The "commons" in Japan

Many of you might know what Creative Commons is. Japanese UGC-related companies looked at it and tweaked the license to create their own "commons" or licenses.

** Creative Commons**

First off, Creative Commons. Quote from Creative Commons website:
"Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. We provide free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof."

==4 parameters of Creative Commons==

1) Attribution
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request.

2) Share Alike
You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.

You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for noncommercial purposes only.

4)No Derivative Works
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

==6 basic licenses of Creative Commons==

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with your works licensed under Attribution.

2)Attribution Share Alike
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

3)Attribution No Derivatives
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

4)Attribution Non-Commercial
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

5)Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

6)Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, allowing redistribution. This license is often called the “free advertising” license because it allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they mention you and link back to you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

* Creative Commons basically will not make a database or hold contents, it only provides licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work. I get this question so many times but you don't need to ask Creative Commons to license your work under CC license, you just need to go for it.

* Once given, Creative Commons licenses are irrevocable.

** NicoNiCommons [ja] **

NicoNiCommons is a new set of copyright rules similar to Creative Commons, but is made by Niwango, a company that operates NicoNicoDouga [ja], the largest video sharing site in Japan. It is also an archive of contents that the creators are willing to provide to be reused and remixed by others. Contents include photos, illustrations, logos, music, sound, videos, etc.

Creators (or content owner) upload their contents to NicoNiCommons' server via Smilevideo (a server that NicoNicoDouga users use to upload their videos) so that other users can download those contents. Each content will get unique ID number (Commons ID), and the users who remixed those content will note the ID of the original content when they upload the remixed content. This is how the remix tree looks:

==Parameters of NicoNiCommons==

1)Commercial Use
A)You can use this content for commercial usage for free
B)You can use this content only for non-commercial usage
C)You need a separate permission in order to use it for commercial usage

2)Where this content can be used
A)Only for NicoNiCommons compliant sites
B)All over internet

* Content owners of NicoNiCommons can change the license of their contents after one week has passed since uploading the content. Change of license will not affect the remixed content that were published before the change of license.

* NicoNiCommons is directly connected with the content database and the creator name in that database.

* NicoNiCommons is created in the premise of getting remixed, so "Non-derivative" license does not exist in NicoNiCommons.

Some contents of Osamu Tezuka - was an extremely famous and popular cartoon artist - is in NicoNiCommons.

Contents of Gakuppoido - DTM (Desktop Music) software of a singer (Gackt) - is in NicoNiCommons as well.

** Pixiv Commons **

pixiv [ja] is the biggest illustration sharing site in Japan, with 600million PV per month. They announced pixiv Commons 1.0 last year, and are working on the specs.

==Parameters of pixiv Commons==

Pixiv Commons has 3 basic parameters:

1) Can republish
-Users can republish the work to other websites and weblogs. No derivative work can be made out of it.

2) Can reuse
-Users can use the original work as a source and create other works such as videos (and upload it to video sharing sites such as NicoNicoDouga and YouTube), produce T-shrits, name cards and slideshows etc.

3) Can recreate
-Users can use the original work's character or world setting and create other contents such as illustrations, videos, figures etc out of it.

They have several optional parameters:

1) Attribution
-need attribution yes/no

2) Contact when used
-need to contact the creator after use / do not need to contact

3) Where this content can be used
-pixiv Commons compliant websites only / no restriction

4) R-18(adult contents)
-allow adult content / prohibit adult content

* pixiv commons stands on the premise only for non-commercial use. If the user wants to use the work for commercial purpose, they need to contact the creator for permission.

** Piapro [ja] License **

Piapro, a website operated by Crypton Future Media is another example of user generated contents. Piapro is basically set up for VOCALOID characters. Vocaloid is a DTM(desktop music) software which has characters such as Hatsune Miku [ja], Kagamine Rin/Len [ja], Megurine Luka [ja], etc. Basically Piapro licenses comply to the vocaloid's Terms Of Service, so it needs to be non-commercial usage, also erotic expressions using the VOCALOID characters are prohibited.

==Parameters of Piapro license==

1) Attribution
-need attribution yes/no

2) Derivative work
-whether users can create derivative work/no

* Piapro allows only non-commercial usage.

* Piapro decided not to go with CC license as they wanted the users to have a selection of attribution (currently all of the CC licenses require attribution) and also they wanted to set a rule such as morality of the contents, etc.

