American Division Of Persona 5 Developer Warns That Their 'Masters' Don't Want People Streaming Spoilers

from the uh,-okay? dept

This seems like something we’ll need to keep repeating: revealing entertainment spoilers is not copyright infringement. What ought to be common sense is apparently not so for all kinds of content owners in the entertainment space. As such, DMCA notices or threats for DMCA notices have been used to combat spoiler releases in all kinds of forms, from movie predictions, to television show predictions, to video game footage that reveals spoilers. Some of these instances involve actual footage of the copyrighted material while some don’t, but the core of the matter is that if you’re talking copyright infringement because of spoilers, you’re doing copyright wrong.

The latest version of this comes from Atlus, developers of Persona 5. The American division of Atlus put out a notice on its website, in which it starts off with bubbling excitement over the release of the game, but then spills into a lecture on what gamers can stream and what they cannot.

Ok, now let’s talk Persona 5 streaming and videos. Simply put, we don’t want the experience to be spoiled for people who haven’t played the game. Our fans have waited years for the game to come out and we really want to make sure they can experience it fully as a totally new adventure. Please read our video/streaming guidelines below:

Please, PLEASE do not post any specific plot points or story spoilers, and only talk about the game in broad strokes. (Good example: “The game deals with dark themes right off the bat, with a lecherous teacher and other corrupted individuals.” Bad example: “Players immediately run into trouble with the pervy teacher *spoiler*, whose actions go so far as to cause *spoiler*.”)

You’re more than welcome to talk/show Confidants, the new combat, the Velvet Room, the dungeons, etc. Just please keep in mind that as a singular story playthrough, viewers are *highly* wary of spoilers!

In-game Content Limit: Please limit video content through the in-game date of 7/7.

“7/7” refers to a date within the game itself, which means that players of this game who want to stream their playthroughs will apparently have to check their fictitious calendars to make sure they haven’t reached the streaming event horizon. That in itself ought to strike you as ridiculous on its face, but reading through the subsequent guidelines about what should be streamed and what shouldn’t literally had me chuckling. For example:

No major story spoilers, and I’ll leave that up to your good judgment. If you need some guidelines, avoid showing/spoiling the ending segments of the first three palaces. While you can show initial interactions with Yusuke, avoid his awakening scene, and that whole deal about THE painting. Also, don’t post anything about a certain student investigator.

This obviously takes live streaming out of the equation. How is one to know what in the sweet hell any of this refers to unless they’ve already played the game? And dictating commentary topics, as opposed to footage, doesn’t carry any weight having to do with copyright infringement. Streamers can discuss whatever they want. And if Atlus allows streaming of its game, it’s not clear to me that the DMCA or copyright law allows them to dictate the segmentation of what’s allowed for streaming and what isn’t.

But the stranger part is the American Atlus division’s sheepish reason for putting these restrictions out there in the first place. I can’t quite tell if some of this is supposed to be taken tongue in cheek or not, but it comes off sounding rather ominous.

This being a Japanese title with a single-playthrough story means our masters in Japan are very wary about it. Sharing is currently blocked through the native PS4 UI. However, if you do plan on streaming, video guidelines above apply except length. If you decide to stream past 7/7 (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND NOT DOING THIS, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED), you do so at the risk of being issued a content ID claim or worse, a channel strike/account suspension.

Japanese masters? That just sounds creepy. Beyond that, threatening channel suspension with spoilers being the differentiating point between when that threat applies or not doesn’t make any sense. I get that spoilers can be annoying for some, but that doesn’t fall under the purview of copyright law. Either let people stream or don’t.

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Comments on “American Division Of Persona 5 Developer Warns That Their 'Masters' Don't Want People Streaming Spoilers”

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51 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

DO NOT PROMOTE OUR GAME!
WE ARE SO WORRIED WE WILL COMMIT PERJURY TO MAKE YOUR LIFE DIFFICULT.
PLEASE DON’T BUY OUR GAME.
WAIT UNTIL OUR INSANE POLICIES HAVE SHOVELED THE GAME INTO THE BARGAIN BIN!

YOU MUST FOLLOW OUR DEMANDS OR ELSE!!!!!!!!!!!

This is pretty much the trajectory of copyright.
Demand more control and force people to accept it, punish those who disagree.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Trajectory? I am already there.

Any game under any form of DRM must be 50% off before I will buy it, on places like Steam & Origin. If you want me to buy your shovel-ware at full price it better be on GOG.

