I thought this subject was pretty much laid to rest, but apparently it still keeps raising its ugly head and, well let's put it this way, I hate to let sloppy reasoning slide and demolishing sloppy reasoning is fun.
So what's this all about? First off this is definitely GM34's fault. He wrote to me asking about a transgender UTAU that he was interested in using for an upcoming project and wanted to know "its" name. And I told him it was Namine Ritsu, and went to look for a link for him. Now whenever you do a search for Namine Ritsu, you're going to bring up Nanami Watabe's name. And since he has a DA account I clicked there and found that he faved a certain journal.
You might want to give that journal a quick read before proceeding here as basically this is a rebuttal as well as a partially constructive response to the arguments presented in that journal. And whilst I'm at it I'm going to demolish some other myths that the Japanese MMDC has about us so read the other two also. All three are very short and were written by damesukekun.
Japanese Attitudes Towards MMD models. fav.me/d4vlziy
Do NOT Edit Models Without Full Japanese Command. fav.me/d4yrr27
Editing or Frankensteining? fav.me/d65x8m0
damesukekun identifies himself on his Twitter account as the Admin of Vocaloid Wiki. I do not know for how much of the Japanese MMDC he speaks for, but will recognize for the purposes of this discussion that he speaks for at least some. He has put forward some rather interesting points that I feel we need to respond to in an intelligent manner as, sorry, I beg to differ as the logic is flawed and the fan-girling comments on those journal pages don't really help forward the discussion.
I will deal with the main arguments in each of his journals in turn.
A rebuttal to the "Japanese Attitudes Towards MMD models" argument:
The main thrust of this article is that due to the influences of Shinto beliefs, traditions or culture, "Japanese people have the special affection for human-shaped objects." It then goes on to say that this may be one of the reasons why at least some Japanese modelers don't want their models to be edited and that we should take these feelings into consideration.
First off MMD models are not objects. Wherein a crafted Japanese Geisha doll is a singlular physical object that would have required hours of work to create and it could arguably be claimed that a part of a the creator's soul was imbuelled into it, you cannot use this argument for an MMD model. Put aside the hours of work to create part. That's a given. The important difference is that the model itself actually only exists as data. Want proof of this? Just open up a PMD or PMX file with a text editor. I know of no known religion that would accept the concept of imbuing either spirit or soul into data, especially data that can exists in a multitude of forms.
Secondly, when we're talking about an MMD model we are also talking about multiple instances (or copies) of the same data. It is no longer a singular entity. I am not a Shinto priest, but in all honestly I highly doubt that any Shinto priest in his right mind is going to be able to refute the argument that we are talking about multiple copies of an original work. The original work is still in the original modeler's PC. If he choses to he can deify that as much as he wants. Once it's publically released, the "clones" are no longer his property but the property of those that now own the copies. Does he have rights over the clones at all? Absolutely, these are as allowed for under existing copyright legislation. These laws are already very generous and includes restrictions on the right to copy, redistribute and edit.
There is no need to bring religion or cultural values into this argument.
The extended argument is that the image of the model is what is being imbued with "spirit". Once again the argument does not hold. Different people will interpret Miku Hatsune in different ways even though there may be some commonality. I have created characteristics for many of the Vocaloids that are quite well known. They have become my interpretations of what I think they're really like and that may differ greatly from the way the original modelers or other MMDers sees them. Implicit in this argument is that the character must be inline with the way the original modeler envision them. This is also impossible, especially since I have never seen any documentation that a character depicted by a model needs to be interpreted in a particular way. The MMD community at large may have a general consensus to the way Akita Neru might look or behave, but there's still lot of room for other viewpoints. These do exists and she will continue to evolve as others add their interpretations into the mix.
A rebuttal to the "Do NOT Edit Models Without Full Japanese Command" argument:
First off, this is outright racism.
But I'll be generous and will view it as a misguided attempt to communicate certain principles. I'm going to blow away some common myths about the "need to know Japanese to fully under Japanese Law" argument. The only time I will ever need to know Japanese Law in its native language is if I am within a territory within Japan's jurisdiction and having to argue a case in a Japanese Court. Outside of that it's poppycock. I am not subject to the strictures of Japanese Law. Furthermore, I am not a lawyer. If I need to argue a case in a Japanese Court, I would hire a Japanese lawyer to argue my case on my behalf. So once again, I don't need to know either Japanese Law or the language. And guess what? That's how the Legal System works, even in Japan.
Furthermore, I am quite capable of reading Japanese Legal documents even with only the use of Google Translate. In fact, I've read Crypton's license on the use of their Vocaloids on their website using this machine translator with no problems understanding what the Terms of their license is. And guess what? It's pretty standard for a document of that type.