* Crypton released Piapro's license usage data, although the data is a bit old. 2007/12/3~2008/1/28(total 12,991)

* note that all of the contents are for non-commercial usage at Piapro.

When Creative Commons changed their license from ver1.0 to ver2.0, they made attribution default. This was because 97-98% of the creators selected attribution.

From the above mentioned stats, only 23.3% of the Piapro creators required attribution. We do not know the reason for this yet- maybe it is cultural issue, maybe it is because "will not require attribution" was the default setting.

** Cyber Special District [ja] **

The Japanese government has the right to create various "special districts" such as "farming special district", "recycle special district", "medical special district" etc, and is currently planning a "cyber special district" to be launched in 2009. Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has secured a budget of 700million yen (or 7million USD) for this project.

Cyber Special District will be "a closed and safe community inside the cyber world with real name users who agreed to certain conditions". The purposes include:
1. integration of the net and real world
2. privacy of communication and personal information
3. content distribution
4. utilization of IT in the public services

Specifically, they are going to try and set rules for copyright, medical and education areas using this Cyber Special District.

Description of the "copyright" section says:
Experiment an environment within the Cyber Special District where the users who holds the copyright and rewarding right shall be able to create and archive creatives as commons, and the users can use or create derivative work free of charge.

Empowering the creators

There are lots of amazing creators in Japan, and many of them are in the UGC (User Generated Content) world anonymously, and unpaid.

On the other hand there are lots of efforts taking place here how to payback or empower the creators in some way. Making the creators happy will eventually make everybody else happy too as they will be creating even more contents if they get motivated.

There are discussions about what makes the creators motivated - Is it money(per content)? Is it reputation? Is is simply applause? Is it promotion? Is it getting them a job? -


Many companies/services have tried to compensate by money or points that can be converted to money or giftcard etc. Recent efforts by pixiv is one of them.

pixiv [ja] is the biggest illustration sharing site in Japan, with 600million PV per month.

On 4/1, they started a "premium" service to charge 525yen(5USD)/month, and a point service "pixiv point". Users can give those points to their favorite illustrator as a present. (This is called "goodP"). If you are a "pixiv premium" member, you get 2,000 points per month which can only be used for goodP as of today(4/18,2009).

Pixiv allowed to convert it to Amazon gift card when they started this service on 4/1, but decided to abolish this function in 10 days. They have not publicized the reason for this, but it is said that allowing this monetary conversion increased creators trying to get "easy money" by publishing pictures of copyrighted materials. Pixiv is planning to make future enhancements so that the users will be able to use the points for their new functions and paid services, or exchange it with pixiv original goodies that they plan to sell in the future).


NicoNicoDouga [ja] is the largest video sharing site in Japan. (I wrote a long post about NicoNicoDouga on my NicoNicoDouga Blog and a list of videos so I'll avoid going into details here.)

NicoNicoDouga takes a different approach from pixiv. They will NOT compensate to the users with money or points, instead they started a service called NicoNi-Koukoku [ja] Koukoku means Advertisements.

NicoNicoDouga already had their premium service, and NicoNi-Koukoku is a service that allows the premium users to help promote their favorite video within NicoNicoDouga. Creators of the video will probably get more viewership by getting this ad, but they will never be able to receive monetary compensation even if they have a big viewership.

Quote from IT Media's interview with Hiroyuki [ja] , board of Niwango:
"People who pays for Niconi-Koukoku likes the work created by the creator, but all the money goes to NicoNicoDouga not to the creator. I agree to some point that it is like NicoNicoDouga is taking the money away. However, if the creators get the money directly, they will start creating videos that have higher possibility of getting money and that will not motivate them to create good works."

He continiues.
"Creating a high quality video takes a lot of time and effort. Getting several hundred -thousand yen (several dollars-less than 100 dollars) will not recoup that cost, so even if we paid the NicoNi-koukoku points to the creators, it might not be a motivation. We want to think of a better way to motivate the creators."

This is how NicoNi-Koukoku looks:
On the tag page, videos that attracted some ads will be highlighted in blue (upper left), videos that attracted more ads will be highlighted in yellow (upper right) so that it will attract more attention compared to videos that have not attracted any ad (bottom).


Loftwork [ja] is a company that matches creators and companies.

