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Japanese Game Website Owner Arrested For Screenshot Scans

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the the-scanners-have-won dept.

The Courts 48

Thanks to 1UP for its news story reporting that the owner of popular Japanese videogame website Gameonline has been arrested for copyright violation regarding unauthorized screenshot scans, since "several hundred [screenshots available on the site] were allegedly found to have been taken from magazines and overseas game sites without the permission of the game publisher, a violation of Japanese copyright law." The story continues by explaining: "Gameonline, one of the most popular game sites in Japan until its sudden closure last month, was a for-profit site that made its money exclusively via advertising. The site's owner had received permission from several Japanese publishers to post screenshots from their games, but other companies, including SNK Playmore, Capcom, Square Enix, and Namco, allegedly found media from their games posted on the site without their permission, leading to today's arrest."

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Seems pretty straightforward (5, Insightful)

Tezkah (771144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192705)

I mean, the companies didn't want their games being shown on that website, and the owner didn't comply. There has to be more to this story, because I doubt they'd have him arrested if they had not asked him to take the screens down before resorting to legal action. Then again, Japan has a much different culture and their copyright law seems more strictly enforced than the US. Any one have any experience with Japanese copyright law?

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (1, Interesting)

Molina the Bofh (99621) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192737)

Why would they want to hide their screenshots ?

Unless their game really sucks and the only nice picture is the one in the box.

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (5, Interesting)

Tezkah (771144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192759)

The site's owner had received permission from several Japanese publishers to post screenshots from their games, but other companies, including SNK Playmore, Capcom, Square Enix, and Namco, allegedly found media from their games posted on the site without their permission, leading to today's arrest.

I dunno, the graphics are some of the best parts of Squenix's games :P

Capcom I could see getting upset, using sprites from 1994 for games a decade later.

I dont why they wouldn't want the hype, but its their product, and they can do with it what they want. Just like Linux people would be upset if someone violated the GPL, even in good spirit (although they, most likely, wouldn't have the violater arrested, but these are companies who probably have a team of lawyers just to protect their "intellectual property")

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (1)

bgackle (597616) | more than 10 years ago | (#9197583)

I dont why they wouldn't want the hype, but its their product, and they can do with it what they want. I would generally agree with you... but in this case "doing with it what they want" involved sending some small website owner to jail for posting a few screenshots. Perhaps you should have said "It's their police force, and they can do with it what they want."

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 10 years ago | (#9200945)

I dont why they wouldn't want the hype, but its their product, and they can do with it what they want.

Within limits. Copyright law in most countries includes a number of exceptions, and this would seem to fall right smack in the middle of the Fair Use exception.

Maybe Japanese law is different... if so, they should fix it. Fair Use is important.

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (4, Interesting)

Maiko (534130) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192866)

I suppose it could also be read that since he scanned images from magazines and other sites, it would therefore be stealing potential readers from them for his site's own gain. These magazines could have had exclusivity agreements with the publishers, guaranteeing the content would only be available from one source for a period of time before anyone else is allowed to shout the same stuff from the rooftops.
As for the screenshots, there are services available such as Gamespress.com that allow game sites and magazines to get hold of screens submitted by the publisher for the media to use. Sure, the screenshots may show the game's best features and nothing to the opposite, but at least the PR companies aren't as likely to demand an instant removal of them.

Just my misinformed one cent and candybar wrapper...

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (1)

Bloomy (714535) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193062)

Do any of these services allow sites to put their own watermarks on media? Games Press's terms say one can't "adapt, alter or create any derivative work from any of the material supplied by the Service," so I guess they don't.

I've often wondered how IGN was able to put their own watermark on the media they host without getting into copyright issues.

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9192935)

I wouldn't expect someone to be arrested PERIOD for somethign that was non violent and non-threatening. If I raped your daughter or an pointing a gun at your head, fine... but arrest someone for a non-violent minor infraction? what the FUCK?!

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193077)

What with this and the arrest last week of someone who tried to bring down all that is good and right by writing an anonymous P2P app...

Man, I used to have a thing for Japan and love the culture etc... But this recent nonsense with their aggressive (even by US standards) enforcement of copyright is just nuts! I mean the guy who wrote the P2P will most likely be JAILED for it!

That's one messed up society...

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9193695)

Man, I used to have a thing for Japan and love the culture etc... But this recent nonsense with their aggressive (even by US standards) enforcement of copyright is just nuts! I mean the guy who wrote the P2P will most likely be JAILED for it!

That's one messed up society...


These are two isolated incidents. Claiming Japan is hopelessly fucked up because of these two cases is like claiming the USA is hopelessly fucked up because of Skylarov and SCO.