The journal also argues that the auto-translator mis-translated a certain phrase as an example of its flaws. Specifically: "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."
This is a facetious argument; auto-translators only make literal translations. This is all that the current level of this technology allows at the moment so it is a given that it will fail with nuances in the use of language and that it might even fail with proper grammatical constructions. The purpose of these translators is to offer a first step in overcoming a language barrier, nothing more. And for this purpose, they work fine. For my own use with difficult passages I would use the Babylon, Microsoft as well as the Google Translators on the same text so that I have a cross reference of meanings so that I can get a better idea on what a certain passage is actually saying. Also, when you feed a whole long sequence into the translator it has a greater chance of failure than if you only feed it a portion at a time. So for example:
Phase: "Be not afraid of greatness"
1st reiteration: "偉大さを恐れていないこと"
2nd reiteration: "That you are not afraid of greatness"
That isn't too bad is it? Auto-translators do not translate meanings, people do that. All they do is provide raw verbatim translations and if you understand that, they are very powerful tools.
The modeling rules are actually quite simple and once again most of these are covered already by existing copyrights legislation. And it should not be hard to create an international system using symbols along the lines of the Creative Common licenses. None of us, Japanese or Overseas MMDC members need to be lawyers to have our rights protected and to be able to enjoy the hobby.
BTW, with reference to the statement that the "Japanese language has tons of homophones, conjugations and particles." All languages have this quality ...
DO NOT EDIT AND/OR REDISTRIBUTE (and trade) MODELS UNLESS YOU HAVE THE FULL COMMAND OF JAPANESE TO READ THE ATTACHED TOS.
Full command means you can read Japanese newspapers or academic papers. Basic conversation skill is not enough. You should also refrain from distributing your translation unless you have the full command of Japanese. If you spread a grave mistranslation, you would be involved in a copyright trouble.
- Full command means you can read Japanese newspapers or academic papers. - Why? I don't need this type of knowledge to drive a Japanese car or operate a Japanese made electronic device. Why would I need to know these to play a Japanese game???
- You should also refrain from distributing your translation unless you have the full command of Japanese. - To the best of my knowledge no one distributes translations, so why is this even an issue?
- If you spread a grave mistranslation, you would be involved in a copyright trouble. - Not true, only issue here is that you'll be guilty of badly translating something and that's not a crime.
I'm going to throw a real legal argument back at you for you to think about. In the State of California, if you want me to be legally bound to the terms of some contract or agreement, you will need to, at your expense, make those terms understandable to me in a language that I can understand in an instance where you and I don't share the same language. Otherwise, I'm not bound to your terms as I can't read your language. And guess what? The Superior Court of the State of California will back me up on this. Think about this for a moment.
I'm going to spoil your day even further. Japanese Civil Law isn't as foreign a concept to us as you might think. You'll be surprised at how much of today's Japanese Civil Codes are built upon legal concepts that were introduced into Japan after the Meiji Restoration from legal codes from Western countries. This isn't my opinion, it's documented by Japanese legal scholars.
And now the biggest laugh of all. This whole you must understand Japanese argument is total bunk due to one simple legal principle that is applicable in all modern countries. Minors cannot enter into contracts. Not in my country and not in Japan. This doesn't mean that MMD models are not protected, they are. After all, even if minors cannot enter into contracts, they can still be held guilty of breaking existing Laws. Simply put, Japanese MMD models are already protected by Law, even from minors. All you need to know is how to enforce your legal rights and you don't even need a lawyer to do this.
A lot of these editing problems stems from the behaviour or rather misbehaviour of minors in the Overseas MMDC. It isn't the adults that are causing the problems for the most part. The other part of the problem is the Japanese MMDC itself. Basically, because it is behaving in a childish manner. No one is going to resolve this argument when both sides are behaving like children.
A partial rebuttal to the "Editing or Frankensteining?" argument:
I'm going to take the arguments to task on a point-by-point basis - purely in the spirit of a debate. But before doing so, let me clearly state that I actually agree with many of the arguments put forward in that journal. I'll revisit these in the conclusions below. To keep this reasonably brief I will take to task the following example that was put forth as an argument:
Think about this example. You collect many famous pictures. Michelangelo, Gogh, Millet, Picasso and other artists.
You cut their works and make a new patchwork picture.
Is this an art? Can you claim you edited the picture?
First off, there is a lot of Western art that makes use of well known works of famous artists. A lot of these works are parodies. Parodies are allowed for under US Law. It's called Fair Use. Take for example what MAD magazine did by grafting the head of their mascot (the Neiman character) over the body of the Mona Lisa. Is it art? That's a valued judgement and is totally dependant on the POV of the viewer. But legally it is a parody and this is a fact.
