Which is why, I felt it would be a useful exercise to look at this issue in a rational manner purely for the purposes of discussion. The views presented herein, are solely mine. Although, I will be touching on the subject from a "Legal" perspective, let me state clearly that I am not a lawyer, so what is presented here is my interpretation which may or may not be correct.
In order for this discussion to provide any useful information, I have divided the topic into several areas that I feel are relevant and need to be examined in some detail. These will be:
- Copyright Laws & The original modeler's rights as provided by Law
- Fair Use & An editor's rights as provided by Law
- The US First Amendment , "Free Speech" and the Arts
- The Japanese Doujinshi culture
- What is an "Illegal Edit"; is there even such a thing?
- Are the Japanese correct; is there a problem "Overseas"?
- The Real Rules
Note 2: When I use the term "Law", this refers specifically and only to US Laws (unless otherwise stated).
Note 3: MMD or Miku Miku Dance is a freeware 3D software program used to animate and pose models of Vocaloid models and their variants. If you need more information on this program please visit this link: [link]
Copyright Laws & The original modeler's rights as provided by Law
Any original creative work is automatically protected under US Copyright Laws. This protection is, as I understand it, extended even to works produced outside of the USA where existing treaties are in place. So a work created in Japan, for example, is protected by the Copyright Laws of both the USA and Japan. See here if you want details: [link]
For our purpose then, we can probably safely assume than an MMD model made by an artist in Japan is protected by US Laws. So, what exactly do these protections afford? Here is an explaination of what Copyrights actually provide (in general terms) from en.Wikipedia.org: [link]
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time. Generally, it is "the right to copy", but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other related rights.So, as presented, a Japanese modeler creating an original model for MMD has (at least) the following rights:
- Exclusive Rights
- The right to be credited for the work
- The right to determine who may adapt the work to other forms
Which means, they CAN state what can and cannot be done with their models and the Law is on their side. Therefore, anyone editing an MMD model in a way that is not inline with the "expressed" (read that last word as "written") intentions of the original modeler is breaking the Law.
Wow, this is going to be a short discussion isn't it? Well, no. Let's look at the other side of the equation.
Fair Use & An editor's rights as provided by Law
The term "editor" used here refers to anyone editing an existing MMD model.
In the USA, there is something called "Fair Use". Fair Use limits legally some of the copyrights of the copyright owners. So, pertaining to MMD, what Fair Use guidelines can apply and do they apply to edits?
First off, Columbia University has provided this really useful Fair Use check list: [link]
Rather than me explaining it in details, use this checklist against some of the edits found here in the DA galleries. You may be surprised at what is and isn't Fair Use. In a nutshell, most MMD model edits cannot be protected by Fair Use arguments - the original author's rights still hold absolute sway.
Now one of the arguments often raised is does the editor of a model that is edited within the guidelines imposed by the original model have any sway? That's to say can the editor of a model impose their own restrictions? The answer to this question is "YES" they can as their edit is protected in exactly the same way. However, there maybe a significant restriction. That is (as I understand it) they cannot impose a restriction that is contrary to the original model makers restrictions. Furthermore, the edit must carry with it at least some of the restrictions imposed by the original modeler.
A good example of this, in order to understand this, is to take by way of example, Mamama's Gumi. You can edit, but you cannot change the edit into any other character other than Gumi.
But is this edit of Gumi (by way of example) legal?: [link]
This is an interesting case example because basically what was done here is rather than edit the Gumi model, parts of her were taken and applied to another model but the new edit is still "Gumi". I cannot answer this, and I won't. Ultimately, only Mamama can determine whether or not this is in keeping with his original intentions. However, it does clearly show that there are different ways to interpret an original author's intent.
The US First Amendment , "Free Speech" and the Arts
This is a very interesting discussion in itself and is highly controversial. I refer you to this article for a more comprehensive discussion: [link]
What I will do here is to make my case, and note that this is only my way of thinking. Additionally, my line of reasoning might not be legally sound. Also let me make it very clearly that I am only referring to pictures of edited models for show and not those edited for redistribution.
