Project Haruhi
14Mar/1146

FUNimation’s Hypocrisy Revealed

Video in Funimation’s dubbing room as seen in America’s Greatest Otaku

Remember FUNimation, the moralist anime production company that tried to sue 1337 anonymous bittorrent users for downloading a One Piece fansub? Well, it turns out that for all their bloviating about piracy, they are nothing more than a bunch of filthy hypocrites.

The screenshot above is taken from the latest episode of America's Greatest Otaku, Tokyopop's attempt to emulate reality television with an anime spin. It shows a monitor in FUNimation's dubbing studio, with episode 3 of Sora no Otoshimono playing for the benefit of the dub actors.

Keen eyes on the ANN forums quickly noticed something strange about the subtitle font being used. Turns out it's from HorribleSub's illegal rip of CrunchyRoll's stream.

Sora No Otashimono, Episode 3, 08:42

The evidence here is irrefutable. Unless FUNimation went to great lengths to replicate HorribleSub's unique font in Aegisub, there is no question that they are using illegal rips for their dubbing work. This is particularly damaging after they made such a grand show of suing thousands of people whose only offense was WATCHING FANSUBS. No question about it, FUNimation has had their ethical soapbox shattered.

More after the break.

Of course, this is only part of a much broader hypocrisy that is systematically practiced by the American anime companies and their mouthpiece, Anime News Network. Do you expect to see an ANN report on this fiasco? I sure as hell don't. They've already showed a complete lack of journalistic integrity when their corporate interests are at stake, and I doubt they'll risk upsetting their biggest advertiser. Did you know that the CEO of ANN, Christopher Macdonald, even asked other news outlets to bury the OreImo leak story in order to protect their precious streaming rights?

And, like clockwork, the ANN forum mods have already started deleting dissenting posts on their forums. I'm sure they would love to bury this story if they could, but the word has already gotten out. Of course, ANN's staff watch fansubs themselves for their spring preview guide... but that won't stop them from rushing to defend their corporate buddies when this kind of scandal hits the headlines.

So, what's going to happen? Not a damn thing. FUNimation and ANN will ignore this story, and the fickle public will forget about in in short order. The big companies will continue to whine about piracy while filing frivolous lawsuits and blaming all their problems on those evil fansubbers. It's the nature of corporatism, and nothing you or I do will change that. If you really feel like taking action, you can join Thomas' ongoing boycott of FUNimation. As for me, I think I'll knock back a few Red Stripes and continue to complain impotently about all the injustice in the world.

UPDATE: Glen posted a link to a rather hilarious post on the ANN forums, which I think is worth quoting here.

Now lets discuss the ways to obtain that (HorribleSubs) release. Gee, lemme think, Bittorrent. Funimation is using Bittorrent. Well, everyone uses Bittorrent. So lets apply some logic here. If Funimation is downloading from Bittorrent, then it is 99% guaranteed (with 1% being possible for using a hacked client, which would lead to even more speculations of foul play on Funimation's part) that Funimation is UPLOADING on Bittorrent. Now, Funimation loves to sue those that upload "their" shows on Bittorrent.

But wait!!!

That would mean that Funimation now has to sue itself.

Can you say, hypocrisy?

About Jon

Jon is a Japanese culture enthusiast, professional pervert and roleplaying fanatic who appreciates flexible gender identities. He enjoys science fiction, Gunpla, classical music and Red Stripe.

  • I’ve never respected these licencing corporations for making a nice penny being the middle-man between ourselves and the animation studios. Now, ….well I suppose it IS possible for me to respect them a little less than before…

  • It’s not hypocrisy at all. They went after those people because they were pirating LEGAL streams of a show that they had licensed. They only want to people to stop using fansubs for shows that a legal option exists. If you don’t have a legal choice, well that’s different.

    I’ve always respected licensing companies and I still will to this day.