Also, I still boycott 3rd party DRM like uPlay, and companies that retro their existing games to force you through a Launcher when it once did not. Square Enix did this to me with a FF7 PC game on steam. I now refuse to buy their games. I used to put up with fucking stardock and their register to play because I already had an account and got further customer loyalty discounts for it, but when they added a launcher for Sins of a Solar Rebellion I flipped my gourd and now they are banned.

I am getting sick of the PC gaming scene and it’s only getting worse because I cannot get my fellow gamers to understand… they keep buying DRM and supporting games that tell their own players to fuck right off!

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m planning to build a new HTPC in the next month or two, and I think I’m going to make the jump and see how far I can get with Linux-only gaming. (Thanks to Unity, Source, and Unreal, basically every indie game gets a Linux release now, and a lot of major-publisher releases do too.) I might keep a Windows dual-boot around for games that don’t have Linux versions and won’t run in WINE, but…I might not.

Thad (user link) says:

I get that spoilers can be annoying for some, but that doesn’t fall under the purview of copyright law.

No, but derivative works like video streams might. I’m not aware of any existing case law on the subject; personally I’d consider it to be transformative enough (from an interactive game to a passive video, for God’s sake) to be clear fair use, but of course I’m not the guy who gets to decide that.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a terrible idea, and the law shouldn’t be on Atlus’s side. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t.

Megahurtz says:

Re: Re:

If you are commentating your gameplay, I think that would cover the transformative aspect. But what if you’re just doing a silent let’s play and recording the video of the game? Wouldn’t that be akin to taking a tv show or movie and broadcasting the audio over the radio? I actually have no idea, but that seems like it would not be allowed to me.

Megahurtz says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, now that I think about this more, I suppose just uploading the cutscenes in that manner might be problematic. But if you’re streaming full gameplay, the video would be unique based on whatever actions you decide to take at any moment in the game and seems permissible to me. I’m no expert though.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Laws? We don' need no stinkin' laws!

Unfortunately the policy has nothing to do with copyright law and everything to do with the automated enforcement tools that YouTube, Twitch and other media sites give to the large content creators. The threat from the “Japanese Masters” isn’t that they’ll actually file a DMCA claim, it’s that they’ll use copyright strikes and content ID to get videos and streams taken down.

Megahurtz says:

Re: Simply...

So I think this is a dumb move, BUT

Coming across spoilers can be a far more passive activity now. Youtube video suggestions and spoilery titles and thumbnails seem to be the most common now. I’ve also read that there are now twitter accounts deliberately posting Persona 5 spoilers just to spite these restrictions.

Just saying you don’t have to go out of your way to come across them. Whether that is a big deal or not is a different discussion…

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

In fairness, more than a few Japanese publishers seem to have issues with livestreaming/Let’s Play videos of their games. (Hi, Nintendo!) The differences in Internet and gaming cultures can seem a bit…harsh.

That said: Nothing pisses people off like being told what they cannot do. Doubly so for gamers. I expect spoiler videos and livestreams to show up in short order — and for people who might have otherwise bought the game to avoid it altogether because of Atlus’s heavy-handed bullshit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

But… that’s not how Content-ID works.

Content-ID checks your uploaded video against a db of videos submitted by the copyright owner (Atlus). Since every playthrough will be different, resulting in different footage, I don’t see how content-ID can flag your upload as a copy of anything.

At best they can (manually) send a DMCA notice against your video, but I wonder if that will pass with Youtube.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Content-ID checks your uploaded video against a db of videos submitted by the copyright owner”

They will also use soundtracks and other cues rather than just the video as a whole. I know plenty of live streaming podcasts that used to get kicked off / muted at the point where they played music, even if the podcasters had licences from the relevant collection agencies. I’ve certainly read of gaming related podcasts having similar issues and there’s plenty of examples of even official livestreams being blocked due to pre-existing copyright claims.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 5th, 2017 @ 6:32pm

There is an explicit threat of (ab)using ContentID. That might not be much to you, but it was supposed to be system put in place to fight copyright violations without tribunals.

We here know that it’s been abused way beyond actual copyright violations, but that didn’t make it “right”.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: "That's a nice account you got there, be a shame if something were to happen to it..."

Politely? What standards of ‘polite’ are you using, the mob’s?

They ‘politely’ implied that spoilers will get the account of the user posting them hit with a ContentID strike and/or suspended.

