Piracy Wars: Fractale — Defeat Piracy By Removing Legal Streaming!

Piracy Wars: Fractale — Defeat Piracy By Removing Legal Streaming!

Piracy Wars: Fractale -- Defeat Piracy By Removing Legal Streaming!Fractale.  I’d heard of this anime but to be honest, I just wasn’t that gripped by what I read and since I already have a ton of anime I need to watch, I gave this new show for the Winter 2011 season a pass.  However, thanks to the recent decision by the Fractale Production Committee to force FUNimation to remove the legal simulcast stream of this show until FUNimation scours the Internet of all illegal copies of Fractale, the name “Fractale” is now much better known to me even if I still know nothing of the anime.

So, FUNimation had the rights to legally simulcast the Fractale TV series, but only for the R1 DVD Region (US/Canada/US Territories).  Then, the Fractale Production Committee decided to revoke FUNimation’s As reported by ANN:

According to Funimation representatives, the committee requested that Funimation eliminates unauthorized videos of the anime on the Internet — including streaming sites, file-sharing networks, and file servers — before its simulcast will be allowed to continue.

So, let me get this straight.  To fight illegal videos of Fractale from appearing on the Internet in any form, of which 100% originates from Japan since it is Japanese fans who are recording it and then uploading it, the Fractale Production Committee (FPC) says that FUNimation must do an impossible thing and until it does so, no legal streaming of Fractale will be allowed.

I know there is a lot of head scratching, face-palming, and even outright outrage at what the Japanese copyright owners are doing.  As I see it, there are two possible reasons for FPC’s decision.  The first is that they never were keen on the idea of their anime being streamed and are using this as an excuse.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the Japanese system for fleecing the otaku selling products to their customers is a house of cards.  Basically, an anime series is played on TV in Japan but apparently makes no money during this phase and is essentially considered a loss-leader.  The money is then made on the merchandising, starting with DVD/Blu-ray sets which are giving minimal episodes per disc, some extras, and are then sold for what we in the U.S. would consider an outrageous price.  The merchandising continues with a dizzying array of collectibles such as magazines, books, figures, and tons more items.  If the otaku fail to make purchases, then there are big problems.

Although I consider the Japanese system to be a house of cards, it has stood for many years, going to the days of the VHS.  The Japanese executives have “carefully computed” what it takes for a series to make money under their way of doing business and the slightest fluctuation in the buying patterns of the otaku would cause great financial ruin for a Japanese company. (I exaggerate for effect there but sometimes, I think by not much.)  Japanese executives don’t play around either.  If you want a small insight into the Japanese corporate mindset, watch Mr. Baseball.  The Japanese take business very seriously and don’t change easily.

It has always been my belief that because of the fragile nature of the anime business in Japan, the Japanese production companies have been very leery and downright afraid of anything that could upset their business plans.  Legal, online distribution of an anime is a wild card as far as they are concerned which could upset the applecart.  Thus, while they might grudgingly be convinced to allow a company like FUNimation to do something abnormal, the least little perceived infraction causes the Japanese to have a knee-jerk reaction.

While the Japanese may be keen on exporting anime, their primary market is Japan and they can’t afford for that to collapse.  Therefore, what we in the U.S. see as a boneheaded maneuver, they consider an act of self preservation while at the same time, potentially getting someone else to take on the cost of actively fighting piracy world-wide.

The second possible reason for FPC’s decision is that this is a brilliant marketing ploy to increase the name recognition of Fractale to try to get people like me to watch, even if illegally.  While someone in Japan might be clever enough to do this, to be honest, I have a hard time believing it because it is too risky and taking risks isn’t what I think of when it comes to Japan today.  Of course, should FPC back down over the next few days, then I’d say that this theory might well have been the plan all along.

In response to the massive fan outcry against FPC on this subject, Lance Heiskell from FUNimation said

We understand your frustration, but it should be directed towards the speedsub groups that created this problem.

I like Lance a lot and I understand he’s got to say this.  However, the reality of the situation is that even though FUNimation had the R1 license to legally stream Fractale, there are still a great many English-speaking fans in other countries who are NOT allowed to watch this, thanks to Big Entertainment’s DVD (and Blu-ray) region code system.  As such, it does not surprise me that some fansub group (especially one out of Europe) would either fansub this or somehow find a way to redistribute FUNimation’s work.