In the past when large companies wanted a creative, standard way of doing that was to go to agencies and ask them to come up with a list of creators and they get to pick. Unless the creators are known to the agencies, it was difficult for them to get into the creative work of Japanese large companies. However, good creators are good at creating, but they are generally not very good at selling themselves. It was hard for young and good creators to get jobs. Loftwork is a company that matches companies that wants to work with those young, unique and creative creators. They currently have 11,743 creators registered as of 4/18, 2009. Categories of the artists ranges as follows: Illustration, Web&Flash, Graphic Design, Editing&Writing, Photograph, Movie, Music, Fine Arts, Architecture, Planning&Direction, Programing.

Here are some examples of their artworks:


CC-BY-NC-ND BY ガタヤマ堂

CC-BY-NC-ND BY ウサギグラフィック

CC-BY-NC-ND BY みつきひな


They have a bunch of job offers [ja] on their sites for the creators (especially because of the current economic recession, it makes sense for client companies to go through Loftwork than paying a lot of margins to the agencies). Clients can either post their job offer like the link above, or they can check out Loftwork's website and select the creator they like from the public portfolio of the creators. Because Loftwork has more than 10,000 creators, they can create lots of designs quickly- for example they made 3,600 different designs for cellphone decoration mails (decomail) for USEN/Livedoor. Their clients include KDDI/au, MySpace, mixi, NEC, etc.


C-team [ja] is a service that allows creators to register themselves to get involved in creating ad banners and ad creatives. They call it "crowd-sourced ads". C-team is operated by Recruit. Currently they have 8,024 registered creators as of 4/18, 2009.

When traditional creative agencies created banners, this was the process: 1)The director of the website will tell the image of the banner they want to the agency 2)Designers of the agency creates several samples 3)Director of the website selects one banner that makes it to the website. All the decisions of which banner makes it into the website depended on the director's preference.

The way C-team works is that the members of C-team creates lots of banner ads a the beginning (like 200 banners), gets the screening, and all the banners that made it through the screening will be displayed on the website. C-team uses a special optimization technology to increase the number of times banners with good click rates get displayed. (And they say it's not just about click rates but other tweeks such as rotating the ads etc) According to a blog post by Kensu [ja], CEO of Rocketstart [ja] and is involved in the development of C-team website, they say the ad efficiency increased 150-500%, average 200% up compared to the traditional way.

If you pass the screening and get into the banners that gets displayed on the website, you will gain 500 points (equivalent to 500 yen or 5 USD). Then you get additional points for being ranked in the CTR(Click Through Rate) ranking: #1 gets 50,000pts, #2 gets 20,000pts and #3-#5 gets 10,000pts which can be converted to cash, e-cash and various other point services.


Hacker's Cafe Fes

** What is Hacker's Cafe? **

Hacker's Cafe [ja] is a community of geek/hackers in Japan.

Basically their activity is to meet up in some cafe which allows you to use power plugs in Akihabara and hang out and code. They also have a Skype chat group to chat.

One example of their projects is a web server that has wheels and can be controled via iPhone [ja].

Photo courtesy of Akio0911

You can see a video of the server actually running:

Another project is hand-made Augmented Reality (AR) glasses which look like this:

Photo courtesy of Akio0911

AR is a technology which makes it possible to view virtual objects overlaid on the real world if you put on special AR glasses (or view via camera).

Here is a picture of my friend looking at a white sheet of paper with simple black marks,


But the vision she is getting is a virtual girl floating in the cafe we were in.


Using this AR technology, Hacker's cafe folks held an event back in August 2008 called "Cyber Star Rally [ja]". They put virtual stars all around Tokyo, which is only visible when you are wearing AR glasses. Members rode on a bicycle to wander around and grab those cyber stars.

Photo CC-BY Yuiseki

** Hacker's Cafe Fes **

On 3/28, Hacker's Cafe organized an event called Hacker's Cafe Fes in Harajuku Design Festa Gallery.

I went to the venue at 10AM when they were scheduled to start, and found 2 guys sitting in an old-style Japanese tatami room working on their computers.

"Hi. Where are the exhibits and displays and everything?" I asked, and their replies were "We're displaying ourselves :D"

"Hmm okay, you're displaying your selves.. and what do you actually do?" I asked again. "We are coding."

I went into the room, sat down on the tatami just like them, opened my computer, made myself cozy and started to work. We had power, we had a very weak but working wifi, and a space and some company we can talk to.

After a while there were more and more members coming in.

Coding on the floor:


Coding inside the little storage room:


And yes they have power in there too


Coding wearing a Darth Vader costume:


Some went out of the building to wander around and code outside.

