"Your Account Has Been Permanently Disabled"

That was the message that awaited me when I signed onto YouTube today. It turns out that all my uploaded videos - Future Boy Conan, 3000 Leagues, Anne, yadda yadda - have been shut down for copyright infringement. Nice.

Still, I can understand. If kids in the West can watch these anime series on YouTube for free, they won't be inclined to pay for the legit DVD release. Oh, wait. There are no DVD versions of any of these shows. Nothing. Not now, and likely not ever. Great freakin' plan, Einstein.

It's funny, isn't it? Folks like us have done more to promote these animation series and films than the rightful owners on the other side of the globe. We've brought in new fans, raised awareness, and expanded the field of what's considered acceptable or "popular." There isn't a market for Heidi Marco Anne in North America; certainly not enough to justify the enormous costs of producing and selling a DVD set. But the internet can help to grow new markets; and digital distribution can open those new markets up for the first time.

I'm not going to sit on my soapbox with some holier-than-thou attitude on the matter. These are the rules that are in place, and the copyright holders are going to properly defend their interests. Every once in a while, YouTube will need to sweep their servers for "illegal" material. They're part of the Google empire now; they need to play ball. Such is life.

But I think this is another example of fighting the last war. The same tactics employed by the music industry against music downloads. That war didn't work out for the music biz; now it's headed for certain extinction, brought about by aggressive control of the old copyright paradigm. The modern computer and the internet brought them to their knees. And we all know the next target to be hit by the hurricane: Hollywood.

Just you wait until feature films can be downloaded in mere seconds.

I don't have any ideas for how the major players will weather the coming storm, but I do know that niche players stand to benefit. Anime is definitely a niche group. Anime that doesn't fit into the naked-chick-and-giant-robot schtick, even more so.

The companies who hold the rights to these classics - Heidi Marco Anne, the Toei Doga classics, everything I've been praising and promoting on the Ghibli blog - shouldn't look to YouTube as a threat. It's a golden opportunity. They need to see this, and learn that they're sitting on a global market just itching to get their wares. YouTube should be a crucial segment of their global strategy.

Unless, I suppose, these companies just aren't interested in making more money. Perhaps they're happier to have their classic anime just sit in a vault somewhere, lost and forgotten.

Again, I'm not trying to toot my own horn. I'm not all that upset about YouTube shutting me down (although I am cranky about all the emails they stuffed into my inbox this morning). I'm not out to steal another artist's work. My goal is to show their work to the world. It is, strangely enough, my goal as an artist for the past decade. I want to take the art to the masses, taking advantage of this new technological paradigm. And I've always encountered resistance every step of the way. Weird. Whether it's a painting or an anime series, it's the same tepid response.

So that's my advice to all the interested parties, then. You need to embrace the new world. It's a world without borders or barriers or boundaries. It's the world the '60s hippie generation naively hoped for, but now it's becoming a reality for real (provided we humans don't destroy ourselves first, which right now is about 50/50*). Everyone needs to embrace the internet economy, embrace it hard.

Put everything on YouTube right now. Free. Uncut. With English-language subtitles where necessary. Promote yourselves heavily. Build your fan base. Spread the word. Use this as your golden opportunity to build your brands. There's a community out there for movies like Night on the Galactic Railroad, or Belladonna, or Like the Clouds Like the Wind, or Summer in Andalusia. Why is Future Boy Conan not available in North America? Are you freakin' kidding me? Hayao Miyazaki is the biggest filmmaker in the world. He won an Oscar and a Golden Lion. Get with the program, pops!

(* Oh, I probably shouldn't have to point this out, putting another inept, trigger-happy Republican in the White House won't do humanity any favors. Make McCain the next American President and you may as well put your grandchildren into the grave right now. Not that I'm in a cranky mood or anything.)


Philip Daniel said...

I gave up on trying to introduce art to the masses a long time ago. As an amateur pianist/composer, I find that no matter how hard I try, I can never get more than a so-so reaction to my work. However, your post has spurred my interest in trying to do so again. That's really something.

Just a suggestion, but one shouldn't limit the "sharing" of these great classics to just (where they would be doomed, as per copyright law, to a short life-span). In particular, uploading to is a good way to build up interest within the fan community for lesser-known works. Sorry if this is considered spam, but I think it might help this cause. (Also, I'm dying to see Taneyamagahara, Yanagawa, et al uploaded someplace or other, at least temporarily!)

I've tried to spread the word about the great Toei/Nippon/Telecom/Ghibli classics, but it's very difficult to convince the masses (even one's own family) that just because they have "big-eyes" doesn't mean it's an Astro-Boy clone. If anything, that's one of the biggest obstacles to wider exposure/acceptance in the USA--the stigma that all anime looks the same/has jerky motion/is made by the same people/is made by monkeys/is made only for get the picture. Of course we know that while "hearts can change" (Howl referece), it's very difficult to do, especially with a "puppet media" that feeds garbage into people's minds, stifling freethought and expression. Certainly Goshu, Sen, and Yamadas don't look even remotely alike, do they? Sounds like a stupid question, but when trying to convince know. I don't mean to sound snobbish/pretentious/elitist/what-have-you by writing this paragraph, though.

By the way, I've seen "Ponyo"--I thought it was masterful, very inventive and beautifully executed, but I'm not sure exactly what you'd think of it. It was even more surreal than Howl, if that says anything, but didn't have as great an emotional range, if that makes any sense. Predictably enough, Oshii-san hated it (he said it made "no sense" because the characters "acted irrationally" and some things went unexplained (didn't we hear the same about Howl"?)--then again, he liked Gedo, apparently--or maybe he just likes the thrill of encouraging the son to try to force the father into retirement).

Gargron said...

I understand you, even if not fully, because I wasn't ever kicked out from anywhere (yet :) ). Maybe you'll find another place than YouTube to upload and show the world these shows. I understand you, because I use the same thought in my area. We are promoting something that almost nobody knows, but needs to know. I would say it's enough to post a low-quulity video, and write below "buy it to support the x-studio". As I ask in my class, who does watched Porco Rosso, nobody have even heared about it. But I'm sure it would be their favourite movie if they could just see it.

Tired from writing... Last: I like your blog very much. You make a good job.

David said...

It is a problem. The unfortunate thing is that YouTube won't distinguish between the copyright Pirate who just posts anything they can get their grubby hands on vs. someone like you who is simply trying to share some great film making that is otherwise totally unavailable .

My position is that if it exists on a legit DVD release that is readily available for purchase then it should NOT be posted on YouTube , but if the original owners refuse to release it on DVD and the material just sits forgotten in some storage vault somewhere then I have no problem with fans posting it on YouTube to try to increase awareness of the films. The original copyright owners are short-sighted in that they don't see how what you were doing was essentially free advertising (building a new fan base) for their films. Once the films are available on DVD then take them off YouTube . Simple. But they don't see it that way. To them you are just another pirate assaulting their copyright . As you say it is strange that they almost willfully want to lose money by not releasing these films in North America on DVD . If DVD's are too expensive then what about direct downloads via something like iTunes ? It is too bad they would rather just lock the films away in a vault never to be seen outside Japan.

Manni said...

Well, theres many classics from many genres, really hard to find, probably unreachable for anyone in Europe or USA. The only way to see it is internet, but then there's copyrights. I can see YT's and movie/ TV series creators point, but then - do we have ANY other choice? Why they just can't give it to see online, paid via sms? Or finally realease it on DVD? Since then, they just should left us some way to see it. Besides - even if I saw Future boy Conan 3 times already, I still want to have it on DVD.

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