She performs at sold out concerts, sells record breaking number of CD’s and has recently become a spokesperson for Toyota Corolla’s 2011 campaign(Toyota Corolla’s 2011 campaign) in the United States. Sounds like a typical celebrity rock star, right? Not quite. Japan’s music idol is unlike your normal “rock star” as this performer is “holographic”. Hatsune Miku is Japan’s first virtual pop star. Fans love her as she is projected in 3-D animation on an onstage screen and provides a collaborative and interactive experience not experienced at your “normal” concert. Her concerts allow fans to not only sing but collaborate on her hits. She is the world’s first holographic “diva” created entirely through 3 D animation and as grown over the last few years into worldwide notoriety.
The popularity of Hatsune Miku’s story can be explained by tracing her genealogy roots. She was conceived as the brainchild of Crypton Future Media using the vocaloid technology created by Yamaha Corporation. This singing synthesize program was the third produced by Crypton Future Media (and the sixth one at the time on the market). Crypton Future Media devised the idea of a character Vocal series in using the latest vocaloid2 engine in 2007. Crypton wanted to create a character and turned to other singers to collect their music samples. They were unable to find a singer or (as many were intimidated by the competition of a virtual singer outdoing Crypton) turned to a voice actress Saki Fujita. And, August 31, 2007, Hatsune Miku was born. Crypton hadn’t foreseen the success or phenomenon that this virtual rock start would grow to be. And, the world was introduced to the mainstreaming of augmented reality and further evidence that the need for copyright law for creations that communication technology brings to both the consumer and producer needs to be addressed. In virtual worlds, new forms of intellectual property and even new types of “virtual rights” create new paths that resemble those already staked out by the online games industry.
Hatsune Miku branching out from recording artist to promotional spokesperson complicates the unanswered debate on intellectual property rights with virtual items. Hatsune Miku is the creation of Crypton Future Media or is she? Isn’t this final virtual product technically the brainchild of several entities? CFM could not have created the character had it not been for the technology that Yamaha invented. Additionally, her voice was collected from samples from an actress and her physical representation (image) is based on the design by a Japanese artist. The color scheme of her dress is cyan and represents the Yamaha’s synthesizer’s signature color which further evidences Yamaha’s contribution to the creation. Additionally, song and music creators and her fans have contributed to building her personality based on traits which they associated for her. Who profits from her appearance as a Toyota Spokesperson? Crypton Future Media probably never anticipate their character becoming a worldwide “profitable” phenomenon. Hatsune Miku is a growing example of how virtual items have grown to be very valuable in both the virtual and real world.
According to Wikia, Crypton Future Media, the software user owns the rights and obligations arising from the software. The software right is treated just like a musical instrument and the vocal is the sound. The terms of the licensing is the Character Vocal Series software can be used for commercial or noncommercial use to create vocals, as long as the vocals do not use words under the licensing agreement to synthesize derogatory or disturbing lyrics. The mascot image and name belong to Crypton and under the term of license, must have Crypton Future Media’s consent to commercially distribute a vocal as a song sung by the character and/or use the mascot image on commercial products.
Should Yamaha Corporation have some rights and royalties gained from Hatsune Miku? Without the technology of vocaloid, Hatsune Miku could never been created. Should virtual items like Hatsune Miku be treated with the same rights as physical property? Courts have in the past treated virtual items similar to personal property. The dilemma here is that treating virtual property as real-life personal property does not decide who owns the virtual property (Shen, 2010). This has been an ongoing legal dispute in the online gaming industry as game operators argue that they have greater property rights because the created the platform that made the virtual item possible. The players argue that they have the greater property rights because the player devoted the time, effort, creativity with the platform to create the game (Shen, 2010).
Kennedy (2008) presents three current theoretical foundations for virtual property that are applied in legal arguments for online property rights which are: utilitarianism, Locke’s labour desert theory and Hegel’s personality theory (Kennedy, 2008). These rationalizations for property rights will be briefly summarized.
In Utilitarian theory, rights are granted when they increase the overall utility and social welfare. It carries an underlying assumption that is that when property rights are granted it stimulates more production of that object. The argument contends that without protections users will not invest as much time and effort in character development and play (Kennedy, 2008)).
The Labour-desert theory is the legal argument used the most to justify the ownership of property in virtual objects. It highlights the premise that a person acquires property by applying their labor to common, ownerless goods. This was used in a class action suit against Sony for cancelling online auctions for property in EverQuest (Register cited in Kennedy, 2008).
Hegel’s Personality theory argues that individuals use computer technology as a means of self-expression and exploring alternative identities (Kennedy, 2008). The concept of play as an “arbitrary preference” is a fundamental means of self-expression, whether it occurs in the real world or virtual world (Kennedy, 2008:p. 103). This is witnessed in Hatsune Miku character as her personality is human like connecting with fans at sold out concerts and selling Toyota Corollas in the real world. It is also evidenced in the degree of connectedness a player feels with an argument creating a strong argument for property rights in a virtual world.
Additionally, a fourth popular theory is argued for property rights under Lockean theory, often seen in the online gaming industry but applicable to other virtual objects. Gamers and game makers feel justified for wanting property rights. Game operators had the “raw” materials and provided the platform utilized in the formation of the virtual objects. A player must enter a virtual world first in order to begin creating the virtual items. Conversely, game makers argue that it can take serious time to write codes and thus they have mixed their labor with common property and created something of their own. Therefore, it is their property. Game operators under Lockean theory would argue that they own all virtual property (Shen, 2010).
It seems that there needs to be a granting of some rights to the users of virtual worlds to their creations. What incentive would a user have to partaking in a virtual world if they are not granted the rights to objects created with huge investments of time and money? It seems that Lockean theory affords some protections and would allow owners of the original “raw” materials the opportunity of gain as well through the transfer of usage rights.
The development of digital information and communication technologies becoming more prevalent sees an increase in arguments for granting players the rights to buy and sell virtual objects. We will be living “in the screen” rather than “on the screen” (Kennedy, 2008,:p.101) It is likely that common, open standards will be developed to enable online game avatars to be portable from game to game, much as the development of the open web technologies allowed information to be shared across computer and network platforms (Economist, 2007).
Getting serious. (2007, November 6). Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/10202591?story_id=10202591
Kennedy, R. (2008, June). Virtual rights? Property in online game objects and character. Information and Communication Technology Law, 17(2), 95-106.
Shen, L. (2010). Who owns the virtual items? Duke Law and Technology Review.
2011 toyota corolla. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from 2011 Crypton Media website: http://www.toyota.com/corollamiku/?srchid=K610_p422802838
What is the “HATSUNE MIKU movement” ? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from Crypton Media , Inc. website: http://www.crypton.co.jp/mp/pages/prod/vocaloid/cv01_us.jsp
Wikia [Crypton Future Media]. (2011). Retrieved from http://vocaloid.wikia.com/wiki/Crypton_Future_Media