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9194978)

But the USA is hopelessly fucked up, and Skylarov and SCO are two good examples of that.

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9195253)

Ah, well, I must admit I wasn't expecting someone to take that line. To counter it, allow me to point out that the charges against Skylarov were dismissed and he was released (not shipped to Guantanamo Bay), and that SCO are looking likely to lose and their biggest opponents - IBM, Red Hat, Groklaw - are all also American.

In other words, we can't call the USA "hopelessly fucked up" based on those two cases, because in both cases it appears that the majority of Americans are successfully resisting the fucked-up-ness. So I stand by my original statement: Japan may or may not be fucked up, but these two cases of apparent fucked-up-ness are insufficient by themselves to determine that. Let's at least wait until the "criminals" have been tried before we start denouncing their legal system...

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 10 years ago | (#9202015)

The mere FACT that people were arrested for such things shows there's something majorly messed up.

Re:Seems pretty straightforward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9194387)

Fair use?

Videogame (5, Funny)

Molina the Bofh (99621) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192710)

In A.D. 2004
War against pirates was beginning.
Pirate: What happen ?
Webmaster: Somebody set up us the DDOS.
Sysoperator: We get connection.
Pirate: What !
Sysoperator: Main screen turn on.
Pirate: It's you !!
DMCA: How are you gentlemen !!
DMCA: All your warez are belong to us !
DMCA: You are on the way to fdisk.
Pirate: What you say !!
DMCA: You have no chance to survive make your time.
DMCA: HA HA HA HA....
Pirate: Take off every zip.
Pirate: You know what you doing.
Pirate: mv zip greatjustice

(all right, I do know DMCA does not apply in Japan.)

Re:Videogame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9192719)

lol

Re:Videogame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9196716)

Best variant ever.

Re:Videogame (1)

Eviscero (675126) | more than 10 years ago | (#9202887)

HAHA

I almost fell off my chair and landed on my UPS when I read Molina's post.

HAHAHAHA

Of course... (5, Insightful)

b00jah (672635) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192715)

Because, damn, what kind of a game developer would want to have their game getting the attention of fans and possible customers? That would be stupid, wouldn't it.

Re:Of course... (1)

aminorex (141494) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192814)

Funny? More like Insightful.

It's the the game devs who pull this kind of barratry --
they would rather see the game be a success.
It's the lawyers who don't stand to make any money
from the success of the game, but do stand to profit
by sucking everyone else's blood (including the
businesses stupid enough to pay them to chop them
off at the knees).

Re:Of course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9192817)

Yeah, it seems really snippy to be arresting someone over screenshots. I mean, isn't the creative work the game code and data itself? The rest is all a result of the player's involvement and the rendering hardware. Can you really copyright every possibly configuration of objects in a game?

Re:Of course... (2, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193001)

It isn't just that he was posting screenshots of videogames. He was also posting images and screenshots that, while of games, were (sometimes) copyrighted material. I suppose you could think of it like someone being arrested for passing off one of those Getty/Associated Press photographs as your own.

Granted, it's unpleasant to think that you can beat your wife and children and not raise anyone's attention and even shoplift without much more than a quick trip to be booked and released with a fine, yet arrested for showing an image on your website that originally game from some videogame magazine.

But of course, corporations don't run our governments, politicians, police forces and legislation. Why, that would be a silly claim... Just silly... *cough*

Re:Of course... (1)

PhotoBoy (684898) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193822)

Unless this guy had been repeatedly asked and warned to remove any infringing material this seems like a massive overreaction to me.

That said, if he was taking screen grabs from IGN's "Insider" section (or some other subscription site) and posting them for all to see I can understand why legal action might have been taken.

As I understand it most game sites these days pay for the privilege of having the first screen shots of big-name games e.g. the first shots of the redesigned Resident Evil 4. Any site that doesn't shell out for the media doesn't get their exclusive.

It's a bit off-topic but if this is the case it just goes to show how the links between review sites and big publishers these days isn't necessarily conducive to impartiality.

Screenshots are the artistic work of the player (2, Insightful)

aminorex (141494) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192798)

It seems obvious to me that the person who created
a screenshot is the person who performed the gameplay
required to put the game into that configuration.

Pissing on your customers is bad business, by the way.

Re:Screenshots are the artistic work of the player (2, Insightful)

mehu (92260) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193071)

It's easy to miss this part:

several hundred [screenshots] were allegedly found to have been taken from magazines and overseas game sites without the permission of the game publisher

He wasn't just posting screenshots, he was taking other sites & companies' screenshots. Perhaps there wouldn't have been a problem if he'd made them all himself?

