Vtubers: Avatars, Anonymity, and Agencies

Vtubers are like any other online entertainer or content creator: they also stream themselves playing video games, create YouTube videos, write and perform music, voice act, or just chat with their audiences. What sets Vtubers apart from other content creators is that they present themselves mainly or wholly as an animated avatar, often in the style of Japanese anime.

Oftentimes, the Vtubers themselves remain anonymous, allowing audiences to only see the character that their avatar portrays. By doing so, Vtubers can engage with fans of anime culture, act as characters they are more comfortable showing to the public, and possibly appeal more to certain audiences, all while retaining anonymity and privacy.

With this new way of streaming and content creation comes new legal and practical issues that Vtubers will have to contend with.


The first potential problem lies with the avatars themselves. An avatar requires artistic talent to create the character image and technical abilities to ensure that the model is suitable for 3D rigging (which allows the avatar to track the Vtuber’s movements). Most individuals do not possess these capabilities and may need to acquire an avatar through a third party. These third parties can range from companies with libraries of 3D models to independent artists who can create customized avatars. Under United States copyright law, however, in the absence of a written agreement that states otherwise, the right to own and use a work is held by its creator. This puts the Vtuber at risk of losing their avatar if the original owner or artist no longer permits the Vtuber to use the avatar. Vtubers should ensure they have an agreement that properly vests or assigns ownership and control of the avatar to them. After securing rights to the Avatar, a Vtuber may want to consider formally registering any avatars, brand names, videos, songs, etc. for copyright and/or trademark protection, as applicable.


As Vtubers grow in popularity, fans and bad actors alike may attempt to find personal information about a particular Vtuber, such as their identity and address. Vtubers who want to maintain their anonymity can consider some important steps and avoid certain pitfalls. An affirmative step may include setting up a limited liability company (a “LLC”) in a state like Delaware or Wyoming that does not require the personal name or physical address of the owner to be publicly disclosed. Or it may take the form of more practical steps such as setting up a virtual business address. You can learn more by reading our blog post, “How people accidentally doxx themselves by setting up a business. Avoid these mistakes.


If a Vtuber is looking to join a Vtuber agency, both parties need to iron out the details. Vtuber agencies and management companies offer potential to boost the profile of their members and have been a staple of the Japanese Vtuber industry for a while. They can help with management tasks that the Vtubers themselves are individually too overwhelmed to deal with. They can also promote their talent by hosting fan events and encouraging their talent to collaborate with each other, provide equipment that the Vtuber otherwise couldn’t afford, and source sponsorship opportunities by leveraging the Vtuber group as a whole.

Before partnering, however, both the Vtuber and the agency should ask questions about who owns the avatars, whether new characters should be created from scratch, what types of activities are the Vtubers permitted or prohibited from engaging in, what restrictions should be placed on Vtubers, and so forth. Legal issues should be considered on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis. For example, if a talent agency or their talent operates in California, the agency should be aware of strict laws against the use of non-competition and non-solicitation provisions as well as the application of the Talent Agency Act. Strategies and partnerships should also consider cultural norms. For example, many Vtubers are closely ingrained in “utaite” culture where it is both normal and acceptable for artists to cover each other’s songs. Before enforcing copyright over a song that the Vtuber or Agency owns, it is worth considering how it might affect their reputation and standing.


Vtubers are still a relatively new type of content creator, especially in the United States. This blog post only covers a few legal issues that Vtubers may face. Other issues that Vtubers should be aware of as they grow include but are not limited to: navigating sponsorship deals, negotiating merchandise agreements, appearance and event agreements; and collaboration agreements. With privacy laws, technology, and acceptable practices constantly changing, Vtubers should strongly consider working with a lawyer who can help them protect their intellectual property rights, privacy, brand, and business.

Kevin Dong

Kevin is an attorney at Odin Law and Media focused on corporate and entertainment transactions. He can be reached at kevin at odin law dot com.

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