And so, FUNimation is tasked with the impossible job of ridding the world of Fractale fansubs, bootlegs, RIPs, etc.  I find this a laugh considering that all such products start in Japan and since the Japanese can’t even stop their own people from uploading these video files in the first place, I don’t see how FUNimation can stop it.  Then again, maybe FUNimation could adopt this tactic from The IT Crowd.

(CAUTION! There is a minor, “not safe for work” moment in this clip.)

Update: FUNimation has an official blog post on this subject.

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20 Responses to “Piracy Wars: Fractale — Defeat Piracy By Removing Legal Streaming!”

  1. Anonymous says:

    What the Japanese arm of the industry really is basically working itself towards is a grassroots revolt. The economy just can’t support this kind of crap any longer, and the people who actually create the content are fed up with it.

    I fully expect independent net publishing and subscriptions within the next couple of years.

  2. Zefyris says:

    Even if they did have very logical reasons to do this, it won’t change the fact that in the eyes of everyone, this will remain nothing but a really stupid move. In order to stop peoples from watching this anime illegally, they’re basically saying that no one will be able to watch it anymore except illegally.

    That’s a fine logic we’ve got here.

  3. It’s also worth noting that the French simulcast is continuing unabated; the French company, oddly enough, isn’t being told to go forth and end illegal distribution! Nice going, A-1.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The divisive licensing nonsense is actually a lot more granular than the DVD RC system. For example, Fractale is still being streamed legally by the French even after FUNimation has been denied. That stream seems to be restricted to French-speaking countries, with the known exception of Quebec in Canada, presumably because they can’t easily distinguish those IP addresses from the rest of Canada. It’s your standard territorial/linguistic “exclusive rights” money grab tactic, what you call Big Entertainment aren’t the only ones using it.

    The fact that this way of doing business pisses off a lot of fans in non-licensed countries who are willing to pay to watch legally but are prevented from doing so because of where they live seems lost on the suits. I’ve never been able to understand why they couldn’t allow worldwide paid subscriptions in addition to regional licensing schemes. There are plenty of places where these shows will never get licensed because the size of the market doesn’t bear it out. The way the content companies operate is fundamentally incompatible with the global Internet culture, which of course encourages rampant piracy and even gives it moral justification to those who rightly feel discriminated against.

    As for this particular move, it’s been suggested that since the French can still stream Fractale legally for free and even in better quality than FUNimation did, that this is some sort of a retaliatory move against FUNimation, although nothing is being said openly. If you recall, FUNimation has had security issues in the past with regard to their streaming service.

  5. Ultimaniac says:

    Not that online piracy can be completely wiped out, but if anyone was going to attempt it the companies in Japan have the best chances. Instead of getting rid of fansubbers, which from what I understand is what they’re demanding, they could just go after all the people in Japan who are uploading the episodes online. Wasn’t there a story not too long ago where a guy in Japan was arrested for spreading the new pokemon game? What they’re doing now is basically making their overseas publishers take care of their domestic problem.

  6. Wise Bass says:

    The second possible reason for FPC’s decision is that this is a brilliant marketing ploy to increase the name recognition of Fractale to try to get people like me to watch, even if illegally.

    How bad is internet piracy in Japan? The system you describe sounds like intense fuel for it, since you could save a ton of money by avoiding purchase of the heavily priced DVDs and simply watch pirated copies.

  7. hurin says:

    This is annoying, because I would be willing to pay for my manga and anime downloads, but am unable to do so.

    I am still waiting to buy ‘Darker than Black Gemini’ despite it supposedly being licensed. Japan oriented titles like ‘Bakemonogatari’ or ‘Sayonara Sensei’ can’t seem to get released at all. Again all I’m left with is piracy.

    Ironically I would also be a pirate it I lived in Japan, as I would flat out refuse to pay those ridiculous prices for blurays with 2 or 3 episodes on them.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Way to go, fools…

  9. Anonymous says:

    Dammit, what the hell is wrong with these people and why can’t they leave good enough alone. I was watching Fractale at Funi and now they’re forcing me to download illegally. Real smooth.

  10. Once again the industry shows that it has its collective head up its ass when it comes to the subject of piracy. Fractale’s producers are shooting themselves in the foot by asking Funimation to do the impossible. They’re only encouraging the piracy they’re supposedly opposed to.

