Piracy Wars: AstroNerdBoy, Viz Media, TV Tokyo, and the DMCA

On December 27, 2006, I decided to delve into the world of blogging about anime, manga, and things Japanese. Prior to that, I wrote reviews (and still contribute on occasion) to Community Anime Reviews, starting in 2002. In all that time, my only real concerns about bothering publishers & distributors were my Negima! spoiler images that I would post when that manga was active. Thankfully, Kodansha was either gracious and allowed me to pass or ignorant of my efforts.

So, imagine my surprise when earlier this month, TV Tokyo (MX International Inc.) slapped me with a DMCA complaint along with a few hundred other URLs for alleged copyright infringement. Because my blog is hosed by Google (for now at least), Google immediately takes down the post in question because I’m guilty until proven innocent.  So, what was this post that was stealing food out of the bellies of TV Tokyo executives, employees, and potentially causing a hole in the space-time continuum? Just a regular, episode review of one of their series.

Yep, apparently my (positive) review of this one episode, which was legally streamed on Crunchyroll, violated the hideous Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Under the GUILTY until proven innocent aspects of this outrageous law, TV Tokyo had to offer zero proof that I was in violation. They do have to do whatever legal things are required to establish they own a copyright, but once that’s done, then they can do whatever the heck they want.

As you might imagine, I’m sitting there reading this notice from Google (which they simply point you to a database link where the complaint is filed, after which you have to go dig it out) and my jaw hit the floor. At best, they could complain about the use of screen captures in my blog post, but considering they didn’t hit any other blog review for the series, that couldn’t have been the issue. Since the complain doesn’t force TV Tokyo to specify the exact element(s) are in supposed copyright violation, I’ll never know because they don’t have to answer jack.  Instead, I filed a legal counteraction to Google, and if TV Tokyo doesn’t respond in another week, then I’m shifted from GUILTY to innocent.

Out of the hundreds of URLs that TV Tokyo complained about, every other one but mine was for either an unauthorized streaming site or an unauthorized download site.  Amazing.

That was bad enough, but then when I get up on Thursday, imagine my surprise when I’m slammed with yet another DMCA violation. This time, the culprit was Viz Media.  My crime? You won’t believe this — promoting their announced release of Naruto Shippuden the Movie in 2009!  You read that right; all I did back then was post the news that Viz now had the movie up for pre-order, including THEIR official trailer from THEIR YouTube account for promoting Naruto back then. I also linked to my now defunct Amazon seller account as well as to RightStuf for folks who wanted to buy it.

Wow! MASSIVE copyright violations there, Viz. A four year old article PROMOTING your product and ENCOURAGING people to buy it is a copyright violation? Seriously Viz?

Because these fools don’t have to prove jack, they can cast wider and wider nets.  To hell with the innocent they catch. We’re just collateral damage. In the case of Viz here, I think they had over 2000 URLs listed in their complaint.  Just giving a cursory glance through the massive list, it again appears that my blog post is being lumped with download and streaming sites. *_*

Needless to say, I am angry beyond belief. What’s the point in helping a company sell its product if they are going to act this way?

Do I think I’ve been purposefully targeted?  I doubt it.  These companies may hire 3rd party vendors to do mindless sweeps for supposed DMCA violations and then claim success based on the massive URL lists they generate. It is also possible that Viz and TV Tokyo have their own software that their legal team uses to go out and do the same, massive sweeps. For whatever unearthly reasons, I’ve now twice been flagged as a guilty piece of crap that the crap excreted.

And so my issues with the guilty until proven innocent attitude that I wrote about last year have come to affect me personally. To be frank, I didn’t see it coming at all.

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26 Responses to “Piracy Wars: AstroNerdBoy, Viz Media, TV Tokyo, and the DMCA”

  1. akinari-kun says:

    Well, that was rather uncalled for 🙁

  2. arimareiji says:

    The really amusing part? The MPAA, RIAA, etc don’t want Google to even admit when they take down results based on sloppy automated keyword searches. Doing so makes it possible for someone who can read between the lines to simply look up the removed results by clicking on the complaint. Copy, paste, and you’re at the exact same location that was removed from the search engine.

    For all of their efforts to ban anything that even looks like it might be infringement, all they’ve managed to do (besides piss off a lot of innocent people) is create a reverse-searchable database of content. Give them time, though. Not only will Google’s transparency about removing search results go away, guilty until proven innocent will become guilty until proven innocent to your accuser’s satisfaction… or as it used to be known, “kangaroo court”. (Officially, that is. It’s already the de facto truth to some degree.)

  3. That’s outrageous. You might try to use their or your facebook profile and go viral so that they understand their actions are just cancerous. Good luck.

  4. Lan says:

    what a load of bull shit. Feel sorry for you. It will be me next for promoting the Spice and Wolf and Haruhi novels :/

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Depends on if they make a video ad and you then embed it in your promotional post. *_* Unless Viz does something, I’m not promoting another of their products. I’ll keep buying the Hayate manga, but that’ll be it (no reviews of it here unless it is to attack Viz).

