Thursday, January 27, 2011

FUNimation Shifts Digital Strategy - Sues Downloaders

FUNimation Sues 1,337 Downloaders. From ICv2:

Anime distributor FUNimation Entertainment has filed suit in Texas against 1,337 individuals who it accuses of using BitTorrent sites, including,, and, to download copies of One Piece #481: Ace Rescued! Whitebeard’s Final Order!. The suit identifies the individuals only by the IP address used to download the episode, and seeks to use the discovery process under the suit to find out who was using those IP addresses.

The lawsuit was filed under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, and seeks injunctions to prevent further downloading, actual or statutory damages, costs, and attorney’s fees.

Lawsuits against end users have not had great success at slowing downloads in the past. The Recording Industry Association of America sued around 18,000 individuals between 2003 and 2008, when it ended the strategy. Most of the sued parties ended up settling with the RIAA for amounts of a few thousand dollars per person.

Litigation against end users has now shifted to independent film-makers, who began suing thousands of BitTorrent users last year.

Although such litigation affects only a small fraction of the individuals who download copyrighted content, those that bring such suits hope that a deterrent effect will slow downloading by others who hear about the suits.

I really don't have much to say about this that hasn't already been said. This issue is like a shirt that has been through the wash cycle 14 times and is still dirty. Retailers will weakly cheer, paying fans will yawn, and downloaders will be outraged and defiant. Same old, same old. Clearly free legal streams of Anime content hasn't done a thing to deter fans from going to torrents, and has probably only hurt DVD and digital sales.

As the R1 market continues to fall apart, Funi has been trying to sell themselves for nearly a year now with little success. Potential buyers looking to invest in this industry, and trying to peg a valuation on any Anime companies intellectual property, are going to be very concerned about what studios are doing to combat torrent downloaders and how effective those efforts are. They are probably finding out the answers are 'lot's of things' and 'nothing's working'. It's got to be hard to find any group of savvy investors willing to put up serious money to enter an industry where such a huge portion of the potential customer base is unwilling to pay for ANY content and has so many options to view Anime outside any venue that can be monetized by anyone. The phrase "how the hell do you compete with free?" must daily resonate down the halls in the HQ of every company that participates in the US Anime business from studios, to retailers, to digital content providers.

But all that said, torrent users have been getting pretty cocky lately, even going as far as to give paying Anime fans nick names like 'buyfags'. What else is left that anyone in the industry can do to try to protect their market other than start kicking in doors and cracking skulls. That's what Apple does when you fuck with their intellectual property. And it's not like anyone in this industry is some big money corporate son of a bitch like the big music studios were - we've all been living hand to mouth in this business going on 3 years. We only stay because we love it.

Moves like this certainly won't stop torrent downloaders, in fact, they probably won't put a dent in it long term, but maybe it will take them down a notch for a little while - especially the folks that, rather than buy legitimate Anime releases, put hundreds or thousands of dollars into extra computer equipment to seed torrents. I mean they seem to need it, and to date they have gotten off easy. Either way, the studios simply have no where else to go except out of business.

UPDATE: Oh, by the way (Toren brought this up in the comments), 1337 = Leet. That number was not picked at random, it's definitely sending a message to the hard core hackers and torrent geeks. I thought the number looked familiar, but I haven't heard anyone use the term for a LONG time.


Toren said...

Heh. "1337" = "leet."
Can't be an accident. Someone is sending a message, for sure.

Toren said...

"Toren" not "Torren." No big deal, just sayin'.
I'm the Studio Proteus guy.

Robert said...

Sorry about that Toren. I know who you are. My spell checker just didn't catch the typo. :-)