    While there will always be some minimum amount of piracy — after all, some people simply feel that they should never have to pay for their entertainment products because they’re cheap or because they want to “stick it to the man” (i.e., the entertainment companies) or whatever — some piracy is avoidable and results from the behavior of the entertainment industry itself rather than the consumer’s desire to not pay. Many if not most of us anime & manga fans who partake in fansubs and scanlations are actually willing to pay for the titles we like, and thus we’re not like the who downloads a rip of the new Star Trek movie off of bittorrent because he’s too sorry to go to Walmart or Best Buy and fork out $15 for the DVD.

    To tackle piracy one must understand its root causes. Four of the main reasons people pirate outside of pure selfishness and/or contempt of the industry are: No Export For You, Bad Export For You, Keep Circulating The Tapes, and excessive wait times for releases. In regards to anime and manga, many, many fans outside of Japan may want to watch/read a particular title without having to resort to the black market of fansubs and scanlations, but they can’t because the title isn’t legally available in their region, or it is but got butchered (poor translation, content edits, etc.) or otherwise had a substandard release, or it has gone out of print. Some titles might not get licensed because of some stupid legal snarl (e.g., Macross). Sometimes a title will be licensed, but the licensor will sit on the license for years without releasing it (it took ADV three years to start releasing Kurau Phatom Memory after they acquired the license). They may even let the license expire without releasing the title. Other times the release schedule for the domestic version might be unnecessarily and extremely slow and many months or years behind the Japanese release (this mainly applies to current long-running manga). Sometimes the price point may be too high for the average consumer (Aniplex USA’s release of Kara no Kyoukai is a prime example).

    If the anime industry and domestic licensors want to be serious about effectively fighting piracy, they need to address the aforementioned issues instead of simply opting for a blunt force approach (i.e., trying to shut down fansubbers & scanlators). For example, good quality physical copies should be released for a decent price and in a timely manner, coupled with simulcasting of select anime series (like what Funi does) and legal scanlations of the latest manga chapters available soon after their Japanese release (imagine Viz releasing translated chapters of Bleach or Naruto a week after their Shonen Jump release). The Japanese producers should avoid licensing titles to companies known for Macekreing their titles, and should insist on decent translations and no edits rather than giving licensors carte blanche to do what they wish. By simply alterting their behavior in these or other similar ways, the anime & manga industry could reduce piracy substantially, perhaps far more so than simply trying to crush the pirates underfoot.

  11. Oh, and I forgot to mention a couple of other things (they probably wouldn’t have fit into that other post anyway).

    Since it would be impractical for domestic licensors to acquire the rights to every title of note that comes out in Japan (there are several dozen anime and even more manga released each year), perhaps the Japanese companies themselves should start picking up some of the slack. If a title is viable and no licensor is willing to opt the rights for it, then perhaps the producer could simply release it in English (or whatever is appropriate for the country/region of release) themselves. However, they’re first going to have to examine their pricing practices first.

    I don’t know how acceptable it is with Japanese fans, but charging $40 for a two-episode DVD isn’t going to fly here in North America. We’ve shown that the most we’re willing to pay for anime is $10 per episode/$30 per movie. Bandai Visual USA folded because of the high prices. The quality of the releases were good, but charging $40-50 per disc wasn’t sustainable. Likewise, Aniplex USA charging $400 for the Kara no Kyoukai Blu-ray box set. That’s $50 per film, only two of which are actually feature length, with the others being under a hour long. So we’re only getting about 8-½ hours of film plus bonus material. Granted, it’s a special edition BD release and it’s anime, which has always ran a bit more than more mainstream fare, but still. $400?

    Back when 3-4 episode individual DVDs were the norm for anime releases in North America, we paid $30 per disc, which adds up to $180 to $240 for a typical 26-episode series (6-8 discs per series), and those 26 episodes are equal to about 10 hours of film, plus maybe a few extras. Hell, Aniplex USA’s own BD release of R.O.D the TV has an MSRP of only $160. Or to use a non-anime example, the recently-announced Star Wars Complete Saga BD set will cost only $140. That’s over 12 hours of film plus tons of bonus features. Aniplex asking $400 for less than nine hours of film and some extras is highway robbery and few fans are willing or even able to cough up that much scratch for a single release.

