A YouTuber’s legal fight against a Japanese animation company influenced YouTube’s international copyright policy.
Mark Fitzpatrick, who owns the Totally Not Mark YouTube channel, regularly reviews anime on his channel. Fitzpatrick was hit with over 150 copyright strikes on his channel in December – enough to nuke it from YouTube. Many of the videos that received copyright strikes were not reviews of anime, though; they were how to draw explainer videos for the characters.
The crux of the whole issue is that Japanese copyright law does not have a fair use provision like U.S. law. Japan has moral rights for all types of work, allowing creators to choose how their work is represented. “The author shall have the right to preserve the integrity of his work and its title against any distortion, mutilation, or other modification against his will,” is how the Japanese law reads.
Fitzpatrick says someone from YouTube reached out to him personally about the copyright strikes. The contact not only apologized for the copyright strikes, but said YouTube had been in conflict with Toei Animation before about Fitzpatrick’s videos. After Toei marked the initial 150 videos with copyright strike violations, they appealed to YouTube to have the videos deleted from the platform entirely.
YouTube decided not to honor Toei’s removal request because it would violate the platform’s fair use policy. Instead, YouTube asked Toei to provide further justification for why Fitzpatrick’s channel should be removed. Rather than provide that evidence, Toei used YouTube’s automated claim system to have the videos blocked.
Fitzpatrick, YouTube, and Toei Animation then played a game of phone tag to discuss the issue. Fitzpatrick says Toei came up with a list of 86 videos of the original 150 that should be removed.
“Contained in this list was frankly the most arbitrary assortment of videos that I had ever seen,” Fitzpatrick told gaming website Kotaku. “It honestly appeared as if someone chose videos at random as if chucking darts at a dartboard.” YouTube’s provision allows owners like Toei to have videos removed from YouTube Japan, but not in other territories where they fall under fair use.