Secondly, for most of the artist named, all of them are dead and have been dead for awhile and for the most part their works can no longer be protected by copyright legislation. So, legally you can do whatever with their work. Or at least copies of them as the originals are worth too much for anyone in their right minds to want to mess with.
Or it can be compared to cutting dolls into parts to create a "new doll of your own".
Can you say you treat the dolls with love?
These is a dangerously erroneous assumption. You cannot make the argument that an MMD modeler, actually more correctly an editor, operating in this manner doesn't treat the new model (or doll) with love. The circumstantial evidence is contradictory to this argument.
Definitely not! You just destroy original pictures or dolls.
Making frankenstein models is like this. You just destroy original models.
In destroying one thing, sometimes something else is created. When you cut down a tree and make it into paper and then print words on it, then bind the papers together you get a book. The process of art and design very often employs a destructive sequence of actions to create a new work. Take any sculpture as a prime example.
In forwarding these counter arguments I am not arguing that models should be allowed to be cut up for parts. I've actually long argued against this practice as apart from anything else, it is extremely disrespectful to the original modeler if this was against his wishes. In any case, legally, this practice is illegal anyway without the expressed consent of the modeler and simply put it's a breach of copyrights and there are remedies for this even without the need for legal counsel. A simple DMCA take down letter would quickly resolve these types of issues. You don't even need a lawyer to make one of these.
These type of problems, however, cannot be addressed by the Japanese MMDC itself without the active support of the Overseas MMDC. It needs cooperation from both sides to stop these practices. Part of the problem lies in the fact that there is currently no mechanism nor organization to do this and the Japanese MMDC has found itself with a burden that it does not want and obviously has some issues with dealing with. Just as we might not have a complete understanding of Japanese culture, the Japanese MMDC probably has an even harder time dealing with us as we are a multitude of other cultures and generations.
I did note was that the last journal was dated May 20th, 2013. Which means that this issue is still a hot topic, at least with some, within the Japanese MMDC and that is not a good thing. So how can we help the Japanese MMDC? Building continued awareness against the practice is a first step. Journals like these are a step in that direction. The second step is that the MMD Groups on DA should become proactive in not hosting such works in their galleries and perhaps even going as far as expelling repeat offenders from their rosters. What we also do need to do is avoid as much as possible in allowing the MMD Police to resurface as that's eventually just going to become more trouble than it is worth. There needs to be some other mechanism(s).
But there are other positive steps that can be taken and one is to unify as well as clarify the existing rules from Japanese modelers in language that everyone can understand. Some Japanese modelers already do this to a certain extent and have done an excellent job in this respect; but still there are examples of infringements. Simply put, some people just do not have respect for other peoples work - honestly, it will be hard to find a remedy for this. In addition, there is as portion of the Overseas MMDC that are just idiots. There is alas, no known cure for stupidity. But I will put a qualifier here. The Japanese themselves have had people essentially doing some of the same thing as what they are accusing many of us of doing. We are not the only ones who have "Frankensteined" models.
It might also surprise the Japanese MMDC to know this, but there is actually a sizable portion of the Overseas MMDC who are just as much against the practice of "Frankensteining" as they are. I've seen arguments by some that the Japanese attitude prohibits them from creating their own "selfies" or OCs. The simple argument against this is that if you really wanted to do something like that, that badly, acquire the knowledge, skill and software to do so. To argue that others are prohibiting you from doing what you want by chopping parts from other models is bullshit. You have absolutely no rights to create your work by extracting parts from existing models if this is against the wishes of the original modelers. There's no argument that you can make that will justify your case, morally or legally.
You know, when I go through the list of models on Xoriu's blog, which I do on a regular basis, I am usually disappointed to see so few, if any, real original works from the Overseas MMDC. Plenty of edits, some game rips, but original models? Almost none. If there are any original models, they're going to be almost always be from Japanese modelers. Not all of these original models are necessarily from existing well known modelers either. You do see new names coming on the scene which means that the Japanese MMDC is able to generate a new generation of modelers. Something will need to be done to redress this imbalance or these types of problems will never really go away.
damesukekun statement that "Frankensteining isn't the same as editing." has a poignancy that if we don't pay more careful heed to, may eventually lead to the demise of interest in MMD in the Overseas MMDC. In which case the problem would be solved, right? But is this the solution that we truly want?
Look at this another way. When we learn Judo or Karate, we learn to do it the way the Japanese do it as otherwise it would no longer be Judo or Karate right? The same analogy may apply here. If we're going to do MMD, we're going to have to learn to do it their way or it won't be MMD. The only way we're going to be able to change this equation, and I believe we can, is to foster a change in the mindset and encourage the development of original models and other resources for MMD from outside of Japan. But until that happens, we need to pay careful attention to what they're saying. After all, they are currently our "sempais" aren't they?