That’s ‘polite’ in the same way that a mugger saying ‘Hand over your valuables if you don’t want to find out what having your face smashed in feels like’ is ‘polite’. A clear threat for doing, or not doing something.

Anonymous Coward says:

Don't let people stream?

Either let people stream or don’t.

That implies they can legally prevent someone from doing it, which we shouldn’t concede so easily. Let’s look at the 4 factors of fair use:

  • purpose and character: no profit motive; often posted for commentary, review, or demonstration–i.e., transformative
  • nature of the copyrighted work: publically available; an interactive game, rather than a video like people are posting
  • amount and substantiality: often just sections of the game; one particular path through a game that may offer several; no interactivity
  • effect on potential market: probably positive; might help people engage with the game better (showing how to beat tough sections or access hidden content); nobody’s provided evidence that people have stopped buying games because they can just watch the videos

I see a weak case for infringement. Not that it matters if they’re using Content ID instead of the legal system.

Yelp (user link) says:

good information

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Megahurtz says:

Article misses a key point

“it’s not clear to me that the DMCA or copyright law allows them to dictate the segmentation of what’s allowed for streaming and what isn’t.”

The DMCA doesn’t, but the PS4 does. This is mainly in reference to using the PS4’s built in streaming and recording functionality. The developer and/or publisher have full control over enabling and disabling the native recording and streaming at any point in a game.

Most games have no restrictions, a small number disable streaming during what would be categorized as big plot reveals / spoilers, but there seems to be a trend among the Japanese publishers to be far more restrictive. Some have been adding watermarks and copyright info onto the screenshots users take, others have been disabling streaming for entire games. Initially Yakuza 0 had streaming disabled for the entire game, but after a while at some point they patched it and lifted that limitation for all but the final chapter of the game.

Now of course, using an external box like an El Gato or something totally bypasses all of those technical restrictions and lets you stream whatever shows up on your tv, so disabling this at the OS level seems futile. At that point they’re just going to dump all the cutscenes into Content ID as well as manually flag videos.

We should also keep in mind that this is Sega we’re talking about, and they have a history of issuing false copyright strikes on Youtube to mass takedown videos so their own videos appear higher up in Youtube’s search results. Can’t remember if that was Sega of Japan or Sega of Europe, but it definitely was a case of different branches giving conflicting responses and generally not having any idea what was going on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Article misses a key point

Now of course, using an external box like an El Gato or something totally bypasses all of those technical restrictions and lets you stream whatever shows up on your tv, so disabling this at the OS level seems futile.

I’m shocked they’re not using HDCP to prevent it. The PS5 will if people keep accepting this stuff.

Megahurtz says:

Re: Re: Article misses a key point

PS4 actually allows you to turn off HDCP. Doing that disables bluray playback and most (all?) video streaming apps (Netflix, Hulu, etc) will refuse to start. Never had a problem with games after turning HDCP off though. I turned it off on my system for a while due to handshake problems with a HDMI switch, but that eventually got ironed out in a PS4 firmware update.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Article misses a key point

You don’t need to turn off HDCP if you have a good enough switch. That’s a portion of the system that they can’t upgrade via firmware patches. That we know of anyway. However, even if they could update it to HDCP 2.x or whatever else, they’d run the risk of disabling the devices of legitimate users and all of the bad PR that comes with it.

Of course, there are no legitimate users, only pirates that haven’t been caught yet.

Megahurtz says:

Also worth noting

The game has been available in Japan for 6-7 months already and Youtube is filled with spoiler videos. People have even created their own subs for the videos and translated them themselves. Seems like a strange time to decide that NOW is when to start flagging vids, but their Japanese masters seem far more nervous of the reach of the English translation than the Japanese one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Once again, with feeling

Gamers are stupid. They will buy this bloviating company’s products AND they’ll promote them — for example, by writing about them (spoilers or not). If gamers weren’t morons, they would boycott/ignore this company entirely and either force a policy retraction or just drive them out of business.

But they won’t. Gamers are too stupid, too weak, too undisciplined to manage that. And this company — or its “Japanese masters” knows they’re stupid and is exploiting that.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Once again, with feeling

I’m always interested as to why you always try to insult gamers as if they’re a one group that agrees with each other (many of whom are certainly not buying this fairly niche game), and why you never extend that to others forms of media. I never see you attack “book readers” even tough they will do the same thing.

The only stupidity, as ever, is the kind of person who obsessively posts insults and refuses adult debate.

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