Owned by WarnerMedia, Crunchyroll is one of the most recognized platforms for anime content distribution.
In addition to a free albeit limited service, Crunchyroll offers two premium packages that allow uses to stream anime in 720p and 1080p to a range of devices including Apple TV, XBox, Playstation, iOS, Android, and Roku.
However, some users prefer to augment their streaming experience with a level of permanence by downloading content to their own machines for offline playback.
In common with YouTube, this activity isn’t endorsed by Crunchyroll but it’s still popular with some users, who use a range of third-party tools to rip content in various formats. Crunchyroll itself isn’t notable for taking action against ripping but content providers are less keen, as a complaint filed with Github this week reveals.
DMCA Complaint Filed Against Github By MX International
The complaint was filed by anti-piracy company IP Arrow on behalf of MX International. The copy published by Github begins slightly confusingly, noting that MX International has not granted permission “for their copyright to be uploaded to [Github’s] service”. This doesn’t make sense as written and even when interpreted doesn’t apply since none of MX International’s content has been uploaded to Github.
Nevertheless, the notice goes on to state that MX International’s content can be viewed on the Crunchyroll service and no one has the right to download it.
“The sources listed below infringe our clients copyright by allowing the illegal downloading of ALL of their content using the apps in the listed sources. The apps allow users to download any and all of our clients content. Using the sources below allow for the downloading of Naruto, One Piece, Black Clover and every other anime our client offers [sic],” it reads.
Any evidence of that actually happening on those titles is absent from the notice.
The Crunchyroll Downloader
Crunchyroll Downloader appears to have made its debut in late 2019 and has since been updated several times to the latest version v1.2.2. It was created by Tim Schneeberger (aka ThePBone), a German student who focuses on building open source desktop and mobile applications.
“I wanted to create an app that was able to ‘simulate’ the official client as good as possible, in order to provide a safe method to download content directly from Crunchyroll at high speeds, rather than relying on reuploads on piracy sites or torrents,” he informs TF.
“My app was able to search through the complete database without copy-and-pasting a URL even once. I actually started this project in the first place to reverse-engineer an undocumented web API for fun, but it was a perfect opportunity to create something more useful, so I decided to focus on this app instead.”
According to its documentation, the tool is able to download full MP4 videos and M3U HLS streaming playlists, unlock region-blocked content via a built-in proxy, while filtering episodes by series and collections/seasons. Importantly, it is also capable of downloading from Crunchyroll without users having an account, including 1080p content which is normally reserved for premium-only subscribers.
The software is liked by many Crunchyroll users but also comes with a warning that it should not be used “to download any copyrighted content unless [the user has] obtained permission from the copyright holder.” It’s doubtful that many (if any) users followed that advice.
Demands in the Complaint
Predictably, the complaint demands that the repository for Crunchyroll Downloader and several other forks should be deleted. However, it goes further still by demanding that action should be taken against ‘ThePBone’.
“Disable access to the individual who has engaged in the conduct described above; and
terminate any and all accounts that this individual has through you if they fall under repeat infringer,” it reads.
As far as we can see, the latter pair of demands have not been carried out by Github but the complaint itself, despite being processed by the Microsoft-owned platform, is a little unorthodox in its presentation.
DMCA Anti-Circumvention Provisions?
The complaint itself doesn’t reference the DMCA at all (apart from being addressed to Github’s DMCA agent) and as far as we can see doesn’t list any copyrighted works being infringed on Github itself, because none are, of course.
What it appears to have relied upon, therefore, is that Github would do the necessary calculations to determine whether Crunchyroll Downloader somehow falls foul of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. While that is probably the case, no such claim is mentioned in the complaint.
Indeed, the notification sent to ‘ThePBone’ by Github indicates that the notice can be appealed, which isn’t usually the case with anti-circumvention notices since there is no formal counternotice process.
Project Deleted Anyway
Despite the notice being delivered with pretty broad strokes, Github has deleted the original project plus eight forks, meaning that at least from Github, the downloading tool is no longer available. ‘ThePBone’ doesn’t have any problem with that and fully understands why the notice was sent.
The developer says he has no intention of contesting the Github notice so the software won’t be available from that location in the future. However, a cursory search reveals that the tool is still available in plenty of other places, so the whac-a-mole will probably continue.