muh japanese studies (piracy draft)

I was reading the Youcat the other day in my endeavor to educate myself on how to live out my Catholic faith more holistically, and I stumbled upon this excerpt…

429 What rules apply to intellectual property?

The misappropriation of intellectual property is theft also. [2408-2409]

Not just PLAGIARISM is theft. The theft of intellectual property begins with copying other students’ work in school, continues in the illegal taking of materials from the Internet, applies to the making of unauthorized copies or trafficking in pirated copies in various media, and extends to business dealings in stolen concepts and ideas. Every acquisition of someone else’s intellectual property demands the free consent and appropriate remuneration of the author or inventor.

… and then the implication hit me like a brick.

I am currently in possession of about 1000 mp3s, a dozen or so ebooks, and hundreds of hours of Japanese anime ripped from YouTube and peer to peer torrenting networks, and haven’t paid a cent for any of it. I have built my lifestyle around the critical consumption of media that I plan to store to some capacity indefinitely on my personal hard drives (in full in the case of music and the books, speech only in the case of the anime). The nuclear option for me to abide by the literal words on that page, that leaves no room for error, would be to delete everything that has a current copyright and rely on what I can buy or what is free (as in freedom) from then on out. But naturally, I am hesitant about what I would lose aside from the commodities themselves.

Japanese practice

Acquiring the Japanese language would become tedious and expensive. The current system I have for listening practice consists of:

Rinse and repeat. The process for more active, thorough study consists of:

Now what would happen if I meticulously obeyed copyright law? There are a few options: I would have to watch anime on streaming sites that have lawfully obtained the rights to the anime I want to watch. Variety would be drastically diminished, especially for the free tier, but engaging stories are there, which is all that matters. However, ripping the audio of streaming media is illegal, so I wouldn’t be able to make my condensed MP3s anymore. The most I could do under Fair Use is record one sentence at a time for the “sentence mining” process I mentioned earlier for book study.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Point one is good because my flashcards are both nonprofit and educational. Point two fails, however, because TV show licensing is both strict and specific, and the Berne Convention transfers Japan’s law over to the US. Point 3 is good because at most, I would use a freeze frame, a three second speech-quality audio clip, and a transcription of what was said, if available. Finally, point 4 is good because there is no context in which a consumer in a free market would pay for my flashcard in lieu of the full audiovisual experience - where the value is derived from, after all.

I have thought about extending this Fair Use clause to allow me to record the audio of whole episodes, but then I think about the money and effort that goes into voice acting, incidental music composition, and stage direction. The most I see covered is maybe 30 seconds to a minute, if I were to put myself in the shoes of the studio - which the anti-consumerist in me hates doing but has to do to keep the spirit of the commandments.

All that said, there would still be a gaping hole in my studies, and that is: what would I listen to passively throughout the day to reinforce comprehension and natural intonation? Even DVDs are out of the question because any kind of place-shifting (moving the media off the disk and into my MP3 player) still requires permission from the copyright holder, which unless specifically marked on the box (common for Blu-rays, actually), they haven’t given. CDs, however, are… maybe OK? You try making sense of this excerpt from the RIAA’s website:

It’s okay to copy music onto special Audio CD-R’s, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) – but not for commercial purposes. Beyond that, there’s no legal “right” to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto a CD-R. However, burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns so long as:

The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own The copy is just for your personal use. It’s not a personal use – in fact, it’s illegal – to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying. The owners of copyrighted music have the right to use protection technology to allow or prevent copying. Remember, it’s never okay to sell or make commercial use of a copy that you make.

Now is a good time to bring up the concept of the “spirit of the law”. Clearly, the intent of copyright in general and all the court cases over the years has been to retaliate against the exponential growth of technology and cling onto the paradigm of “one person, one copy.” that objects (not intellectual property - things you can hold in your hand like a hammer) had no choice but to adhere to. The same stipulation about needing the copyright holder’s consent applies to CDs as well, and acting without permission still qualifies as infringement. However, this organization that has dedicated itself to protect the recording industry and that serves as the liaison between seller and buyer gives a half-hearted “meh” to pushing a button to get your $25 worth of current year artist instead of fiddling around with a portable CD player on the bus like some homeless time traveller (I’ve seen them before). The money was already exchanged, and nobody else is getting free music because our hypothetical tweaker kept his bits to himself (if only he kept other things to himself, but I digress).

In any case, CDs are the way to go. I would have to arrange a time to check out my nearest Japanese second-hand chain store (I’m very grateful to live where I live). After seeing their inventory of audiobooks, I would get to finding/buying the accompanying book and to piecing through it before I ripped the CD.

That would take time, though, and in the meanwhile, I’d have to rely on YouTube to fill the gap. This is how most normal people consume content today, but it’s particularly annoying for me as someone that is used to being off-grid, to not carrying a smartphone, and to not be constantly connected to the internet. But I guess it can’t be helped.

But wait, can’t I just download YouTube videos, you might ask. Well, according to the YouTube terms of service, only if they’re under the Creative Commons license would that be allowed. I could pay for YouTube Premium, but even then, the files are kept in the walled garden of the app, and are revoked upon membership expiration or upon creators’ request.

What about Audible? Last I checked, Japan would very much prefer that their digital media be consumed in the mainland (in short, region locking), so their US inventory consists of international publishers, which equates to mostly translations of English titles and not so many native titles. Not very useful.

I can’t help but shake off the feeling that I shouldn’t have to be a lawyer to follow the will of God, but that just might be my ingrained entitlement of a lifetime of piracy speaking haha.