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hey Astro do you know anything about Akamatsu’s newest work? I can’t find anything online. Thanks.
    Oh, and I hope you get proven innocent ^_^

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I haven’t heard anything either regarding whatever his new project is. I figured we’d hear something this month but we’ll see.

      >Oh, and I hope you get proven innocent ^_^

      *lol* Well, I know I’m innocent, so there’s that at least.

  6. I feel your pain! Last year I had Funimation hit me with a DMCA on my anime review blog (dubsub.blogspot.com) specifically my FLCL review (http://dubsub.blogspot.com/2012/04/fooly-cooly-flcl-anime-review.html). It was a positive review! I had used a few images from Funimation’s website in my post and speculate this may have been the trigger for the DMCA, but I’ll never know.

    I got lumped in with the streaming and download sites as well. I also think a 3rd party group is hired to do bot sweeps to accumulate URLs to slap with a DMCA. I bet they’re paid by volume and try to pull as many addresses as possible. The whole thing seemed very draconian.

    I noticed a drop in traffic immediately after the DMCA incident and wonder if it factored into Google’s search ranking determination? I can only imagine what 2 DMCAs would do?

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >I had used a few images from Funimation’s website in my post and speculate this may have been the trigger for the DMCA, but I’ll never know.

      Well, that’s the real trick, isn’t it. We get smacked with a DMCA hit, but like a drive-by shooting, we don’t know why and the DMCA shooters are on to the next target.

      >I noticed a drop in traffic immediately after the DMCA incident and wonder if it factored into Google’s search ranking determination? I can only imagine what 2 DMCAs would do?

      Since my personal blog is being done on the Word Press platform on my domain, I’ve learned a few things about search rankings. I think what might be nailing you is the one spam comment that was to an unauthorized (but now defunct) streaming site. Apparently, known spam comments reduce the rankings. And it may have triggered FUNimation’s DMCA hit, though as you said, we’ll never know for sure. *_*

    • I bet you’re exactly right and it sounds very likely. I must have let that one slip through without thinking. Great insight!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wait what…?

    *incoming major facepalm*

    I can perhaps give those Tokyo guys a reason for not being good in English but Viz Media..?

    What a fail there.

    You did nothing wrong and you derserve an apoligy from both of them. And while I am at it if it happend to me I would stop supporting Viz media.

    With friendly regards

    Keima88

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >And while I am at it if it happend to me I would stop supporting Viz media.

      I won’t be promoting anything else from Viz, that’s for sure. I will still purchase the Hayate the Combat Butler manga though.

  8. Unknown says:

    Maybe they’re targeting blogspot subdomains as well? That’s really weird

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I think it is more of a Google thing than a specific Blogspot thing. Blogspot (Blogger) is owned by Google, so when a DMCA hit happens, Google removes the offending post. If my blog were on my domain on the Word Press platform, all Google could do would be to remove the URL from search results and punish me in the search rankings.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, they don’t really have any real basis in the case of your blog. You only discuss reviews of things you have read or watched. In many of the posts over the years, you’ve encouraged people to buy things legally, and been more like free advertising for people to purchase legal products.

    I doubt it would be an issue about the screen captures, especially since you give the credit to the series in the reviews and many times even refer to the name of the licensed publisher when writing manga reviews.

    My guess, is that they were using link trails (you have a link to a blog or site which then has a link to a scanlation or illegal streaming site). The could use that rational when only one other site is between your blog and the illegal services.

    At least one of the other blogs you link to has links on it to either watch or read stuff through non-licensed means. I didn’t check all of the links, but with only 5 random “Various Blogs” picked, I found one that had issues (e.g. Anime Classic Reviews had dead illegal download links).

    I’m sure most of the linked blogs and sites are fine, and only a few amateur sites/blogs causing the problems. If you remove links to the real offenders, then they couldn’t claim you were an accomplice.

    Most of the sites you refer to are probably fine, but you may want to check all the blogs and sites listed and choose not to list those sites which do keep links to the scanlation or illegal streaming sites.

    A side reason to check the links once a year is that a few of the links go to sites/blogs which have been inactive for one or more years.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >My guess, is that they were using link trails (you have a link to a blog or site which then has a link to a scanlation or illegal streaming site).

      The problem with that is that the complaint says I was personally violating DMCA with specific posts. If they follow a link trail, then they’d be holding me accountable for what others do. It is possible that this may be the case, but if so, that’s outrageous. After all, I have links to YouTube, and we all know there are TONS of copyright violations there.

      >At least one of the other blogs you link to has links on it to either watch or read stuff through non-licensed means.

      I’ll have to go through and check. I’ve not done that in a while so it is overdue (at least for dead links — the unauthorized stuff is something I’ve not really looked for, though I’ve tried not to have links to those kind of sites).

