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- Legal Implications for more details.
Illegal versions began to gain attention in the early 2007-2009 period when VOCALOID was gaining popularity. This lead to a crack version being made available among pirating groups.
Originally the first known version of any pirated version was called POCALOID. Due to the widespread and ongoing nature of piracy among the VOCALOID scene, the name "POCALOID" has since become synonymous with any illegally-distributed VOCALOID software regardless of its version and vendor. Despite the POCALOID name being dropped in the long run, others continued to dub such softwares out of habit; since the first crack was called "POCALOID" all versions get called "POCALOID" as well (especially with AE/FE being rather a mouthful and unmemorable).
As noted in many Vocaloid communities, fans generally understand what people are referring to when they use the term "POCALOID" for this reason.
Earlier versions were also known to cause problems with legit copies of VOCALOID. Later cracked versions of the VOCALOID3 and 4 software have been found to store data in different areas of the Windows Registry, theoretically allowing it to coexist with legal versions.
While there are other illegal variants of the software, POCALOID2 is arguably the most well-known. This software was released by Team Peaceout, and was cracked to remove all security features and copy protection so that it could be used infinitely without having to activate it.
Team Peaceout claimed to have crack VOCALOID and VOCALOID2 as a "call" to Yamaha to correct their software's flaws. They claimed the legal software causes problems even to legitimate users, though some of these issues were later addressed by Yamaha.
The software contains additional modifications from the original to supposedly 'improve' the VOCALOID experience. Due to these claimed improvements, some producers are enticed to use POCALOID in spite of risks of indignation. However, in the process of "improving" the software, there were one or two issues added that did not exist in the original, though they rarely were reported. VOCALOID3 and VOCALOID4 also had trouble identifying the POCALOID2 vocals.
POCALOID has different splash screens, which often display fanart instead of the normal VOCALOID splash screen. The interface may look different, such as a wood-like background behind icons such as the pen tool (instead of the background-less VOCALOID2 interface). POCALOID also carries the software title of "POCALOID" and a tiny picture of Kagamine Rin for its icon.
A pirated version of the VOCALOID3 software, "VOCALOID3 ASSiGN Edition" (V3AE), was later released. It has curiously expanded language files, containing localization data of the GUI for more languages. They also released VOCALOID3 Legacy Libraries Bundles that compiled all known VOCALOID2 voicebanks and installed it en masse.
Unlike the official version, for which an import utility is provided to support VOCALOID2 voicebanks, POCALOID2 voicebanks cannot be directly imported into V3AE, and may need to be reinstalled again.
Unlike POCALOID2, V3AE's interface is identical to that of its legal counterpart, making it harder to detect users of the illegal software based on screenshots. However, its startup splashscreen is notably different and can give away usage of the program. The use of exclusive or limited time available voicebanks in VOCALOID3 can also prove the use of V3AE.
A similar variant, "VOCALOID3 Free Edition" (V3FE), was also released. The software contains all the known functions of the VOCALOID3 Editor, but without the security features.
VOCALOID4 Free Edition was released soon after the release of VOCALOID4, and like the version before it, was also stripped of security features. Some variants modified the Cross-Synthesis feature of the software, removing limitations on which voicebanks could utilize XSY.
VOCALOID5 has been known to have been put up for illegal downloads on multiple websites. VOCALOID5 Free Edition was released after VOCALOID5 was released. Some versions may be stripped of security features, whereas others may require a patch to disable security features. Other versions permit the use of pirated VOCALOID2 vocals in the editor. As of 30 July 2019, Yamaha has changed the product registration encryption version for legitimate copies of VOCALOID5 from TLS 1.0 and 1.1 to TLS 1.2.  The new encryption method has not ceased updates for pirated versions of VOCALOID5.
Notable Voicebank Cracks
For the most part, every Vocaloid voicebank released commercially has been cracked. The following are notable voicebanks that are significantly worth mention. They are of note for the concerns and issues that came from their cracking.
Despite there already being Sweet Ann released for VOCALOID2, Prima was generally more popular for download as she was the more recently released vocal back in 2008 and therefore had more of a spotlight on her. Sweet Ann was a more obscure or unknown English vocal as she was released prior to Hatsune Miku's release and generally considered less appealing by those who did know her existence due to the voice and boxart. But these were not the sole reasons for users downloading her.
Prima was a heavy target for POCALOID2 users wanting their software in English. Installing her version would alter the interface into the English version. Users who did download her did not necessarily use her vocal as they were not really interested in obtaining the vocal, just the interface. However, Prima's version came with flaws due to its differences between it and existing Vocaloid2 and even the Pocaloid2 version at times encountered this problem. This led her vocal to obtain a reputation for taking out other Vocaloids and her vocal was notorious as a problem installation regardless of whether it was legal or illegal.
