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Amid Controversy, YouTube Launches in Japan

Late last week, Google announced that it was teaming up with six Japanese firms, including SkyPerfecTV and Mixi [Ja], creator of Japan's most popular social networking software, to link content [Ja] to a new YouTube website exclusively in Japanese in order to boost the company's presence in Japan. Much to the frustration of organizations fighting for the rights of authors, composers, and composers, as well as companies and copyright organizations, Google plans to continue with its plans for the use of video “fingerprinting” technology. The fingerprinting technology, which would identify copyrighted material and allow the copyright holder to search for illegal copies on the web, has been criticized as being insufficient to answer concerns over copyright violation.

YouTube meeting
Photo from the blog of Nobuyuki Hayashi

Blogger Nobuyuki Hayashi, who blogs at nobilog and also at a less frequently updated English version, was at the meeting where the merger announcement was made. In his entry of August 4th, he posted pictures taken at the meeting, and linked to articles in Japanese at, Broadband Watch, CNET Japan, and IT Media News. He also outlined his thoughts on the new direction of YouTube in Japan, translated below.

YouTube photo shoot
Photo from the blog of Nobuyuki Hayashi


There were two things that I felt about this explanatory meeting.


 これらの記事でもわかるように、この日はパートナーによるスピーチもあったが、実は私が一番注目したのが東京MX TV。東京ローカルのUHFチャンネルだ。
 実は同局では以前からBlog TVなど、一部のコンテンツをYouTubeに掲載している。

One of them is that it would be very interesting if, using the YouTube wave [of popularity], an inversion phenomenon occurred between the minor media and major media.

As the other articles above also make clear, while there were speeches by the major partners [in the deal], what caught my attention the most was actually TokyoMX TV, a local Tokyo UHF channel.
In fact, the same channel has for some time been posting a part of its content, from Blog TV, etc., to YouTube.

先日、そのBlog TVに出ているFumiさんと「YouTubeに掲載されている動画を見て、海外の人は「東京MX」が「BBC」などと並ぶ、メジャーテレビ局だと思っているかも知れない」という話をしていた。


The other day, Fumi-san, who appears on Blog TV, was talking about how: “When people from other countries see videos posted at YouTube, they probably think that Tokyo MX is a major television station like the BBC.”

This station has the name “Tokyo Metropolitan Television”. What an international feel it has.
What is more, programs on this station are transmitting information about the pioneers in Japan's IT industry. It gives you the feeling that this television station is from Tokyo, the city on the cutting edge.
There is the the possibility that people from other countries who see Tokyo MX videos on YouTube and thus know of Tokyo MX may not even know about NHK [Japan's national broadcaster] or the so-called key commercial TV stations.


With this in mind, I listened to what MX board member and head of the technology bureau Tanuma Jun had to say at the explanatory meeting, and found his talk interesting.
Mr. Tanuma showed a slide indicating that “once a contract for videos of the work of independent artists has been cleared, they are then uploaded to YouTube.” He also added to this, however, that there is the possibility that in the near future, there will be an increasing number of artists saying: “If you upload my video to YouTube, then I would really like it to be uploaded to TokyoMX as well”.
This means that, if the video goes to Tokyo MX, then it becomes legitimate TV material that can be picked up and used by television stations; in addition, transmission of the finished TV program is then not only directed to areas in the Tokyo region, but is also directed to the whole world.
The populations of Japan (126 million) and that of the English-speaking world (900 million) are not even really comparable, and while Japan may have the second largest number of YouTube viewers in the world, the total number of people using YouTube from other countries is greater.

Presentation about Tokyo MX TV
MX board member Tanuma Jun discussing Tokyo MX TV (from the blog of Nobuyuki Hayashi)

 しかし、それは別に海外のGoogle AdSenseのワンクリックあたりの売り上げが大きいわけではなく、英語で書いた記事の方が、単純に読む人(毎回読みに来る人や、他のブログからのリンクで読みに来る人、そして検索で読みに来る人)の合計数が圧倒的に多いだけのことだ(ちなみに、その後、AdSenseの配置を最適化したことで、現在ではnobilog2の広告収入の方が上回っている)。

I often hear talk about how, in other countries, people make a make of money through Google AdSense. Even though the English-version of this blog (nobilog) has been updated less often than the Japanese-language blog, the earnings have been greater [in the past].
However, the reason for this is not that the earnings through Google AdSense one-click are high, but simply because there are overwhelmingly more people (people who come to read every post, people who arrive through links from other sites, and people who come to the site through search results) reading the articles written in English (by the way, the AdSense allocation [algorithm] was later optimized, and currently earnings from advertisements on nobilog2 exceed [earnings from the English-language nobilog]).

Slide about Copyright Issues
Google Vice President David Eun discussing copyright issues (from the blog of Nobuyuki Hayashi)


Watching the business explanation at the meeting, another thing that I thought was that,
just maybe, through their continued grumbling, the people at the copyright organization JASRAC may have signed their own death warrant.


I've heard that, in order to manage copyrights, YouTube is planning to develop and use fingerprinting technology [for identification of online content].
If, that is, this fingerprinting technology can be refined to a level where it can be practically used. In other words, let's say, they are trying to complete an engine which would automatically recognize, within videos or audio that has been uploaded, content that violates copyright laws.
This engine will at first only be used by YouTube, but in the future, it may also be used in the development of a bootleg search engine which would search websites other than YouTube and check whether the sites contain illegal content.
At that point, would the world really need a copyright organization anymore? That's my thinking.


In the end, the reason that copyright management organizations were necessary was that the companies producing the [copyrighted] content did not individually have the capacity to each go around searching for illegal copies. However, thanks to fingerprinting, if the trouble involved in such operations can be greatly reduced, it may be that these management organizations will be done away with as the no longer needed middlemen, as it becomes possible for content providing companies to independently manage their copyrights (of course, searching for violations at live venues and karaoke bars is something that will probably take more time…).

 この技術革新の先にあるのは、Creative Commonsでも目指しているコンテンツの中への著作権情報の組み込みだろう。
 一切、引用ができないコンテンツには「All rights reserved」を、プロモーション目的で、どんどん引用して欲しい情報には、そうした著作権情報を、特定の国や地域でしか再生してはいけないコンテンツには、そうした情報を、といった具合になっていけば、コンテンツの流通を活性化しつつ、著作権もこれまで以上に守られる世の中に向かっての大きな前進になるかも知れない。

It seems that what this technical innovation would finally lead to is something that Creative Commons is also aiming at, and this is copyright information integrated directly within the [copyrighted] content itself.
If [the owner does not want] certain content to be quoted at all, then the content can be identified [with the restriction of] “All rights reserved”; if [the owner of] certain content wants it to be promoted as much as possible, then the content can be identified as such; and content to be used in a particular country or region can be identified accordingly as well. If things proceed in this manner, then the circulation of contents may steadily increase, while at the same time the protection of copyrights around the world will also be greatly advanced.


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