One of the highlights of the fes probably was the "Real-world Hatena Star [ja]" created by Showyou.

Just to give you a background:
Hatena is a company that provides a group of web services such as blogs, photo sharing site, social bookmark etc. Hatena Star is a service that allows the Hatena users to add "stars"(which is like Digg) to contents they like within Hatena. Popular blog posts, nice photos, interesting comment on social book mark will attract lots of Hatena stars.

"Real-World Hatena Star" will add a Hatena star to a specific content if you put RFID tag close to RFID reader.


On the left you can see the code, on the right you can see a photo that is getting Hatena stars via this system.


Companies that organize conferences can probably play around with this system and do interesting stuff :)

There were more and more people coming in towards the evening, and in the end, the room of 6jou (10m2) was packed with 17 people and I decided to leave the room so that others can have more space.


The power outlets ended up like this:


Some more geeky stuff I found at the fes:

MS/Mac decorated fried chicken...


Darth Vader rice balls...


BW, the venue (Harajuku Design Festa Gallery) was great- they have artworks everywhere including the entrance



デザインフェスタギャラリー 廊下


デザインフェスタギャラリー 階段


design Festa Gallery お風呂


design Festa Gallery 洗面も展示


デザインフェスタギャラリー トイレ


Deflation and Fixed-amount Cash

With the worldwide economic depression, Japanese market is showing the tendency of deflation.

AEON, a supermarket has announced that they will lower the price of 5000 of their commodities. ItoYokado, rival supermarket of AEON owned by Seven&I has decreased the price of 2600 of their items too.

I am writing this post based on an article on Nikkan Gendai and was republished on Netallica [ja] which gives you an idea of the companies that are coping with this deflation.

McDonald's(hamburger), Yoshinoya (beef rice bowl), Zensho (beef rice bowl, Sukiya), Osho (chinese dumpling), Hi Day Hidaka (ramen noodles) are all low price / fast food restaurants.

First Retailing (Uniqlo) and Shimamura are both low price clothings, and ABC mart is low price show shop, and Nitori is low price furniture store.

Nisshin and Toyo Suisan are both famous for cup-ramens (1$ ramen that you can eat if you pour in hot water and stir after 3 minutes...)

So basically these companies are related to people trying to avoid spending.

Trying to make the citizens spend more, the Japanese government passed the bill to send out“fixed-amount cash (Teigaku Kyufu-kin)”to the Japanese citizens. I've got the letter from the local government office for the qualification too, so I should be receiving the benefit soon.... I hope :)

Who would qualify:
1. All Japanese persons recorded in a basic resident register.
2. All non-Japanese persons registered in foreign resident register. (except the person who are staying in Japan with the status of a temporary visitor or illegally.)

12,000 yen per person
(20,000 yen for people over 65 years old or less than 18 years of age on 2/1, 2009.)

Many companies started to sell products with 12,000yen recently- 12,000yen hotel room, 12,000yen restaurant dinner course, 12,000yen tickets etc.

Cherry blossom season in Japan!

End of March-beginning of April is the cherry blossom season in Japan.
People goes to "Ohanami"(cherry blossom watching) -hang out under the cherry trees drinking beer and enjoy the beautiful flower and conversation.

This year I was lucky enough to capture some photos of cherry blossoms in Tokyo and Kyoto so that I can share with you :D

Somei Yoshino near my house:





Randen is a train that connects Arashiyama area and Kyoto area,
and there is an arch of cherry trees which the train goes through...


The garden of Kodaiji temple and shidare zakura


Touji temple and cherry tree


A shot in the garden of Daikakuji temple.


Heian-Jingu shrine and the cherry trees.


Cherry blossoms are beautiful night and day. Here are some of the night shots.

Gion area, temple and cherry blossom.


Nijojo, old castle in Kyoto with Cherry blossoms and full moon...


Another shot in Nijojo, this cherry tree has its reflection on the pond.


Kodaiji temple cherry tree with lightings:


Tetsugaku-no-Michi, or Philosophers' Walk in Kyoto is famous for cherry blossoms,
and when I visited last week it was in full bloom and on weekend the cherry flowers were starting to fall off.


But to my amaze, this is what we saw...
A river absolutely covered in pink with the flowers!


Closer look of the river:


Duck family in the river with cherry flowers at Tetsugaku-no-Michi...


Hmm, maybe I should make a "Ohanami-guide" website :D