      Thanks for the reminder. ^_^

    • arimareiji says:

      I’m sure most of the linked blogs and sites are fine, and only a few amateur sites/blogs causing the problems. If you remove links to the real offenders, then they couldn’t claim you were an accomplice.

      ANB’s a much nicer person than I am, so my opinion is moot… but if it were me and this were the “reason” for the DMCA, I would be sorely tempted to tell them to go to hell.

      Dead links or direct links to unauthorized content, I can understand removing. But you don’t have to go too far before the premise of “don’t allow a trail of links to links to links of stuff we don’t like” becomes absurd. Are they going to mandate removing (for the sake of example) links to someone who uses a link to a scanlation site as a way of pointing out a particular scene in a manga? Or links to someone who once got a comment that mentions animestreamingsite.com in a negative light (but thereby uses a prohibited name)? ‘Twould be shades of the “Jehovah” skit in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Yeah, I don’t like this notion of link trails being the culprit at all, if that is in deed the case.

  10. Shadow_s_writer says:

    OK I know from my limited knowledge of copyright law that anything…Anything you write and publish has automatic copyright protection of it’s own. As long as you created the document and did not copy anything beyond the fair use limit, your work is protected by copyright law. It is your property, and any court can protected it.

    This brings us to the DMCA claim, they have to establish they own the copyright to the material they are claiming was illegally copyied. But in your case, they do not own it, you do. They have therefore illegally claimed ownership of your work, itself a violation of the copyright law.

    Now give the shotgun method of their notice I suppect that we are dealing with one of a number of lawyer sthat make a “living” filing copyright complains against anyone they come accross uing so search software. They operate on the cheap by filing agianst large groups of people an hoping so will be scared into seen them a check to settle.

    That work in Oregon until one person got a lawyer of her own, and brought it to a judge, who examined the filing determine that they were fileing illegally against seperate individual, and ordered they lawyer to file seperate suit against all one thousand defendants. Needless to say that put a big whole into the lawyers pocketbook, and will dealy things for decades.

    If that is the case, ask GOOGLE to require that the lawyer provide proof of ownership of each document they are claiming, not just the copyright of a specific item they own. If that works, then that will solve your problem, as you own your copyright, not them.

    What I do is get GOOGLE to send you a copy of writen complain that was sent to them thought the U.S. mails if possible. Then inform the lawyer listed on the those documants to lay off. If they don’t layoff. If they don’t, get a layer who will sue them on contengency to write them a letter, cliaming they violated your copyrights.

    • Anonymous says:

      “This brings us to the DMCA claim, they have to establish they own the copyright to the material they are claiming was illegally copyied. But in your case, they do not own it, you do. They have therefore illegally claimed ownership of your work, itself a violation of the copyright law.”

      That’s not entirely true. You only have the copyright for the parts you yourself created. If you use parts from other people’s work (e.g. screenshots) these people of course retain their copyright on their work and it does not magically transfers to you as this would make the whole copyright absurd.

      In short: he only has the copyright on his texts he has written himself, but on images (i.e. screenshots) which are part of work (i.e. anime) created by others (i.e. the anime producers).

    • Shadow_s_Writer says:

      May I should explain what fair use is.

      Fair Use is when you quote something from some one else’s protected work. You are limited to quoting only that material necessary for your work, and must give credit to the source of that material. If you written a paper for college courses, you know all about this.

      When writing something like a review, summary, or discuss, about someone else’s work, you are allow to quote from that work. Using screen shots to identify characters and specific events in an movie, TV program, etc. would “fair use” as long as it solely related to a legal reason for your work. This does not mean if you are discussing someone else’s work you can copy the whole thing, that is not “fair use”

      You are correct that the maker of the original material owns their Copyright, but they are limited to when they can enforce they copyright when dealing with those discussing their work.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I seem to remember reading about a case where a company that made money off of finding so called copyright violations ended up getting sued. I think they were some sort of copyright troll company.

      That said, there are companies that aren’t considered troll companies to have searches to supposed copyright violator URLs removed from search results, which is what I got nailed on. The removal of the blog entry was because I’m part of Google for the anime blog.

      Anyway, this whole thing stinks big time.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Sorry for this situation for you. What a bunch of BS!

    I hate to say it, but I think that people might want to get used to this sort of thing, and it might just get worse than can even be imagined.

    We are heading into a world where corporation is everything, and the individual is refuse; it’s been this way for a long time- to a degree- but I think we’re seeing the real fruits of the Police-State.

    You know, by using Google to begin with- even the operating system by MS, Apple, etc.- you are already complicit in this whole thing, and dealing with a compromised system. We are living in a ‘corporate techno military etc. oligarchy’ and a slave state; this world is a nightmare in creation. And, there are those who profit upon this dystopic mess.

    Someone might consider that this is small feed, and that some anime enthusiasts have had a bad day, but this is part of a growing condition, and people ought to be worried.

    I hope that this kind of thing can get a comeuppance; otherwise- and probably, anyway- we are ALL going to get the very short end of the stick.

    ADAM

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