We see it time and time again. Copyright is a double edged sword, and those who sharpen one side often get cut by the other.
In January, American anime distributor Funimation took action against 1337 alleged BitTorrent users, suing them for sharing episode 481 of the anime show One Piece. Funimation requested that the defendants pay damages and destroy all the content they’ve downloaded using BitTorrent.
Since the inception of BitTorrent there have always been very active communities where anime torrents are shared, but Funimation felt it was time to draw a line and sue their users. In the past they have have also been very critical of fansubbing sites, where anime fans create and share their own subtitles that often complement pirated copies.
In the light of the above it is a bit hypocritical, to say the least, that recent footage from the Funimation dubbing room revealed how the company itself was using ‘pirated’ subtitles.
This oddity was picked up by a member of the Anime News Network (ANN) forum and the evidence comes from an episode of America’s Greatest Otaku.
Although the actual translation of the show comes from the producers, the styling of the subtitles is clearly that of Horriblesubs, a site that provides subtitles for ‘pirated’ shows. With the many variables involved it is nearly impossible that this styling would have been replicated by accident, so it’s safe to conclude that Funimation is using subs from a ‘pirate’ source in their dubbing room.
Dubbing room subs
But does this mean that Funimation broke any laws? Not necessarily.
After a lengthy discussion in the forums ANN CEO Temptest – who’s very familiar with licensing agreements – joined the discussion with a good summary of the situation. There is no doubt that Funimation is using ‘pirated’ subtitles, but it seems unlikely that they failed to secure the appropriate rights.
As most licensing deals include the right to use subtitles, and since the translations were done by the original owner of the content, Funimation has all the rights to use the Horriblesubs copy. The only question is whether the font used by Horriblesubs was properly licensed by Funimation.
But of course this revelation isn’t so much about the letter of the law, but more about the hypocrisy of an Anime distributor that is so critical of BitTorrent and fansubbing yet is using ‘pirated’ subtitles. Apparently they find value in a product that wouldn’t exist without the very community they are so committed to cracking down on.