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All But 1 Defendant Dropped From Funimation's One Piece Lawsuit (Updated)

posted on by Gia Manry
1,336 anonymous defendants removed from suit, but can be pursued individually

On February 10, Senior United States District Judge Royal Furgeson ordered the anime distributor Funimation to "sever" or remove all defendants except one from its copyright infringement lawsuit over an episode of the television anime One Piece. In its January 24 suit, Funimation alleged that the 1,337 unidentified defendants "collectively participated, via the Internet, in the unlawful reproduction and distribution" of One Piece episode 481 ("Ace Rescued! Whitebeard's Final Order!") via the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol. Funimation licensed the anime in 2007.

According to the judge's order, the actions of each defendant did not constitute "acting in concert" but rather acting individually, although identically. The IP (Internet Protocol) address of the sole defendant who remains in the lawsuit is associated with the Internet service provider (ISP) Verizon. An online service that provides location information about IP addresses lists a physical location in Kearny, New Jersey, but such services are not necessarily accurate.

Funimation can choose to pursue the other 1,336 defendants in individual, separate lawsuits within the next 30 days, if it submits filing fees for each case.

The judge also ordered Funimation to show cause as to why the court should not appoint lawyers to represent the anonymous defendants by February 28. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization that deals with legal issues regarding technology, reported that the judge made similar orders in four other cases; in one previous Texas case against anonymous defendants listed by IP addresses, these court-appointed lawyers had the case dismissed.

The court had granted Funimation's motion to discover the identities of the anonymous defendants on February 3, but the court then vacated, or set aside, that order on February 7. With this motion, Funimation had planned to subpoena the defendants' ISPs to learn their identities. After the court decides whether or not to appoint legal representation for the defense, it will reconsider this motion for the one defendant that remains in the lawsuit.

Funimation's DMCA Complaint to Google on One Piece Streams

In a separate development, the Chilling Effects website posted a copy of a January 20 copyright complaint sent by Funimation and the RemoveYourContent LLC anti-piracy service to the online services company Google. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the complaint requested that Google remove links from its search results to 498 web addresses on a single domain. Each address hosts a streaming episode or film from the One Piece anime series.

Funimation confirmed the veracity of the January 20 letter with ANN, but declined to comment at this time. According to the Chilling Effects site, Funimation has sent Google 17 DMCA complaints since last April.

List of ISPs for Severed Defendants

The severed defendants have IP addresses associated with the following ISPs (in alphabetical order):
  • Alltel Corporation
  • Armstrong Cable Services
  • Atlantic Broadband
  • Bellsouth.net
  • Bresnan Communications
  • Cable One
  • California Institute of Technology
  • CenturyTel Internet Holdings
  • Charter Communications
  • Clearwire Corporation
  • Comcast Cable and Comcast Business Communications
  • Cox Communications
  • Earthlink
  • Embarq Corporation
  • Fairpoint Communications
  • FDCservers.net
  • Freewire Broadband LLC
  • Frontier Communications of America
  • Gainesville Regional Utilities
  • Hawaiian Telcom Services Company
  • Insight Communications Company
  • Knology
  • MetroCast Cablevision
  • Midcontinent Communications
  • MIKR
  • Morris Broadband, LLC
  • Northeastern University
  • Ohio State University
  • Optimum Online
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Qwest Communications
  • RCN Corporation
  • Road Runner
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • SBC Internet Services
  • SoftLayer Technologies
  • Sprint PCS
  • Suddenlink Communications
  • TDS Telecom
  • University of Michigan
  • Verizon
  • VPLS Inc. d/b/a Krypt Technologies
  • Wave Broadband
  • WebNX
  • Wide Open West
  • Windstream Communications

Image © Eichiro Oda/Shueisha, Toei Animation

Update: The technology website Ars Technica reported on Wednesday that Judge Ferguson severed all but one defendant in each of 15 other cases in the Northern District of Texas. The same attorney, Evan Stone, filed these cases and the Funimation case. According to Ars Technica, the filing fee for new lawsuits is US$350. Thanks, dan888.

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