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.)