Is Animal Crossing music copyrighted?  

Animal Crossing music is copyrighted, and this means that anyone who uses it for any other purpose besides the video game, must comply with Nintendo’s copyright and intellectual property laws. 

Animal Crossing is a social simulation video game series that was developed by Nintendo and created by Japanese game designers, Katsuya Eguchi and Hisashi Nogami. The video game consists of a character who is a human and lives in a village occupied by several animals that have human characteristics. The animals partake in activities such as fishing, catching bugs and hunting for fossils.

The game was first released in 2001 and since then, five versions have been released nationwide. The series is noteworthy for its open-ended gameplay, as well as extensive use of the video game console and calendar which prompts real passages of time.

Furthermore, the series is critically and commercially successful, with over 60 million units sold worldwide. Due to its success, three spin-off games have been released, namely Animal Crossing; Happy Home Designer for Nintendo 3Ds, Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival for Wii U and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for mobile devices.

Music

The music for the video game is composed and scored by Japanese video game composer, Kazumi Totaka. Totaka is known for his various compositions for many Nintendo games, and he occasionally does voice acting as well. Totaka has found an enthusiastic and captive audience for his music in Animal Crossing. According to reports, the tranquil sounds became soothing background music for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Totaka, the music belongs in the background of the video behind all the explosions and action. He stated that the music is inspired by the fantasy of a normal life, with inconsequential thought and ordinary and mundane feelings. Totaka believes that Animal Crossing is meant to represent a regular everyday world where players are picking fruit on an island, catching fish, mining and harvesting resources, taking out loans, decorating their homes and filling them with furniture, and investing in what is termed as the stalk market.

Moreover, this idea of mindless work, coupled with the relaxing, is what creates the tranquillity that gamers are looking for. As per reports, it is this sense of stability that has resulted in people’s warm embrace of Animal Crossing as a collective procrastination tool during difficult times. The game’s setting is on a relaxing island that is overgrown with trees, flowers and weeds.

Additionally, Totaka’s sound on Animal Crossing is jazzy and breezy, a warm sound that easily doubles as meditation music. The score of the game is created to change and adapt with each passing hour. At 5:00, the sounds stretch and yawn as someone who has just woken up and by noon the theme is buzzing like bees through tropical forests. Many people liken Totaka’s arrangements to the weather.

Animal Crossing’s trademark sound is made up of bossa-tinted guitars, curved synths, damp hand-drums and rich horns that are incorporated into the island’s distant crickets and campfires. The score is a fan favourite on YouTube, and this has inspired many people to create their own edits that allow the sounds to play on loop for hours at a time.

Lastly, on Saturday, 20 March 2020 the eighth Animal Crossing album, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released. The album received critical praise in Japan, and this led to the game’s sales increasing to 1.88 million physical copies within three days, and 2.8 million copies within 10 days, without any downloads.

Animal Crossing’s copyrights laws

All Nintendo content is copyrighted. This means that the content, which includes Animal Crossing music, may not be used on other websites, publications or public performances. The content may also not be used with any product or service that is not Nintendo’s, or in any manner that is likely to cause confusion among customers, discredit Nintendo as well as for any commercial purpose that infringe on Nintendo’s intellectual property rights.

Importantly, this means that people who use the Animal Crossing music for other uses outside of the game are likely violating Nintendo’s Game Content Guidelines. Nonetheless, many people do use the music and, up until now, Nintendo has not set to track down all the problematic users. For use on YouTube, the music needs to be authorised by Nintendo and if it has not been authorised, it is a case of illegal music uploads and a violation on copyright laws.

In order to know when a video is copyright free, one needs to view the Content Identification (ID) and copyright claims. This can be done by opening the YouTube Studio app, clicking on the menu and looking at the details page of any of the videos. Any video that has information about a Content ID claim or copyright takedown will show a copyright icon.

Furthermore, if Content ID appears on a YouTube video it means that the content is owned by someone else. Copyright owners may allow people to reuse their copyrighted content in exchange for having ads run on the videos and generate money for them. However, permission is required from the owner of the copyright.

Lastly, the only way to ensure that a soundtrack on a video will not be blocked is to avoid using audio that might belong to someone else and is, therefore, protected by copyright.

Nintendo Intellectual Property Policy

According to the official website of Nintendo, the multinational consumer electronics and video game company respects the intellectual property of others, and requests others to do the same for its products and services.

In fulfilment of the United States (US) Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the European Union (EU), The Electronic Commerce Directive, and other applicable law, the company has adopted a policy of terminating any content that appears to infringe on Nintendo’s intellectual property rights. The company also states that it has the right to limit access to Nintendo products and services on top of terminating the accounts of any users who may infringe on its intellectual property rights.