Saturday, February 6, 2016

Anime DMCA and the Unfair Treatment of Fair Use

[ Insert Anime Picture Here ]

This article has been long in coming, for many reasons; most notable of which is the repeated abuse the anime community seems to be suffering at the hands of the very people whose products and services we promote and advocate for.

By that I mean that anime community members are suffering unfair issuances of copyright violation notices, and DMCAs to the point that it seems the companies we buy anime from, doesn't really want us to do anything but just buy it.

Apparently, what was once a healthy practice, and by my own definition a sort of free promotion and advertising for the anime companies, is now being targeted in routine sweeps for illegal activity, and as a result many individuals on social media sites, namely YouTube and Twitter are being hit with take-down notices and DMCA notices.

Before I dive too deep into this, let me back up and start at the beginning.

Last year in between the months of August and October, a sweep began across the internet by license holders of anime for the sole purpose of removing illegal content, and content violators. As a result, the large social platforms were struck hard, and many YouTubers, and Twitter members were issued copyright violations, and or DMCA notices of violation.

All well and good, since those bastards need to pay the price for illegally using someone else's property without their permission!

Unfortunately, in with the violators were many YouTube content creators and Twitter members that were uploading content that fell within the rights of Fair Use. Some of these content creators on YouTube had nothing in their videos at all, except for them in front of a microphone and camera, and only their thumbnail contained an image of the violated anime. 

Some it is speculated were issued take-downs based on nothing more than the use of the anime show's title in the title of their video.

At or about the same time, some members of Twitter began receiving similar DMCA notices through Twitter, alerting them to potential violations for the re-tweeting and sharing or uploading of screen-shots of anime. 

In some instances, the offending accounts were permanently suspended.

Now, just six or so months later, and we are seeing a fresh resurgence of this so-called anime cleanse. 

Last month saw YouTube creators getting hit with copyright notices, and strikes to their account for little more than a thumbnail, or perhaps a title in the title of their video, and as a result their accounts weren't given the regulation treatment of getting a one, strike, two strike, then you're out option, they were simply taken straight to step two.

Today on Twitter, a new batch of DMCAs were issued at members, once again, targeting those that featured screen captured images of anime. And naturally, wanting to disassociate themselves from these troublemakers, Twitter proactively suspended accounts.

Based on information that I've obtained, the biggest culprits behind these attacks on the fanbase are none other than FUNimation Entertainment, and the Japan Creative Contents Alliance. It's unclear to me which is responsible, but I'm going to put them both on the same platform for sake of continuity.

Were this a matter of illegal distribution of anime, and violation of the copyright in the sense that we are using footage and imagery to make a profit, I would totally understand. As a fan of anime, I'm for its preservation, and that means that I support the legal purchase of anime whenever and where ever possible.

Unfortunately, for companies like FUNimation, it isn't enough. Now we are expected to buy from them, stream from them, and never post about it, never write about it, and never talk about it. Not unless we want to be hit with a notice that all but ruins our livelihood, or our hard earned follower base on the social network.

To me this seems to violate the very nature of Fair Usage. In fact it all but falls into the realms of discrimination. As a consumer, I should be able to go and find an article with pictures of a product to purchase, or find a review that can not only make mention of the product, but provide me with a visual representation of what it is that is being reviewed.

Do screen captured thumbnails fall under copyright? 

Yes they do. But there is a large gray area between the usage of a thumbnail on a review video that is monetized, and the sale of the thumbnail image itself for monetary gain.

By rights, reviews on anime for companies like, FUNimation are free advertising. General awareness is produced, and many times fans like myself will go out and purchase or stream the show. This in my opinion is what the community is all about, education, information, and preservation.

Many of us work very hard on these reviews, and aside from those that do in fact violate the rules of copyright by showing full clips, and music and loads of imagery, we do everything in our power to adhere to the strict regulations of not only the property holder's rights but to the rules and regulations of the community guidelines established in these social networks and sites.

I expect to be able to monetize my videos which I make reviewing anime. It would be nice if I could drive traffic to my video without a representation of what is being reviewed, but in the interest of competition, I can't. So instead of a compromise, and an understanding of this practice, companies like FUNimation, TBS, and of course, the watchdogs, JCCA blanket bomb the internet taking out the good guys with the bad guys.

So here we are. 

I think the most insane [art of this whole affair is the double-edged sword that seems to be swinging. 

By cutting down the good guys that educate and inform the rest of the community about anime, and manga and these products, aren't the companies hurting themselves in the process? 

Just yesterday, I started streaming two new shows from Crunchyroll, and bought two new manga from Amazon that I otherwise would not have were it not for these deviants showing a screencapped image or representation in their article, or review. 

I'm just one person. And in one day dropped twenty dollars on manga, and unknown revenue on streaming ads. Imagine how sad it would be if I never did. 

I know what FUNimation, TBS, or the JCCA are hoping to accomplish with this witch hunt, but I also know what will happen if they don't take a lesson from McCarthy. 

In the end, I fear that rather than aid and salve the damage of illegal piracy and copyright violation, the industry by and large will only be slitting its own wrists. Why would I want to help, promote, or support an industry that is hell bent on treating me like a criminal, or is seemingly out to get me?

If you wish to voice your concern over this matter, and let your opinion be heard, then I encourage you to write an email to the JCCA. 

info@jccadmca.com

Let them know where you stand, and that you won't stand for this blatant totalitarianism. If DMCA notices aren't regulated, then eventually, they'll be handing them out for speaking the name of an anime.