    I know why a Japanese company that chooses to release directly in America or wherever might want to charge far more than what’s typical of an R1 release, and that’s because of their fear of reverse exportation. They need to get over that fear and maybe even re-examine if they’re doing the right thing by the fans in their own homeland.

  12. evgenidb says:

    I think they banned Funi, because the Fractale episode was taken from them. I watched it (I think it was from Horrible Subs) and there was a picture of “Funanimation” in one of the corners (look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwZUJHYipZY and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GBdZoncmCs for proof).

    And about Star Wars – forget Star Wars: The Complete Saga! The Clone Wars is a lot better comparison to the anime series for a few reasons:
    – it’s a series, not motion pictures.
    – producing series seems to be a lot cheaper than motion pictures (but I don’t know why).
    – each season of The Clone Wars is 22 episode – approximately the same as Japanese anime (about 12-13 episodes or 24-26).
    – The Clone Wars should be more expensive than regular anime.
    – The episodes are streamed online (although only in U.S.A.)
    – it’s showing in Cartoon Network, just like anime is shown on the TV.

    And now look here for some fun: http://www.starwars.com/theclonewars/news/seasontwo_dvd_bluray/index.html
    The DVD is $45 and the BD is $60

    And it has tons of Bonus Materials, and the DVDs and BDs are full. And I mean FULL! For 22 episodes, there is only 4DVDs or 3 BDs (I repeat 22 episodes), and one of the BDs is only Bonus Materials (http://www.starwars.com/theclonewars/season_two_dvd_bluray/index.html).

    Also, the previous season Boxset had some of the episodes expanded with some additional minutes.

    And also, if you check here: http://shop.starwars.com/catalog/product.xml?topcatID=1300264;product_id=1321122 – the price for the DVDs is $30 and for BDs – $40.

    That’s the way to do things!

    Also, check out the animation of the Clone Wars: http://www.starwars.com/video/view/001055.html – its quality is a lot better than most of the anime, the best of the TV CGI animated series – check out the current ones if you don’t believe me, and it’s getting even better. If you check the commentary videos to some of the episodes, you’ll see that they really have a sense for details.

    And many people call George Lucas and his companies money-hungry! Ha!

  13. http://yonfelvid.blogspot.com says:

    that’s bad ideas I think

  14. TX07TL says:

    You were right ANB. Funimation is streaming again and yet the fansubs are still out there.


  15. TX07TL says:

    I didn’t mean to publish my comments and I can’t edit. 🙁 What I wanted to say was that since fansubs are still there but Funimation is streaming again, it must have been a publicity ploy. I know you were thinking that this was about the Japanese protecting their market but you also mentioned it could be a ploy.

  16. AstroNerdBoy says:

    OK, let’s see what we have.

    @Anon — you may be right about the publishing. Akamatsu-sensei is leading that charge.

    @A Day/Anon — I did find the French element odd, which is why I wondered if there could be a scheme at work here.

    @Wise Bass — They arrest people over there for piracy. The Japanese fans have often used programs (Share springs to mind) to swap anime/manga/music files while keeping out the gaijin and for a little while, the cops. Remember, every fansub we get comes from a Japanese video source and most of the scanlations come from Japanese uploads (though there are a few European scanners I know who buy the magazines and put out higher quality scans for scanlations).

    Japanese otaku are big time collectors but they’ve used the file-swapping system to get stuff they wouldn’t be able to afford (only so much anime one can buy on a salary). What I don’t know is how many Japanese fans refuse to buy anything. I wouldn’t say it is a high percentage.

  17. AstroNerdBoy says:

    @hurin — The Japanese otaku are collectors. If you haven’t done so already, read “Genshiken” from Del Rey and you’ll get an idea of just how far they’ll go to collect stuff. ^_^

    @Shadow — Good stuff there.

    @evgenidb — I agree.

    @TX07TL — Heh! Well, to be honest, I thought that the streams were gone for good. However, the stupidity of the sheer scope of the response to this “piracy problem” made me think that this might be a way to get people interested.

    There’s a chance that it was a legit issue by FPC but FUNimation pointed to the fan backlash and got someone to see the light. Regardless of whether it was a ploy or real, I’m glad you guys have your series back. ^_^

  18. Krono says:

    On a possibly related note, Funimation is now sueing some people for downloading a One Piece episode.


  19. Jason says:

    Haha, morons. This probably led to the first episode being leaked, they practically invited pirates without knowing it.

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