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What are AMVs, are they illegal, and should companies prevent their use?

Updated on July 1, 2015

This is Halloween: A Soul Eater AMV by MrHagarenViper

There is an interesting form of aamong fans of Japanese animation in which they produce music videos that combine often hundreds of tiny clips from an anime with music from various artists. These videos are nearly always posted on the internet for others to view free of charge, and there are thousands of them on Youtube and a number of other websites. But what makes these videos so fastenating to watch? And more importantly, why are they sometimes considered illegal and taken down? In this article I will attempt to show what they are and what issues this sometimes quite artistic medium faces.

AMV is short for Animated Music Video, and they attempt to place popular music alongside heavily edited video footage to make an appealing and interesting video. They are usually action-oriented in style, and generally come from only one anime at a time, but there are many multi-anime AMVs, romance-focused ones, and even a number that attempt to tell a new story using the characters from one or more series. The music used in these AMVs is also varied, with Rock and Electronic music being the most popular, but there are also a large number of Rap-based AMVs and even a few that use Country music. Regardless of what they are made of AMV's are built with the focus on being a quick and powerful form of entertainment that can be created by anyone who has the patience to make them and access to a computer.

But while AMV's can be very entertaining, they are also a good form of practice for rookie editors. While there are thousands of AMVs the best tend to flow well between scenes, are usually made of clips between half a second to three seconds long, and most importantly cut or move with the music that they are made alongside. The people who do this kind of work can easily use the same skills in the production of commercials, movie trailers, or even the production of more traditional music videos.

But despite the effort put into them by their creators AMVs are built on the work of other people, and so they face a lot of legal issues, especially from the music industry. This problem is caused by copyright laws, which exist to protect intellectual property such as music and animation used in AMVs from being reproduced and/or resold by someone other than those the creator permits. These laws can sometimes allow for published works to be used for non-profit cases, especially when the finished product is considered to be in a transformed state. While the visual parts of AMV's are cut up enough that animation companies usually do not have problems with them, the editors often make use of full songs. This means that record companies have two possible sources of profit that are damaged by the uploading of AMVs. The first is that since the song is part of a free video, a potential buyer might just repeat the AMV as many times as they wish rather than actually purchasing the song. Moreover, there are several ways to simply rip music off of such a video, and so they can listen to their illegally attained music on mobile devices as well. The other problem is that musicians often sell the rights to their music to companies for use in commercials and movies, which goes against the idea of fans using their music for free to produce their AMVs.

But there are a number of solid arguments against prohibiting AMVs. The first and strongest of which is that AMVs help expose both bands and Anime to potential fans. And while that extra exposure may not feel important to those who are already popular, I don't think there is anyone in either industry who is actually against getting more. The argument about how easy it is to repeat or rip from AMVs is also counterable thanks to the way many AMVs are built. Most do not play on as high a quality as the official versions of the song, so those that want that quality will be better served by buying the song. And many AMVs include either words from the animation to illustrate its scenes, or an opening or ending credits section to show the song and maker which often has its own short music track, both of which will bother those who are repeating or ripping the song. Due to the low cost of individual songs I do not see someone ripping a low quality song of an AMV and editing out the credits, and I'm not even sure if one could remove the character lines from the middle of a song, so both of those two types are probably safe from such piracy. The final problem is the argument that by allowing AMV makers to use their music they are breaking into the same territory as other companies, but since no money is being made by the editors I do not see any real issue with this.

So while AMVs are in a seriously questionable state, do you believe they should be considered illegal? Both sides have their own solid arguments, and while I would be sad to see this rather cool form of artistic expression vanish, I can see why record companies would wish to remove it.

So what do you think?

Do you believe AMVs should be considered legal?

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