of my previous comment on how Up-Front Works seems not to have lifted a finger to do the same, I was curious to see if they have decided to do something now or if some other entity is responsible.

To my knowledge, the following six blogs have been shut down:

Beyond The Sea
Coconuts Crazy
Hello! Project Fantasy
Psycho Butterfly
Some Boys! Blog
What Kio Says

Browsing through the Google caches of these blogs, I’ve determined that all of them have posted links to downloads of official audio releases (as opposed to video media or radio rips) hosted on external file-sharing sites. Interestingly, Psycho Butterfly has not put up any Hello! Project downloads while What Kio Says has not put up any non-Hello! Project downloads.

If a single entity is responsible for sending a DMCA notice to WordPress, then this single entity owns the rights to some Hello! Project releases as well as some non-Hello! Project releases.

The only candidates (to my knowledge) are Up-Front Works and Pony Canyon (which owns the Buono! releases).

I’m not entirely sure about this, but it looks as though Psycho Butterfly did not have any downloads of material owned by UFW (so they still haven’t lifted a finger).

Pony Canyon, on the other hand, appears to own material posted on each of the six blogs:

Beyond The Sea: several releases by Tsukiko Amano
Coconuts Crazy: releases by Buono!
Hello! Project Fantasy: releases by Buono!
Psycho Butterfly: releases by LM.C
Some Boys! Blog: releases by Buono!
What Kio Says: releases by Buono!

Judging from the evidence (particularly the fact that Beyond the Sea and Psycho Butterfly did not have any H!P material but each had releases by a different Pony canyon artist), I think Pony Canyon is responsible for the shutdowns.

If anyone here has a blog, WordPress or otherwise, that has links to illegally hosted Pony canyon releases, I think you are in considerable immediate danger of being shut down or of getting a DMCA notice yourself.

In particular, I must point out that one heavily visited WordPress blog (which I won’t identify by name) offering H!P downloads including Buono! has escaped being shut down, and I think the reason for this is that the download links were contained in pages as opposed to posts, so Pony Canyon doing a WordPress.com category search would not have brought up the pages whereas they could easily find recent posts containing download links using a simple search.

5.

March 7th, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I must say, Pony Canyon’s effort (if it is indeed Pony Canyon) makes more sense than some other entities (*cough*avextrax*cough*) that pulled PVs from YouTube, of all things. Pony Canyon has quite sensibly not done that, as far as I can tell, and I hope they don’t go there. Even if illegally distributed, I think the case can be made that PVs effectively draw more revenue than they lose, as it’s usually the hardcore fans who pay money for the PVs. The average consumer isn’t going to pay for PVs, whether or not they’re freely available, and taking them down means they aren’t going to pay for the music either, since they haven’t been given a chance to preview it. I know that in my case, I’ve been semi-interested in certain artists, after reading about them, only to discover that their PVs were nowhere to be found, and subsequently lost interest.

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