Sony DMCA Notice Nukes 200 Aniyomi Extensions as Tachiyomi Fork Feels Heat

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Less than six months ago, manga reader app Tachiyomi was forced to call it quits following legal threats from South Korean publisher Kakao. A popular project fork, Aniyomi, introduced anime into the mix, accessed using extensions from the app's 200+ strong library. A single DMCA notice from Sony Pictures has now taken all but three extensions offline.

aniyomiWhether it’s Hollywood movies, TV shows, music, or static publications such as books and magazines, millions of people are now very comfortable consuming content via apps.

In many cases, third-party apps simply act as a hub, utilizing content made available by other services. When developers dedicate themselves to a particular content niche, mobile apps can become very popular indeed, especially so when they outgun legitimate apps produced by rightsholders themselves.

Tachiyomi Down, Aniyomi Up

This January, manga reader app Tachiyomi paid the ultimate price for its roaring success. South Korean webtoon publisher Kakao reportedly reached out the app’s developer with an offer they couldn’t refuse, but predictably not the good kind. The developer’s response was to terminate the project, a sensible move under the circumstances.

Since Tachiyomi was an open source project, it would never truly die if any of its many forks were still in play. A fork called Aniyomi ensured a piece of Tachiyomi lived on, in an app that broadened the content scope of the original project. With anime (Japanese cartoons) entering the mix, Aniyomi’s upwards trajectory continued; the downside was another set of rightsholders to contend with.

At this point it’s worth pointing out that the developer of Aniyomi clearly understood the risks associated with supplying infringing content directly to users. When direct infringers find themselves on the sharp end of a lawsuit, most cases end badly for the defendants.

That’s presumably why Aniyomi and its predecessor were supplied ’empty’ to users and relied on third-party extensions to provide content discovery and acquisition functionality. Be that as it may, an email can wipe everything out in an instant.

200+ Aniyomi Extensions Targeted by Sony

When assessing the Sony Pictures DMCA takedown notice filed at GitHub, it seems clear that Sony’s agent understands the requirements of the DMCA, and appreciates how much time it would’ve taken to fulfil its requirements by providing appropriate detail.

The challenge when targeting over 200 different extensions with different uses is that the same claim is unlikely to apply to all 200. That means investigating each one individually and reporting the basis for infringement based on the findings.

So, in response to GitHub’s request to “provide a detailed description of the original content” that has allegedly been infringed, anti-piracy company Markscan provided the Sony Pictures website URL instead. Detailing exactly where to find over 200 extensions proved no problem at all.

A small sample of the extension URLsaniyomi-dmca

Part of the takedown notice is in letter form and it begins by explaining that Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. authorized Markscan to issue a takedown notice to GitHub.

Supporting Evidence

The meat of the notice carefully describes the steps needed to access infringing content using various extensions.

“To access full content, users must install extensions listed in the application settings. By clicking on the settings button, we found an extension option leading to a list of extensions stored within the application. We installed several anime extensions such as Witanime, AnimeOnsen, Egydead, Fasel HD, Animeworld India, and Torrent Anime,” it reads.

“After installing the extensions, we navigated back to the anime page showcasing all anime titles. We selected ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’ and clicked on one of its episodes. The option ‘Source’ appeared, indicating the source/extension from which the content can be watched for free. We selected AnimeOnsen, chose the video quality, and successfully watched the content.

“Following the above-mentioned details depicting copyright piracy using various technological measures and utilizing Github services, we would like to request suspension/removal of above-mentioned URLs.”

Details Are Important

If we embrace the ‘spirit’ of the law rather than its requirements, the majority of the extensions do appear designed to infringe, if only because many of the source sites specialize in infringing content. The aspect that stands out here is the high level of detail provided so the extensions could be effectively removed, but almost no detail to show why they should be removed for infringing Sony’s rights.

Considering that accuracy is a persistent problem, and having just waded through yet more DMCA copyright complaints filed by Markscan on behalf of Plex, DAZN, AliExpress, and others, asking Google to take content down for trademark infringement, the details seem especially important (1,2,3).

In this case, the notice seems to suggest that only a handful of the extensions were installed, and just one was actually tested. Based on the provided statement, there’s a good argument that AnimeOnsen infringed Sony’s rights in ‘Jututsu Kaisen’ so it would be completely reasonable to take the related extension down.

Beyond that, the notice mentions a single copyright work and extrapolates that to over 200 extensions, the majority of which weren’t tested. Any suggestion that they all offered ‘Jututsu Kaisen’ or any other unspecified content owned by Sony is a guess at best.

To be clear, this shouldn’t be construed as defending the already precarious legal standing of the repo in question, but as a reminder that vague claims continue to cause damage to non-infringing users and content, despite being regularly called out as abusive.

Collateral Damage

As it turns out, the presumed guess mentioned above was also a bad guess. Three of the extensions relate to legal services, two for Google and another for media player Jellyfin. On paper that might sound like a less-than 2% error rate but not carrying out tests isn’t an error.

Because GitHub cannot disable access to specific files within a repository, it appears that Aniyomi’s developer was provided the opportunity to remove the extensions voluntarily. The alternative would’ve seen the entire repo deleted by GitHub, but after the removal of “some” extensions, only the repo, and the Google and Jellyfin extensions survived.

Chore: Mass deleteaniyomi extens-del

That brings us full-circle to the theory that attempting to separate apps from third party (or supposed third party) extensions actually works. That aspect didn’t receive a mention, and yet almost everything came down regardless.

A well constructed DMCA takedown notice would’ve achieved exactly the same end result, of course, but at least everyone would know why.

The alleged DMCA takedown notice is available here


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