Anime Distributor Launches Piracy Assault, Sues 1337 BitTorrent Users

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Piracy worries and BitTorrent lawsuits have made their way into the generally very liberal anime industry. Last week, the producers of the new anime series Fractale told distributor Funimation to stop the online broadcast of the their show in the United States over piracy concerns, and a few days later Funimation announced a lawsuit against 1337 alleged BitTorrent downloaders.

fractalePiracy is an issue that is troubling many content publishers worldwide, but the responses to copyright infringement differ from company to company. A great example of how not to stop piracy was made by the the producers of the new Anime series Fractale last week.

In an attempt to stop the illicit distribution of the series, the American anime distributor Funimation was ordered by Fractale’s production company to stop the online broadcast of the series on Hulu. The producers wanted Funimation to get rid of all pirated copies online before the broadcast could continue.

An interesting take on how piracy should be dealt with, and arguably one of the worst things a company can do to stop illicit copies from appearing online. Since the broadcast ban was limited to the US but not Europe, it only created an increased demand for pirated copies, while it did little to stop illegal copies from showing up online.

If there’s one thing that TV-distributors should have learned from stpiracy over the years, it would be that making content unavailable to a certain region actually drives the demand for pirated copies.

Just before the second episode of Fractale was due to be released this week, the show’s producers finally gave the green light for the online broadcast to go ahead in the US. They probably realized their mistake, because pirated copies where still easy to find. Both Fractale episodes are now available to US viewers on Hulu, and the storm appeared to be over.

However, after being involved in this Fractale anti-piracy failure last week, Funimation made headlines in the anime community again yesterday, as the company announced lawsuits against 1337 BitTorrent users. Although the number of defendants reveals some sense of humor, the lawsuits are a serious business.

Funimation has sued the 1337 alleged BitTorrent users for downloading episode 481 of One Piece, and is probably looking to settle with the defendants as soon as they are named. The company is represented by lawyer Evan Stone who also filed suits for various adult entertainment companies last year.

In possibly another inside joke aside from picking 1337 defendants, One Piece is a show about “Straw Hat Luffy” and his crew named the Straw Hat Pirates.

The complaint specifically mentions the BitTorrent sites, and as potentially playing a role in the sharing process. Funimation is requesting that the defendants pay damages and destroy all the works they’ve downloaded using BitTorrent.

The above actions are quite unique in the anime community where, more than in most other entertainment industries, most publishers have been quite lenient towards file-sharers. Aside from the negative PR and the potential settlements that will result from the lawsuit, it is however doubtful that it will do much to stop shows from being shared.


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