My argument is that we should, as a community, make allowances for pictures to be shown of models that have been edited against the expressed wishes of the original model if it is done as an "artistic interpretation". And in addition, it is my belief, that this is a form of "Free Speech" and therefore (possibly) permissible under the First Amendment. Please do not interpret what I am saying here to mean that I support "anything goes", images of edited models used to promote obscene behavior or racist messages, to name but two, should still be proscribed.
The counter argument usually is that the original author's wishes should be respected. This is a totally valid argument, but I still argue that it should be permissible if someone does choose to edit an MMD model "illegally" and (only) show an image of the same. I may not personally agree with the edit, nor like it, but I feel that they have a "right" to do so as a form of self-expression.
Clearly, these types of edits are infringing on the copyrights of the original modeler, but before you draw any conclusions please examine also my following argument.
The Japanese Doujinshi culture
If you think about it, MMD is really a part of the Doujinshi genre. The program was made to make it possible for anyone to create animation videos of (originally) Miku Hatsune and the rest of her "gang". Miku, Neru, Rin and several others of the Crypton Future Media, Inc.'s characters are bundled with the software and these are provided under their licence.
Subsequently, other character models were made for MMD, I suspect many without the formal permission of the character's copyright owners, of characters from popular Japanese anime series. For example, all five of the primary characters from K-ON were made available by Japanese model maker Kakomiki who also created Alice who comes from the Queen's Blade franchise.
The Japanese's own view of Doujinshi is not completely unified as clearly, most of it does infringe on the copyrights of commercial companies. See this article from en.wikipedia.org for more details: [link]
Yet, it does happen. It is tolerated and even permitted and some people's careers (such as CLAMP's) started out in the Doujinshi circle. Doujinshi is even recognized by some institutions in Japan as legitimate "art". When those of us "Overseas", as the Japanese refer to us, imported manga and anime we also adopted some of the culture associated with those interests. Of note here is "Cosplaying" which is highly popular and you will find Deviants devoted to this part of the culture all over DA.
So, when someone edits a model "illegally", aren't they in actual fact also engaged in the same type of Doujinshi activity? Once again, my stipulation here is that no model redistribution is happening.
What is an "Illegal Edit"; is there even such a thing?
Thus far, we've looked at several factors and can safely draw the conclusion that my original proposition that: "There is no such thing as an 'Illegal Edit'" is incorrect if argued purely from a legal standpoint.
Haha - I was WRONG - ok, so I'll go eat some humble pie then. ^^
As for pictures of models that are made for private use only, my contention still stands that these still should be permitted so long as they remain private. Some may take a strong objection to this, but I suspect that most people won't.
Those of you who are more astute may have noticed that I've taken a contrary stand.
- I recognize that edits can actually be "Illegal"
- I support the showing of "Illegal" edits as "Art" in the Doujinshi sense and as a form of "Free Expression"
(Once again, I emphasize that I do not support illegal distribution).
So am I really contradicting myself? No. I don't believe so. If there is a contradiction, it is inherent within the MMD Community at large both here (Overseas) and in Japan. Opinions and views will differ on this issue and I am not, in writing this article, arguing for one case or the other. Rather, it is to highlight the fact that there are contrary viewpoints, each with valid arguments supporting their case.
Are the Japanese correct; is there a problem "Overseas"?
When you go to Bowlroll.net, you will see this statement posted on model download pages by default:
Which GOOGLE's translation service renders as:
Nowadays, reprinted without permission, such as remodeling occurs to the author, was a big problem.
(In particular, we are sure that you have encounter a number of overseas)
As a result, some of the contributors has become a situation to stop the provision of material.
And you will find this type of text, some of it not that polite either, in documentation accompanying some of the models made for MMD. If I were not such a generous person, I would be inclined to think that these types of statements are "xenophobic".
