Fans Spend 8 Months Subtitling Ace Attorney Game, Capcom Slaps Them Down

After spending months translating a Japanese Ace Attorney game on YouTube, two fans had their subtitled videos taken down by Capcom.

Dai Gyakuten Saiban is an Ace Attorney spin-off starring an ancestor of Phoenix Wright in feudal Japan that has not been released in English. For O and Garbage, who run a Dai Gyakuten Saiban YouTube channel, it's their favourite Ace Attorney game.

"Since I have an import 3DS, I bought the game just to try it out," she said over reddit private messages. "Dai Gyakuten Saiban drew me in with it's aesthetics, and then caught me in a death grip with Asougi [the main character's rival]." Their shared passion for the game lead them to translate it over a period of about 8 months. Their videos consisted of footage of the game as they played it without commentary, with subtitles added using YouTube's subtitling options.

They finished just in time for the announcement of Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2. "We both loved the game a lot," O said, "and it was a shame that not everyone would be able to experience it because it lacked a localisation."

For fans of Japanese games that never come west, it's not an uncommon story. If you don't speak Japanese, but want to enjoy or understand a game in a franchise you like, you'll have to rely on fan translations. If you want to play Mother 3, the sequel to beloved game Earthbound, you'll be relying on a fan translation.

But fan translations for games, manga and anime exist in a sketchy legal space, and are at the whim of the people who own the property being translated. In 2014, for example, fan translators for the game Final Fantasy Type-0 were forced to take down their patch after Square-Enix sent them legal requests to do so.

Even knowing this, O and Garbage weren't that concerned about their videos being taken down.

"Initially, I didn't think a takedown would happen," O said. "We placed no ads or monetisation on the videos, and the original fear of the videos being taken down passed as we headed into 2016 and the year passed with none of the videos being taken down."

One of the few remaining videos on their channel is a subtitled trailer for the game.

But on June 25, O discovered that the entirety of their translated Dai Gyakuten Saiban videos had been taken down by Capcom. The copy of the takedown notice they showed me indicated that they were manually detected, and not a victim of the automated "Content ID" system that is sometimes overzealous in how it flags gameplay videos. I reached out to Capcom about this and they declined to comment.

Frustrated, O went to the r/AceAttorney subreddit.

"It has come to my attention, as I was sick, that all of our hard work has been removed by Capcom" she wrote. She went on to say that two other channels have also uploaded translated playthroughs of Dai Gyakuten Saiban but have not had their videos taken down. O also said that they would nevertheless translate Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2 and she has since filed a counterclaim.

Neither O nor Garbage know why their channel was targeted specifically, and it's likely they won't ever know. "Most likely because it's a soft subtitled translation, and without the captions turned on it's nothing more than a playthrough of the game," O said. That said, one of the remaining channels with a translated Let's Play of Dai Gyakuten Saiban also uses soft subtitles.

While she's not as frustrated as she was when she first found out, O and Garbage are both "bummed," as Garbage puts it. But neither of them have very many regrets about starting the project in the first place.

"There wasn't an earth shattering revelation or pull to me doing this," Garbage said. "I just wanted to share a game that was inaccessible."


    The whole fair use YouTube thing gives me a headache...

    If someone were to put a playthrough of a game, from start to finish, can someone tell me why that's allowed in the first place? I was under the assumption that any use of material that is not theirs is potentially copyright infringing, and that you had to contact the owner to get permission first.

      Its up to the owner of the IP's discretion really. Most are silent about it for whatever reason, but some either want to monetise it for themselves or just remove it.

      Sometimes it's not allowed, and the YouTuber has to defend it in court as a transformative work.

      Fair use let's you use portions of unchanged works for the purpose of review or satire. A full, start to finish let's play would nearly always be copyright infringement.. unless the Dev had given permission.

      It's never a black and white issue, and relies as much on the original artist or their legal team to protect their works to maintain the copyright, even if it's potentially fair use, in the event that someone later down the track rips them off completely.

      In the US, fair use is an affirmative defence to a copyright infringement claim. So it is something that you'd need to convince the judge of, rather than being something that proactively shields you from law suits.

      Whether a full play through of a game is fair use or not really depends on the game in question. For an adventure game with a fairly linear story, a play through might show almost all of the game and act as a substitute for buying the game, so is probably not fair use. For a game where every playthrough is different (e.g. a multi-player game), it might not be. Adding commentary can also increase the chances of it being counted as fair use: it makes the use transformative, and could characterise the use as a critical analysis.

      Separate from this, you've also got to consider the developer/publisher: some developers might be fine with these types of videos even if they aren't covered by fair use. Other developers will be incredibly strict, and issue take downs for uses that would unambiguously be covered by fair use.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now