She was often among the most commonly downloaded vocals during the VOCALOID2 version despite this. This became less common once methods of obtaining English versions legally were discovered. In addition, further versions of the engine either allowed language to be selected upon installation or adjusted to the system OS language.
Due to their large fanbase and popularity, Hatsune Miku, Megurine Luka and Kagamine Rin/Len, as well as Kaito and Meiko, have always been heavily downloaded. These six Vocaloids are among the most popular Vocaloids and most commonly known by name. This makes them a primary target for download compared to lesser-known vocals.
All CFM therefore experience heavy downloads illegally, though they are usually bundled together as a group.
One of the most well known cases of heavy usage is galaco. It was known that individuals had entered the competition just to obtain her for cracking. Since one had to meet certain conditions to "win" her in a VOCALOID music contest, and due to the conditions needed to keep her active, spotting illegal uses of galaco are often among the easiest to identify of the illegal VOCALOID versions.
Even if these are not taken into consideration, galaco winners were easily looked up on Nico Nico Douga since all the winners were listed there. So if the user's name wasn't listed or they did not have a work that met the criteria, they were obviously using her version illegally.
There were reasons generally given as to why she is used illegally:
- Since winners believed that they had earned the right to use her, they did not believe that they should lose her and she was theirs forever; producers may have felt they had put a lot of a work into a piece or originally only entered to get the vocal due to its 'exclusive' nature.
- Between the issues of her expiring codes, and the discontinuation of her prize version, there was some anger about the way things were handled about her. There were reports of some users grabbing her illegal version as a spite against the situation, but there were also others who did it to avoid the hassle the expiring licenses were creating.
- Since galaco was essentially free, some also did not see there being any harm in obtaining her for usage as they weren't 'damaging sales'. This made some believe they were not morally in the wrong for using her.
Since the release of the commercial version of galaco in August 2014, POCALOID identification by galaco's usage is much harder, if not impossible unless the obvious flaws the original vocal had are not removed from vocal results.
As part of SEGA multimedia project Project 575 –centred around characters Masaoka Azuki and Kobayashi Matcha–, the iOS app 575 Utayomi (うた詠み５７５) was released in 2013. The app allowed players to write lyrics for pre-determined songs to be sung by Azuki and Matcha, and was powered by a 'lite' version of the VOCALOID2 engine.
Eventually, the voicebanks for Azuki and Matcha which were included in the game had been illegally extracted, modified and distributed so that one could use the voicebanks in the POCALOID software. Since there was no legal way of acquiring the voicebanks at the time, several users in the Western fandom did not see any harm in using them.
Rana faced a similar situation to galaco in regards to her licensing issues. Her original VOCALOID3 version was difficult to access by overseas fans due to the fact she could only be registered by customers with a valid Japanese mailing address who had also purchased all 30 issues of the Vocalo-P ni Naritai magazine to get the tickets from.
Though legit users did exist, they were not likely to be found among the overseas fans at the time. Some even cited Pocaloid downloads as "justified" if they happen to own all 30 issues of her magazine even if they could not register the tickets needed from each issue. Since the method to identify users was vague at best, even with all 30 issues there was no way a user would be willing to unveil their Japanese mailing address due to security reasons to prove their legit ownership. However, others did exist who only owned one issue and felt justified in owning her fully, or who did not want to buy a magazine to obtain her.
As with galaco, once a commercial version of the voicebank was released, it became much harder to distinguish users of the legal versions of Rana's voicebanks and those of the illegal version.
anon & kanon
In February 2014, over a month before their commercial release, cracked versions of the anon & kanon voicebanks emerged online, after unreleased demo versions of the voicebanks were found on anokano.com, the official anon & kanon teaser website.
The impact that the cracked voicebanks had on the sales of their legal counterparts cannot be estimated, but the distribution of both the demo and the cracked version shocked a number of overseas fans, especially since the pair were yet to be released officially. The producer Planty-P brought the illegal downloads to light when he shared the link to them, much to the anger of other fans. However, he did not create or discover the crack himself, and had been told not to further share any links by those who provided them to him.
The download links for the official anon & kanon demo was removed from anokano.com soon after, though it remains unclear whether this was a direct result of the emergence of the Pocaloid crack or not.
February 2014 survey
In February 2014, a user of VocaloidOtaku.net conducted a survey to see how many downloads of illegal VOCALOID were made. The final total result ranged within the thousands, with the VY2v3 and Mayu voicebanks being the most popular, exceeding 10,000 downloads. The total number is likely higher since distributions hosted on torrent sites and personal blogs were not included within the results.
Multiple voicebank releases such as VOCALOID2 multi-packs were the most common versions downloaded illegally, often reaching over 100,000+ downloads.