I mean if you really think about it, the Japanese themselves are equally guilty of these allegations are they not? Actually, no. If you pushed me, I wouldn't be able to find a single example of an illegally edited model made available for download by a Japanese MMD fan.
So why do we have this problem "Overseas"? Why is this problem unique to us? Honestly, you don't have to dig that hard around DA to find examples of possibly illegally edited models made available for download. For starters, all game rip models are illegal by definition. (I'll admit though, that although I personally have made a choice to stop the practice of downloading rips, I have used them in the past and still have a few ripped models in my collection).
The perception is that we do, or more precisely, we did have a problem with illegal edits made available for redistribution. I don't believe that the problem is so great now. But have you stopped to ask why this may have been the case? Once again, I'm going to put forward an "opinion". I think this problem exists not so much from willful intent, but more from ignorance, simply because most of these edits were done by minors. When I say "minors" I mean to say persons that are legally minors, of which, we who are "Overseas" have a lot more of than in Japan within the confines of this hobby.
Some sites, such as, Corbis Images [link] do not allow minors to have accounts.
“Minors and children (persons under the age of 18) are not eligible to use this Site unsupervised and we ask that minors and children do not register for an account or submit any personal information to us. By using this Site unsupervised, and/or registering for an account, you warrant that you are 18 years of age or older.”
Is this because minors cannot legally enter into contracts? Or is there something else to it?
As a modeler, I have noted something very particular about the behavior of some within the MMD Community. My screen name "Trackdancer" comes from my days creating models for a program called Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS). I used to build 3D models of trains (and other things) for this simulation. I make no claims that I was the best at this, but I must have been pretty good at it as a lot of people made it a part of their hobby repainting my train models.
Let me give you an example.
I created a version of the UK Class 60 diesel locomotive. Specifically, I created locomotive #60100, "The Hundred of Hoo". People then started using the model to create almost the entire series of that locomotive in service in the United Kingdom. Some were in different liveries, but the majority of them were just renumbered from my original. How did I know this? Well, because people actually wrote to me to ask permission to edit the model, even if it was just a renumber and gave me credit for the model in every single case.
Fat chance that that would ever happen in the "Overseas" MMD Community.
If I look at the demographic of the MMD Community in Japan and at the MSTS Community, they have one thing in common. An almost total absence of minors. So to solve the problem of "Illegal Edits" there is only really one logical solution:
BAN ALL MINORS FROM THE MMD COMMUNITY
No one under the age of 18 is permitted to "play" with Miku or any other Vocaloid model.
That's not going to work is it? So what is the real solution?
The only one I can think of is to educate them. Which is the primary reason why I wrote this article. Also, a few of the MMD Groups and individuals within the MMD Deviant Art community have already done a great job in "getting the word out", highlighting what is and what is not "kosher" in terms of editing and offering of models and parts thereof for download.
The Real Rules
Here are my proposition on what to edit and how to treat original and edited models within MMD. Take these as "suggested" practices only and do feel free to amend to them as I'm sure I have made some omissions.
- Always credit your sources (the original model makers). If you use it, credit it.
- Never edit or redistribute a model that an author specifically prohibits and if doubt, don't do it.
- Never assume that you have any rights to do "whatever" with a model if this is not clearly stated.
- Never redistribute a model without being sure that you have included a readme.txt with proper credits, have the correct permissions and as a courtesy, try to include any ORIGINAL documentation in your own package.
- Respect other model makers.
- Respect other users.
- Don't steal other people's "art" to use in your own work (or claim as your own).
- If in doubt, seek permission.
- Don't twist the meanings of rules that others have made to try and suit your own selfish agenda.
- Please bear in mind that your stupid actions may have negative repercussions on the rest of the MMD Community.
Thanks for reading. Have a fun time editing models "legally" for MMD. There is really plenty of scope already with the resources available not to have to "illegally" edit models. At the end of the day, if you respect others, others will respect you and in the end this will really become a better community for everyone.
The opinions expressed in this article are purely my own and are presented for discussion purposes only.