Yoko Taro, video game director of some uniquely dark and somewhat taboo series such as Drakengard and NieR, recently commented on the new guidelines released by Square Enix (hereafter referred to as SQEX) regarding fan-made content. As a fellow Yoko Taro fan, I had to pick up this topic and give a little more insight into it.

First of all, the new guidelines come in lieu of the blockbuster hit that was (and still is!) NieR:Automata, which has currently sold over 5 million units since its release in 2017. Since then, the series as a whole has skyrocketed in popularity, and fans are expressing their love in a multitude of different ways-- mostly in the form of fan art.

But there lies the problem.

In the PS4 game NieR:Automata, the majority of the female characters are dressed in relatively revealing garb, not to mention the player is even able to "destroy" the main character 2B's skirt to reveal the white leotard underneath. This particular form was used to create the DX edition FLARE statuette*, which you can see below. Because of these somewhat risque character designs, fans are all the more compelled to create their own fan art of the characters, some of which are more on the adult side of things...

NieR:Automata 2B statuette by FLARE | Publisher: Square Enix Co., Ltd. | Planning / Manufacturing / Sales: Flare Co., Ltd.

Maybe it's because SQEX is realizing how big NieR has become, especially after they trade marked the NieR series as a whole, they're more concerned with the overall image of the series. For example, if people are told, "Yeah, check out the NieR series! It's sooo good!" and they go to google images from it... If they find mostly adult material, that's probably not the image that SQEX was hoping to instill in the minds of their fans...

So, to possible help to curb this overtly adult trend the series has taken, they've recently stated their position on the subject by releasing a list of guidelines for fans to follow should they wish to create derivative works based on the series and characters. Below is a quick translation of the guidelines:

All copyrighted works such as images, videos, characters, scenarios, music, etc. that make up the "NieR" series (hereinafter referred to as "this Series," the target content is defined below) belongs to Square Enix Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "the Company"), or the copyrighted work is used by the Company with the legitimate rights of the copyright holder of the copyrighted work, and cannot be adapted, modified, reproduced, etc. without the prior permission of the Company.

However, it is possible to carry out creative activities based on this Series (hereinafter referred to as "derivative work") that are carried out in accordance with the following [Terms of Use] without our consent. In addition, whether or not the derivative work violates the following [Terms of Use] shall be subject to our judgment.

We may change the content of these guidelines without notice. Please note that we are not responsible for any damage caused by the change of these guidelines.

The content included in this Series are as follows:

  • NieR Replicant
  • NieR Gestalt
  • NieR:Automata
  • NieR Re[in]carnation
  • NieR Replicant Ver.1.22474487139…

[Terms of Use]

  1. Do not use anything for commercial purposes, regardless of whether it is paid or free.
  2. Do not use materials (illustrations, videos, scenarios, sounds, songs, etc.) that make up this Series as-is. Even if you draw something yourself, it is prohibited to use traced illustrations.
  3. Do not misrepresent our company or this Series, or do not perform activities or descriptions that may be mistaken as official.
  4. Do not engage in any activity that damages the image of this Series, violates public order and decency, or what exceeds socially acceptable norms.
  5. Do not engage in any activity that leads to the slander of others.
  6. For derivative works, do not use content in which a third party has some or all legal rights, such as collaboration events for this Series.
  7. If the Company requests you to stop using a derivative work(s), stop using it without delay.

Derivative works shall be done at the creator's risk. We do not guarantee the use of this Series based on this guideline, including that this Series does not infringe the rights of third parties. In addition, the Company is not be liable for any damages or disputes with third parties resulting from derivative works based on this guideline and shall not make any compensation.

Source: Square Enix Official Blog - February 2, 2021

Shortly after SQEX posted these guidelines, Yoko posted on Twitter:

"This seems to be the derivative work guidelines for NieR.

"Do not engage in activity that violates public order and decency that may exceed socially acceptable norms."

Like I said in the broadcast, I feel like the main story of NieR crosses these lines..."

ーYoko Taro, translation of the above tweet.

Personally, I don't find these comments to have been made in tandem with a confused emoji face with hand on chin. Yoko has always been one who speaks figuratively or in obscure, tongue-in-cheek language, so it's not always easy to decode his intended meaning. But I think it's safe to say that he's not actually confused by this official statement by SQEX and is mostly poking a little fun at them. As a company, it's not surprising that they would eventually do something like this.

On the other hand, it will be interesting to see what their first moves will be. One thing they should probably do is make an official announcement of these guidelines specifically in English, because it's unclear how far their Copyright goes outside of Japan or if it's only legally valid within Japan. Considering other similar commercial giants like Disney, my image is that Disney has complete control of their IPs, so when anyone--even internationally--infringes on their Copyright, they pounce viciously right away. I'm not sure if SQEX is in the same standing to do anything similar.

So, I suppose if you're a fan of the NieR series, perhaps keep this in mind if you intend on creating any fan works related to the series. When in doubt, it might be better to ask before proceeding with whatever fan project you intend on doing rather than getting an official Cease and Desist notice from SQEX... Yikes!

By - Terra Dragos.