Illegal VOCALOID and the Fandom
Reasons for usage
Vocaloid was difficult in VOCALOID2 to gain access of if you sought the Japanese Vocaloids as the majority were sold only in Japan. This led to a demand for easier to access versions, as users did not want to spend money on extra shipping costs and exportation fees to gain access to the software, as it was possible to pay up to 50% to gain access to the software.
Though English versions of the Vocaloid software did exist they were lesser known due to a lack of coverage for many years in contrast to the Japanese ones. In addition, some issues of bias towards them existed which meant a large number of fans were also unwilling to purchase them. And despite them existing, they too were subject to pirating all the same. This had consequences on the software and both Zero-G and PowerFX reported several times that Vocaloid was subject to large amounts of pirating.
The reason for the difficulty in purchasing VOCALOID and VOCALOID2 voicebanks is that no distributor existed outside of Japan for a long time. Japanese VOCALOID was released for the Japanese market only, as it was written for the Japanese market, so there should have been little interest in the version. The English version was likewise created to sell to the English speaking market, though Crypton Future Media, Inc. had distribution rights to sell the software in Japan. The language barrier also meant that, as with Japanese voicebanks, English ones would not be sought after in Japan. The two markets therefore were much more isolated, though this changed in VOCALOID3 with Yamaha themselves creating their own distribution service VOCALOID STORE, later replaced by the VOCALOID SHOP.
Beyond this, most other issues have been the same as any other software, such as issues of poverty, limited internet access, a lack of financial commitment willingness, etc.
Level of Usage
It is unknown how many fans use pirated versions of the VOCALOID software. In the past, since Japanese VOCALOIDs are difficult to purchase by overseas customers due to region screening, shipping and limited importers, it is expected that the numbers are quite high.
Many of the cover songs seen on YouTube using VSQ files commonly found within the fandom are thought to be made by users who have a version of POCALOID. Those who are seen using several VOCALOIDs, in particular ones that are known to be difficult to purchase, are suspected to be using POCALOID, particularly if no original works are seen from the user. Some users hide their usage while others make no attempt and are open about their usage.
It does not mean that users will not have access also to both illegal and legal versions of a particular software and it is not safe to presume that a user who pirated in the past still does. Although, the usage of Pocaloid in the past resulted in mistrust even long after usage.
The Cost of Piracy
The main cited problem is that Vocaloid is priced high due to the fact that even without pirating concerned, it is not expected to sell many units. For example, prior to Hatsune Miku being released, the typical sales number was only expected to be 1,000 units per release with consequences for Kaito when he sold only 500. The price is accumulation of research and development costs of the Vocaloid software itself, licensing of the software for each studio wanting to make a Vocaloid release, and costs of constructing the voicebank as well as costs of even hiring the singer.
- See VOCALOID development for more details.
It is debatable on much of an impact how pirated versions cost the VOCALOID franchise as this is common to all software. It is not the ones who would never have bought VOCALOID that harm sales, as they would never have contributed to sales at all. But rather, it is the consumers who would have bought it but decided not to spend money and instead seek out the "free" version to save them money.
"Why buy the product when there is a free version available?".
If costs are not at least recovered for sales of each Vocaloid, this impacts the development of further vocals as VOCALOID is made a profit-based product. In short, for the continuation of VOCALOIDs, existing packages must be purchased to encourage more to be made.
The later illegal versions of VOCALOID3 and VOCALOID4 contain disclaimer messages, discouraging the usage of the illegal version for commercial usage, while encouraging support for the software developers by actually purchasing the original version of the software in question. But this is not necessarily a deterrent.
Reaction of Communities
Illegal versions of the software have been regarded over time as a taboo by fans and a cause of moral divide among communities.
Originally, there was no deterrent to using it in overseas fandoms and less outrage by fans, so between 2007-2009 usage without consequences were common. Even the teams behind the cracking did not always deter its download and usage and fans were often more encouraging to its usage. Users may even cite the argument that since it is widespread, it is okay to do so as much of the time there is little consequences of using the version.
As the Vocaloid franchise grew both in user numbers and fans the attitude altered with the growing fanbase. This was particular as the consequences of illegal versions existing became more known and their impact on Vocaloid itself more acknowledged. Much of the reaction comes from concerned fans, rather then the studios and developers or even from Yamaha themselves, and it is common for fans to harrass users until they remove pirated software works, or in failing that even attempt to evoke copyright strikes against the user via reporting any works for any copyrighted material such as BGM music used in copyrighted songs as well as copyrighted lyrics.
Some communities, such as VocaloidOtaku.net, adopted a neutral stance in regards to the software, neither condemning nor supporting its usage until its closure in 2018. Meanwhile, other communities still do not shy from supporting the software and may even distribute links to the software.
