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Crunchyroll, TV Tokyo Sue YouTube Users for Unauthorized Anime Uploading

posted on by Jennifer Sherman
13 defendants accused of uploading Naruto, Naruto Shippūden, Bleach episodes

Crunchyroll and TV Tokyo have issued a lawsuit against 13 YouTube uploaders for allegedly illegal distribution of anime episodes, according to a copyright infringement complaint filed on May 11 and served between July and September. Crunchyroll and TV Tokyo are seeking reparation for "great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money" because of the defendants' allegedly unauthorized copying, uploading, and distributing via YouTube of multiple Naruto, Naruto Shippūden, and Bleach episodes.

Based on their YouTube subscriber information, the defendants reside in the United States, Japan, Canada, Denmark, and Hungary. Crunchyroll maintains its main offices in California (as does YouTube), so the suit was filed as a U.S. copyright violation in the Northern District Court of California. For the purposes of the lawsuit, TV Tokyo is giving Crunchyroll legal permission to act on its behalf in order to "permanently remove the illegal uploads of infringing parties from file-sharing services and to obtain legal relief against infringers."

The plaintiff companies' claim is that they "lose a customer opportunity" each time the uploading parties illegally disseminated anime episodes for which TV Tokyo and Crunchyroll hold legal distribution rights. TV Tokyo holds the broadcasting rights for Naruto, Naruto Shippūden, and Bleach. Crunchyroll holds online streaming rights for the mentioned episodes, including worldwide exclusive streaming rights for the first week after the original Japanese broadcast.

Crunchyroll issued a takedown notice to YouTube to remove the offending episodes. YouTube complied with the request, and the episodes involved in the suit have since been removed from the site. Under YouTube's video removal procedures, counter notifications were sent to the defendants, and the defendants each responded that the videos were removed due to a "mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled." However, Crunchyroll and TV Tokyo claim that because the defendants knew they did not have legal rights to the videos, they were engaging in willful copyright infringement.

Crunchyroll and TV Tokyo want the defendants to cease illegal uploading, destroy all illegal copies, and refrain from further unauthorized uploading. Crunchyroll and TV Tokyo are also seeking court costs and damages caused by the worldwide YouTube streaming.

On August 18, the Northern District Court of California granted a motion to allow the involved sides to pursue settlement outside of court if they so choose. The first date for the Crunchyroll and TV Tokyo representatives to meet with the defendants and a judge is set for November 18. According to documents filed on Wednesday, September 21, summons were served to three of the defendants on July 11, July 21, and September 20.

Crunchyroll's Statement

Crunchyroll co-founder and CEO Kun Gao has provided ANN with a comment on the situation:
Crunchyroll fully supports the legal streaming of anime, and even encourages users to watch our licensed videos on our official anime channel on YouTube. Categorically, we don't endorse legal action against anime fans and viewers.

Recently, we have identified a few specific accounts on YouTube which were responsible for over 200 million unauthorized streams of our licensed content. These accounts were owned by repeat uploaders who continued to illegally distribute licensed shows despite receiving multiple DMCA takedown notices. In compliance with YouTube's TOS, filing a formal legal complaint was a necessary step in order to keep these illegal streams off of YouTube.

With permission and cooperation of our Japanese partners, we will continue to work on their behalf to protect their content from illegal distribution.

Crunchyroll is the only legal website where anime fans can watch shows such as Naruto Shippūden and BLEACH immediately after TV broadcast in Japan. Revenue we receive is shared with anime producers in Japan and goes toward making more great anime titles in the future. We want to thank anime fans worldwide for their continued support in helping us promote legal distribution of Anime.

Previous Legal Actions Against Anime/Manga Uploaders

This is not the first time legal action or proactive measures have been taken to stop the illegal uploading of anime and manga. The Japanese Society for the Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers asked YouTube to strengthen anti-piracy policies in 2006. 10 people were arrested in Japan in 2009 for using Share file-sharing software to upload various content including anime onto the Internet. In June 2010, a Japanese teenager was arrested for uploading scans of the One Piece manga onto YouTube. Other individuals were also apprehended in Japan last year for illegal uploading of anime with Perfect Dark file-sharing software.

Internet downloading of anime episodes has also received prosecution around the world in the past. In 2007, Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs proposed plans to crack down on illegal downloaders and continued to push forward the initiative. In 2008, several Japanese anime studios filed a writ of summons for "heavy downloaders" in Singapore. Last March, Funimation filed a copyright infringement complaint against 1,337 BitTorrent downloaders of a One Piece episode. Funimation later dismissed its claim but retained the right to re-file the suit.

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