YouTuber and anime reviewer Totally Not Mark announced on Wednesday that all 150 copyright strikes filed by Toei Animation against his videos have been removed after YouTuber ruled in his favor on all the copyright claims filed against him. It is a big win for the YouTuber, who had years of his work taken down by Toei Animation in late 2021.
However, as a compromise following a long series of talks between Toei, YouTube, and Totally Not Mark, his videos are now blocked in Japan, where fair use is defined much more narrowly than in much of the world. If Toei wants to block the videos in the rest of the world, they will have to win a fair use case in a non-Japanese court.
How Totally Not Mark won his copyright appeals... kind of
On Dec. 11th, 2021, Totally Not Mark revealed that he was targeted with 150 separate copyright strikes on his channel, all manually filed by Japanese animation studio Teoi Animation. In Wednesday's video, Totally Not Mark revealed that a YouTube contact reached out the next day on Dec. 12th to help him.
According to the YouTuber, that contact revealed that Toei animation sent YouTube direct takedown notices for all 150 videos, which could see the content removed from his channel immediately and strikes that would terminate his channel entirely. YouTube reportedly replied to those notices, asking for Toei to clarify if they had considered fair use, and asking for further justification from Toei.
Totally Not Mark claimed in his video: "In response to this, Toei broke YouTube's policy, and instead of responding with a justification for their takedown notices per YouTubes request, they instead used their own tools behind YouTube's back to manually claim and block every one of the 150 videos in my catalog of my content. So in short, Toei explicitly broke the rules in this instance. It is important to point out that had Toei provided an argument that the videos were infringing under Japanese law, YouTube would likely have honored their removal, removed the videos worldwide, and potentially struck out my channel."
He continued: "In this instance, Toei broke the rules of YouTubes copyright policy, which made every single one of those copyright claims and blocks filed against me, null and void."
Totally Not Mark went on to explain that his contact warned him not to put all the videos back up immediately, since Toei could still come back with a justification to take them down again. Totally Not Mark explained that the Japanese interpretation of fair use is "much less robust" than in the territories he is focused on, like America or Europe. He claimed that the past month has seen his contact at YouTube working with the Japanese contacts at YouTube and Toei to figure out a solution to the dispute.
At the request of YouTube, Toei went made a list of 86 videos they believed should stay down. Totally Not Mark called the list "the most arbitrary assortment of videos [he] had ever seen." The list reportedly was very inconsistent. For example, he said they requested some of his Dragon Ball series be taken down, while others were not, despite them being on their face very similar videos.
"This is where I am going to stop going through these videos," Totally Not Mark said in his reply to YouTube. "Simply put they are either all okay, or they are not. My most charitable reading of these decisions is that those at Toei animation tasked with this assignment quite literally have no excuse, at this point, for producing such an incoherent and incomprehensible list of unacceptable and acceptable videos."
He continued, "Toei have, in their very own list, demonstrated that they don't understand the task or rules they are asking others to abide by. This list is rife with contradiction and incomprehensible choices that I personally find as both the head of a household and a company, deeply disturbing. If Toei doesn't know the rules of their own game, then how could they possibly justify this behavior?"
Following this response, Toei continued to stand by the belief that Totally Not Mark's content is piracy.
"Without Toei willing to budge on the matter, if they were to file a lawsuit in Japan, in a Japanese court it's possible I would little chance due to the narrow application of their version of fair use," Totally Not Mark said in his video. "And this is where YouTube did something they have never done before. A move that added a brand new step to the copyright policy or protocol."
He continued: "So a legal copyright has to consider fair use or other copyright exceptions. My videos are delivered in English and are clearly targeted to those in the Western world, and so, Youtube removed the videos in Japan. . . YouTube felt the videos could reasonably qualify for a fair use exemption in most of the rest of the world."
As a result, the content will remain available in non-Japanese territories, meaning Toei will only be able to block the videos outside Japan if they do so in another country's legal system. Totally Not Mark concluded his video by thanking YouTube and his YouTube contacts who worked hard to figure out this situation for him.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.