There are also communities that simply do not have a choice in their status. For example, the Vocaloid Wiki itself cannot link or be seen to support it or producers who use it due to its status as both a Wikia and promotional stance on VOCALOID itself. Pages can be pulled without notice by companies and producers if they do. The Vocaloid Wiki itself cannot link to users who break the Terms of usage because of Vocaloid studio and developer interactions, as well as the concerns of FANDOM Central staff guidelines. If the VOCALOID Wikia does not obey these guidelines and wishes of the studios and developers, it can be closed without much warning given and remain closed until issues are resolved. The wiki cannot give links to the software or post the names of sites and forums that do allow this to keep respect for the companies. The wikia is only allowed to promote the usage of legit versions and producers who use them as in addition to keeping within the policy of VOCALOID and FANDOM Wikia.
It is also committed to keep the peace between Japanese and overseas communities and maintain a mutual respect.
- For more details on the wikia's guidelines, see Fandom Community Central
Some editions of illegal VOCALOID can be harder to determine than others. Users often hide their POCALOID usage by not allowing the toolbar to be seen or never showing the VOCALOID interface in a video, as this will show that they are using POCALOID.
In the case of expansion packs such as Appends, they often work without having to own the original voicebank. This can also signify a use of POCALOID if they don't have access to the original voicebank.
While some fans are indifferent on the POCALOID software, others strongly object to it and avoid producers known to use it. This has, especially in the Japanese fandom, even led to shunning, where fans treat such producers and their works as if they don't exist. Some reactions towards producers involve boycotts of their work, while others can be as extreme as constant flaming and trolling of the producer and their works, or even speaking against them openly.
Within the Japanese fandom, POCALOID is sometimes suspected when relatively unknown or recently established producers are seen with a large number of VOCALOIDs. Since VOCALOIDs are often not very cheap to purchase in the first place and many new producers start with just one or two vocals due to tight financial situations or lack of experience, having more vocals than expected can often raise suspicion. In most cases, this can be said to be a fairly reliable gauge for spotting illegal versions.
However, outside of Japan this is not such an easy factor and it is hard to determine the financial earnings of any producer. For producers who gain a VOCALOID very soon after its initial release or have an extremely large number of VOCALOIDs, especially ones that are harder to acquire, POCALOID is often suspected.
Alternatives to POCALOID?
One argument against the use of POCALOID is that there are several legal vocal synthesizers legally available. They may be difficult to find and are not suitable for music, but with audio tuning software can be made to "sing". There are a number of methods to achieve results from such software. Some, however, may not be used for commercial purposes so it is best to check the legal documentations for each synthesizer.
Examples of "free" software include the following:
- UTAU - This is a free Vocaloid-like software which is heavily supported as an alternative to Vocaloid itself. Though mostly in Japanese, the fandom has produced thousands of voicebanks for the software in various languages. Though some are paid-releases, the majority are free. The software's development ended in 2013, though re-samplers and other plug-ins and mods continue to be released for the software.
- Sinsy - Sinsy is mostly a Japanese synthesizer, but also added English capabilities in December 2012. Mandarin was also added later.
- Alter/Ego - Alter/Ego was also released by Plogue and offered as a free download. The software is a derivative software based on the commercially released "Chipspeech" software, also developed by Plogue. Over its lifespan 8 voicebanks were produced and offered as free downloads under the names of "Daisy" ("Daisy"), " Marie Ork" ("Growl", "Space", "Talk" and "clear") and "Bones" ("English", "Japanese" and "Talk").
- Synthesizer V was released in 2018 and was acknowledged as a suitable alternative to Vocaloid due to its realism, an issue many other alternative synthesizers lack. A free demo is available, however, the demo expires after a certain amount of time. Though the Synthesizer V engine is sold for around $60, three of the vocals for the software are free.
- DeepVocal - a free software released as a beta in July 2019 and is the successor to "Sharpkey" and "Sharpkey Galaxy". Like UTAU, voicebanks could be produced and distributed by fans in a variety of languages. Updates to the software and the DeepVocal Toolbox (the program used to develop voicebanks) are made on occasion. The interface is available in Simplified and Traditional Chinese, English, and Japanese.
- "POCALOID" is also one of several misspellings and incorrect romanization of the name of the actual VOCALOID software and versions with a "B" (as in BOCALOID) also exist for the same reason. This is due to the fickleness of romanization of words from Japanese to English.
- Even though "VOCALOID" is commonly seen in Latin text, and an actual loanword in Japanese, some users still translate directly from Japanese sources without referencing what the word is suppose to be. This is also the same reason as why Kagamine Rin/Len get called "Kagamine Lin/Ren" and Megurine Luka "Megurine Ruca" at times.
- Alternatively as time went by, the name is retroactively deciphered as an acronym as well, as in "Pirated VOCALOID", hence the name "POCALOID".
- ↑ https://www.vocaloid.com/en/news/about_change_authorization_tls/
- ↑ VocaloidOtaku.net - Data on Pirated Vocaloids
- ↑ http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1079180.shtml