Nintendo Doesn't Want To Criminalize Obsessed Fans... But Sometimes Will Anyway

from the well,-that's-comforting dept

A whole bunch of you have been sending over a blog post from Kotaku quoting Nintendo president Satoru Iwata responding at a shareholder meeting to a question about how the company handles "fan activities" that technically infringe on Nintendo's intellectual property. Iwatu said they don't want to criminalize fans doing something out of appreciation, but that there's a lot that goes into the decision making process:
As the principle, please understand that the question is regarding a rather delicate issue to which no one can perhaps identify a clear-cut criterion. Of course, we cannot say that we can give tacit approval to any and all the activities which threaten our intellectual properties. But on the other hand, it would not be appropriate if we treated people who did something based on affection for Nintendo, as criminals. It is true that some expressions are detrimental enough to diminish the dignity of our intellectual properties, and others destroy our intellectual properties' world-views by connecting them with something not based on fact. We think one of the criteria for deciding how to respond is whether the expression in question socially diminishes the dignity or value of our intellectual properties or not. Of course, it is very hard to have a blanket standard as this problem involves many complex elements that are very difficult to judge.

In these meanings, we cannot say OK to any and all such activities and, at the same time, it is not feasible for us to immediately respond to each small issue of this nature every time. However, these days an individual can easily transmit information through the Internet. Hearing your question today, as we cannot find these problems only by ourselves, we feel that a kind of contact window should be set up so that people can somehow report to us any inappropriate uses of Nintendo's intellectual properties which diminish their dignities or values, so that we can respond appropriately.
While a lot of people are suggesting this is a revelation, I'm not so sure. Lots of companies give this kind of wishy-washy answer on such things. I remember hearing something quite similar from Warner Bros. general counsel concerning how it views fan fiction as well. But, again, the proof is in the pudding, and when we hear stories about Nintendo shutting down a fan-made film based on The Legend of Zelda, it suggests that perhaps they're not necessarily living up to the claims made by Iwatu.


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  1.  
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    shanoboy (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 5:13am

    Its a muddy area

    Personally, I think it would be hard to deal with these kind of issues just as Iwata states. The issue you pointed out, where nintendo shut down a fan-made film based on the Legend of Zelda might have been necessary.

    If the film were going to start actually turning a profit for the creator then they kind of crossed the line where they're profiting off someone else's intellectual property.

     

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  2.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 5:23am

    Re: Its a muddy area

    If the film were going to start actually turning a profit for the creator then they kind of crossed the line where they're profiting off someone else's intellectual property.

    I'm sorry, but I can't agree with this statement, which makes no sense unless you're an executive of a company and/or greedy.

    Just because someone is making money from your IP doesn't mean you are losing money. A quick Google search shows me that there are no "offical" Zelda movies, so no matter how much money the fan movie might make, it isn't taking revenue from Nintendo, as they do not have a competing product. The worst it can do is nothing, the best it can do is drive more people to play the game.

    The fans would be happy and Nintendo would stand to make more money. That is called a "win-win" for those of you playing at home.

     

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  3.  
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    Richard (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 5:29am

    Re: Its a muddy area

    If the film were going to start actually turning a profit for the creator then they kind of crossed the line where they're profiting off someone else's intellectual property.

    I think that the built in assumption here demonstrates clearly a part of the problem.

    Why shouldn't someone profit off another's "intellectual property"?

    If the net effect on the original rightsholder is not negative then there shouldn't be a problem.

    It's this greedy/jealous/"dog in a manger" attitude that needs to be revised.

    Jesus had it right here:
    (Luke Ch 9)
    " 49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.

    50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."

     

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  4.  
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    MrWilson, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 5:33am

    There's no mud

    The movie The Hero of Time was free to view/download. No profit was being made.

    But even if they did want to make a profit off someone else's intellectual property, I wouldn't see a problem with it. I'm not into mandatory licensing for things like a porn parody, but even if companies ARE actually using their IP in the same medium as a fan project, I think the fans should get a license. Maybe the license is half the profit.

    If the fans are fronting the cash to fund the project and putting the effort into it, they would be profiting from their own investment and hard work. If it's inferior to what a professional production company would come up with, then it's no threat to the IP. And if it is as good as or better than a professional product, Nintendo's half-of-the-profits could net them a tidy sum and they didn't have to do anything.

    If company's don't use their IP, they should lose the right to complain about what others do with it. And the value of a product does not lie in the IP it was based on. It lies in the effort put into it. A non-sanctioned Zelda sweater still takes time to knit and will still keep you warm when you wear it.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 5:44am

    Could Nintendo (or any other company, for that matter) put out a little "Unofficial - Not really from Nintendo" badge that fan content creators could stick on their work? The fans could still use the trademarked work, but it would be made clean that their work is not officially approved by Nintendo.

    Not a perfect solution, but something to think about? Some sort of 'Unofficial' license like Creative Commons?

