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Soapbox: Ripping Off Japan - Japanese Video Game Copyright Protection & Preservation (Or Lack Thereof)
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Soapbox: Ripping Off Japan - Japanese Video Game Copyright Protection & Preservation (Or Lack Thereof)

October 24, 2006 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next
 

There is a serious legal issue in Japan with video games – old and new. Just this past year I've had to inform a number of different Japanese video game companies that their copyrights were being infringed upon. These infringements involved classic video game properties being sold or used overseas without license or permission. The Japanese companies I dealt with have been in the business for years, some are large corporations, while others have no overseas operations or have scaled back game development entirely.

One such copyright infringement case I uncovered involved a U.S. company that had the audacity to wipe the original publisher name and copyright year off the title screen of a game they were selling. This same company also took another Japanese game and replaced the original publishers logo with theirs claiming ownership in order to look legitimate. They knew they were selling unlicensed game properties from Japan and just had to cover their tracks.

It just so happened that these unlicensed games had out-of-date copyright and trademark filings, and were owned by companies that did not have operations outside of Japan. This was a weakness the violator thought they could exploit and get away without being discovered, but they were wrong.

Then there is the case of the CBC Network. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation receives just under a billion dollars a year in federal funding along with revenue from TV advertising. The network currently operates "Cbc.ca/kids", a website aimed at children with Flash versions of games that visitors can play. Their "classics games" section features X Attack, a clone of Space Invaders (Taito) and Matrix Moon Mayhem, a clone of Moon Patrol (Irem). Another notable entry in their "action section" is Sushi Samurai, a clever clone of Burgertime (which was previously owned by Data East but then sold to G-mode, a Tokyo-based cell phone content company).


G-mode's Burgertime (left, 1982) and CBC Network's Sushi Samurai (right, 2006)

Yes, that's right, federal Canadian tax dollars are funding Flash clone development of video games originally created by Japanese companies. Some may argue there is no harm done since these games are not being "sold" for any monetary value. That's wrong. The CBC is still selling their TV programming to website visitors of all ages.


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