Re:Screenshots are the artistic work of the player (1)

aminorex (141494) | more than 10 years ago | (#9196574)

A uses B's work to produce a novel work. C has no
copyright claim against A as a result.

Re:Screenshots are the artistic work of the player (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9196927)

Your "logic" would make a lot more sense if you mentioned how C was involved to begin with.

How do you use someone else's work to create a novel work anyway? To me, that sounds like the very definition of a derivative work.

Re:Screenshots are the artistic work of the player (1)

aminorex (141494) | more than 10 years ago | (#9201774)

novel and derivative are not mutually exclusive
categories. if they were, 'novel derivation' would
be oxymoronic.

Re:Screenshots are the artistic work of the player (1)

ezeednn (781064) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193086)

Well ... I dont agree with that.

Re:Screenshots are the artistic work of the player (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9193355)

Screenshots are the artistic work of the player

Is a quote from a book an artistic work?

Re:Screenshots are the artistic work of the player (1)

NickFusion (456530) | more than 10 years ago | (#9196319)

You go to the boardwalk, and have your picture taken in the in one of those murals with a hole cut out for your head.

Shazam!, you're an artist.

Pfft.

Now excuse me, I have to go my gallery open. I'm displaying my latest work, "UT Male grabbing his Crotch or Slain Opponent."

Waves of paranoia (1)

RoderickMcDougall (661783) | more than 10 years ago | (#9192998)

Gracious me he must be a tool of satan. wThe man is spending money on bandwidth to provide gamers with copyrighted screenshots. He deserves a pat on the back and a slap on the wrist. Sort of a yin yang punishment.

Re:Waves of paranoia (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9194689)

I guess you mised the part about:
"Gameonline, one of the most popular game sites in Japan until its sudden closure last month, was a for-profit site that made its money exclusively via advertising."

Japanese prisons... (1)

Lord Graga (696091) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193029)

... how are they anyway? Of course there ain't anybody able to run a larger backdoor exploit from there, if you know what I mean ;)

Re:Japanese prisons... (1)

baywulf (214371) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193317)

"Japanese prisons...how are they anyway?"

Lets just say if you every wondered where tentacle pr0n comes from...

I wonder... (2, Insightful)

Suhas (232056) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193084)

why [slashdot.org] the [slashdot.org] spurt in tech related crackdown?

My thoughts. (4, Insightful)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193199)

I think it's completely stupid that a game news site gets their panties in a twist when another game site takes a scan/picture of a game that neither of them owns, and uses it for whatever purpose.

And likewise, I think it's equally stupid that artist who make pictures [slashdot.org] for Linux get upset when Linux developers use their pictures. I mean, it gets to a point where we should just keep our stuff to ourselves if we are THAT concerned about someone using it for something that you didn't intend.

Yeah yeah, I know. Beating a dead horse, and being hopelessly idealistic. But I really do think that people need to just step back once in a while and take a good long thought if what they are doing is worth it, or if it's just plain pointless to even be thinking about it.

Re:My thoughts. (1)

ChibiLZ (697816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9194865)

I agree with that sentiment. Why do they need permission to report 'news', as it were? What if the AP or Reuters needed to ask the permission of the IRA terrorists to report on a bombing? What if CNN needed to ask permission of the state of Florida when a hurricane hit? The only difference between the article and my thoughts is viewpoint.

There can only be one reason... (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 10 years ago | (#9193589)

for their actions. His reviews must have been unfavourable and not very flattering for the companies concerned... thus puncturing their carefully calculated hype campaigns. They couldn't get him for the reviews as they were quite possible true, but they could get him for unauthorised use of their screenshots...

Exclusive? (2, Insightful)

miTTio (24893) | more than 10 years ago | (#9194640)

I would imagine that some of those images taken from magazines were exclusive. Everytime I go to a magazine stand there is some gaming magazine touting that they have exclusive images of game X. I don't think this is any different than if EGM scanned some images from a GamePro magazine and used it in print. Perhaps the magazines put some pressure on the companies to press charges.

Re:Exclusive? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9196944)

Given that exclusive images are a way to keep gaming magazines "in line" (say some nice things about us or you won't get these pictures any more) I doubt the magazines had to lean on the publishers to file suit - it's in their own best interest to protect the value of exclusive screen shots.

Simple solution (2, Informative)

NetDanzr (619387) | more than 10 years ago | (#9194888)

Apparently, the game publishers who were involved didn't want people to know about their games, so let them have their wish and let their games be ignored, possibly by everybody.