    As for fans turning a profit from their work which uses Nintendo characters... if you're trying to turn a profit, you're not a fan anymore. If you're a fan, you do it for free, only for the fun of it.

     

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  6.  
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    MrWilson, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 5:46am

    Re:

    I wouldn't begrudge a fan a small price if they're trying to make back their costs. That would allow them to finance more labors of love.

     

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  7.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 5:57am

    Re:

    As for fans turning a profit from their work which uses Nintendo characters... if you're trying to turn a profit, you're not a fan anymore. If you're a fan, you do it for free, only for the fun of it.

    I still don't understand this line of thinking. Are you saying that despite the work that goes into making a movie, because it's based in a fantasy world he didn't create (but is part of his culture) that he doesn't deserve to be rewarded for his talents? Care to explain why?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 6:11am

    Re: Re:

    I understand that these people put a lot of work into what they do. And if you produce a fan movie, I can understand why you would want to try to recoup your production costs. It itself, I don't have a problem with it. The thing is, the second you actually monetize what you are doing, you enter a grey zone where you start to earn money from something that Nintendo has invested a lot of money into. You wouldn't turn a profit on it at first, but it's still a grey area.

    I think if you want to paint your room with Nintendo characters, that's fine. If you want to paint your friend's rooms with Nintendo characters, that's fine too. But once you start changing them for the paint... you know what I mean?

    Also, if you're a fan of something, money should not be a consideration for you. You do something out of the love for the fantasy world itself. And you should be at liberty to explore that world and add to it and make it your own. But again, the second you start making money off of it, then you're in the grey area. Because you can always claim that you're not turning a profit, but the fact is you're making money from it.

    From the company's point of you, I think it's fair to see it that way. Let your fans explore your world, but they should do so for the pleasure of it, without seeking monetary rewards. If their project requires financial ressources, you might want to try to partner with the actual company.

    Just my thoughts.

     

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  9.  
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    Richard (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 6:23am

    Re: Re:

    I still don't understand this line of thinking.

    Nor do I - and it is nowhere to be found in any of the earlier versions of copyright or trademark law. Copyright originally only dealt with literal copying - and trademark originally only dealt with situations where the customer might be misled. Neither is happening here - these concepts have been somehow wished into existence through the practice of asking permission and doing licensing deals where it was unnecessary and by a kind of ratchet effect of case law gradually extending the reach of copyright and trademark - and sometimes eliding the two together.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 6:32am

    Forget Nintendo and their outdated titles. Buy some decent software, learn how to use it and make your own world. Why waste your energy copying someone else! Be creative!

     

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  11.  
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    dcx2, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 6:39am

    Riivolution

    I wonder where Nintendo will draw the line on that.

     

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  12.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 6:49am

    Re:

    here is the link in english ...

    here is the link in english ...

     

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  13.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 7:33am

    Old School Pirate Ethics

    > I still don't understand this line of thinking.

    What? That "bootlegging" is a different sort of thing than "swapping". Of course this is addressed in the original copyright law. It's very explicitly addressed by making the distinction between commercial and non-commercial infringement. Even pirate culture makes this distinction and severely disapproves of "bootlegging".

    Even among the scofflaws, there isn't an "anything goes" sort of mentality.

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 8:34am

    Re: Old School Pirate Ethics

    um. okay.

    Do you have any thoughts on the topic at hand, perhaps? :)

     

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  15.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 19th, 2010 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "The thing is, the second you actually monetize what you are doing, you enter a grey zone where you start to earn money from something that Nintendo has invested a lot of money into."

    Someone needs to hold a "Hollywood Accounting" workshop for fanfilm projects. That way they can all prove that they haven't earned a dime and everyone will be happy.

     

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  16.  
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    HelvenInks, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 10:40am

    The Hero of Time

    I'm all about fan support for franchises and characters they care about, but have any of you watched "The Hero of Time"? It's sooo bad... I love to watch bad movies with my friends a la MST3k, but I couldn't even make fun of this movie... It was kind of like Manos the Hands of Fate in it's quality.
    In that respect I can understand why Nintendo shut it down... It certainly "diminished the dignity" of The Legend of Zelda. :p
    It's one thing if a fan movie is limited in special effects, but this movie was limited in more basic things like story and acting.
    Maybe I'm too hard on books/movies/games, but man...

     

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  17.  
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    Natanael L (profile), Jul 26th, 2010 @ 1:48pm

    Re: There's no mud

    "And the value of a product does not lie in the IP it was based on."

    Replace with "the value of an idea does not lie in the exclusivity the man who had it can get on it" and it's golden.

     

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  18.  
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    r4 rts, Oct 29th, 2010 @ 2:37am

    r4 rts

    Someone needs to hold a "Hollywood Accounting" workshop for fanfilm projects. That way they can all prove that they haven't earned a dime and everyone will be happy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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