A long time ago, Steve Jackson Games, which holds the copyright on titles based on their games, such as Autoduel, did the same. Very quickly, all their games disappeared into obscurity, and if you ask the average gamer, he won't be able to mention a single computer game based on Steve Jackson's GURPS. By the time the company turned around and declared that it would allow people to review their games and share the screenshots, it was too late. I really hope the same would happen to the companies involved in this case.

Too late??? (1)

Crash Culligan (227354) | more than 10 years ago | (#9196131)

By the time the company turned around and declared that it would allow people to review their games and share the screenshots, it was too late.
Ummm, too late for what? Any sort of new computerized GURPS game? [sjgames.com]

For what it's worth, I've been a follower of SJG for a long time, and I admit that SJ has some particular notions of defending his intellectual property [sjgames.com] . But overall, it hasn't hurt them over the long haul. If SJG's peculiar stance on their properties shows anything, it's how well SJ understands how bent copyright law is, not how greedy or IP-happy SJ is.

To drag this kicking and screaming back on topic, it raises a question: how far does the copyright on one of those games stretch? The source code? Source code and specific images? Because saying that the copyright applies to not only the source code but to any possible image that might emerge from playing it seems unreasonable. Specific presentation images may be covered by that, but general screenshots probably shouldn't.

Lack of Quality by Association and Possible Errors (3, Interesting)

MiceHead (723398) | more than 10 years ago | (#9196092)

There are reasons why a game publisher might not want a website to post its screenshots with others, but I wonder if there might just be an error in the linked article.

In independent games, the question of quality-by-association comes up when a company approaches a developer with a request to include its game in a CD compilation. One side of the argument is that the presence of a title on a shovelware [google.com] compilation can detract from its perceived quality -- your game might appear among a hundred Sokoban clones, or in an extreme case, you might see children's software [pcmag.com] next to more adult software [gamespot.com] . So, it is conceivable [imdb.com] that publishers might have considered association with this website (archived here [archive.org] ) a bad thing.

But I don't buy it. Entire conferences [e3expo.com] are devoted to publicity, and as they say, no publicity is bad publicity. (To wit, I'd talk up my postman about my software if I thought it'd help. He's a nice guy; we talk about other things.) The only tidbit that screams copyright violation as I understand it is this: Of this collection, several hundred were allegedly found to have been taken from magazines and overseas game sites...

However, I do not understand the end of that sentence: ...without the permission of the game publisher, a violation of Japanese copyright law.

To my knowledge, it is not illegal in the States to take and post a screenshot of a movie or game to the Web; my understanding Japanese intellectual property laws is limited, but given the number of Japanese film/gaming sites that do this, I don't believe that game publishers have any say over what screenshots are presented. I think 1Up may have meant this, instead:

without the permission of the website's publisher, a violation of Japanese copyright law.
_________________________
I long for the day when Google stops asking me, "Did you mean: inigo rage [google.com] "

Probably not the last time (1)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 10 years ago | (#9196510)

This story reminds me of the fuss George Broussard of 3DRealms used to make about web sites using screenshots without his approval. I don't know if he still has such strong opinions on the subject but if he does, future arrests for copyright infringement wouldn't surprise me, especially if the screenshots are used as part of a negative review.

Surely screenshots are no different from brief book quotes? Why aren't they fair use?

Re:Probably not the last time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9202408)

I thought George was bright guy until I read this. He's paranoid about screenshots? Uh. OK, I wonder how many games he'd sell if they all came in plain cardboard box with the word GAME stenciled on the outside.

I guess the sequels would be called COMPUTER GAME -just a tad fancier. Sure to sell millions!

If he's still paranoid about such things, then maybe he'll understand when nobody reviews Duke Nukem Forever, not that it will ever SHIP, mind you, but all the same, nobody will care if it does.

Not really surprised by this. (1, Interesting)

Samir Gupta (623651) | more than 10 years ago | (#9199470)

Square/ENIX in particular are incredibly anal about people taking screenshots. At the most recent E3, they were constantly patrolling their booth, descending like hawks on anyone who did so much as take out a camera, and curtly and rudely (in a most un-Japanese way) saying "no" to them.

Of course, other companies sometimes had no photography rules, but they were all for games shown behind closed doors -- every game displayed openly in booths were being openly filmed/photographed with the encouragement of the developers. Square was the only ones who prohibited photography of all their games.

Hello Square! If you don't want people taking pictures of your game, don't show it openly!

Re:Not really surprised by this. (0, Troll)

OneHungLo (265284) | more than 10 years ago | (#9201349)

Better yet, we could send this guy [streetblowjobs.com] in to Square/ENIX's booth as an undercover reporter.

Hey, if the women "don't know", then how would Square/ENIX?
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