    • Jon

      Legal streams that they refuse to provide in any resolution higher than 480p? And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to live in the United States. Nobody wants to watch an SD crap-quality stream instead of an HD fansub.

      Oh, and they didn’t sue people who were pirating their stream. They sued people who were watching a fansub that came from a raw ripped from TVTokyo. Their stream never entered into the equation.

      I’d feel sorry for them, but my sympathy is region-locked.

      • Anonymous

        I watch “crap quality” because … …well I guess I never really cared that much.

      • So FUNi only has 480p streams? I’m region locked out regardless. Lovely vote of confidence into FUNi and their own translation teams, too. That said, do you reckon they just chose that font because it looks nice? Is that possible?

      • It’s possible in the same way that throwing a dart from from an airplane and hitting a bullseye on the ground is possible.

        Most FUNimation streams I’ve encountered have been 360p. I could deal with 480p, honestly.

      • From what I have seen, most, if not all of Funi’s stuff on Hulu is 480p. For some reason all the stuff on Funi’s video portal, including Hulu’s embedded videos are 360p. Why this is I haven’t a clue, maybe it has something to do with Hulu and Funi license to have higher on Hulu or maybe it is just Funi intending everything on their site to be simply a preview to hopefully get more DVD sales. Who knows, but it is something that really needs to change.

      • ArcTanGentleman

        Yeah, Funimation is kinda stupid about DVD sales, they don’t realize that free > paid has a single digit (1 or 2%) conversion rate in freemium markets… so the best way to sell is to get as many people as possible to watch your series. I didn’t even know they were still making Dragon ball for YEARS their marketing and distribution sucks so bad.

      • ArcTanGentleman

        Yeah, Funimation is kinda stupid about DVD sales, they don’t realize that free > paid has a single digit (1 or 2%) conversion rate in freemium markets… so the best way to sell is to get as many people as possible to watch your series (which with likes/shares is still exponential). They also don’t realize that the free>premium conversion rate is also MUCH MORE PROFITABLE than those who simply buy the series because it can have hundreds if not thousands of times the volume. I didn’t even know they were still making Dragonball for YEARS their marketing and distribution sucks so bad. (Once it left TV… it died). Naruto and One piece are killing them in DVD sales, despite having all of their series available for free, simply because they are more readily available.

      • ArcTanGentleman

        Basically, 1% of people who see your video and watch it may buy A DVD… if you don’t push your media through the legal channels like Crunchyroll… well… 1% of 0 people is 0. :/ Stargate Continuum sold 9 million. That’s about 1 million boxes (down to as little as 250,000), and they had 3.2 million viewers on a record breaking episode, which means that their conversion rate was likely higher than average.

  • Anonymous

    I think FUNi is stupid for using fansubs, but I think it might be something like the person running the ADR direction being at fault. Let’s say he/she is a normal fan who used a fansub at the spur of the moment not really caring about the consequences because they aren’t part of the same group that starts sueing people to protect their business assets or whatever.

    Even if it went through multiple “people” to finally reach the finished product, I imagine none of those people actually caught the error like you say on skype. Even if they did, I doubt they anticipated the repercussions of fans such as yourself flinging hate and anger in the direction of the studio they work for. Obviously it would have been in their best interest to not let that slip, but it still did. Now that this news is bound to get spread around fast, they will/already know and are probably doing something. Firing the guy who let the mistake get through, and/or writing a statement as to why there are fansubs on the monitor there.

    and I don’t care at all about ANN. I don’t care that they are sell-outs. If they want to protect the asses of the ones who sponsor them, I say “do whatever the hell you want”. They aren’t the last anime site anyway. It should be obvious to anyone ANN is going be protective of itself in a financial matter.

  • Whatever mate, I like to own my DVD’s and Funimation are cool people who have a lot of shows I’d like to own. Anime companies have always have had some done some shady things be it CPM, Media Blasters, ect. I’m not going to stop buying the things I love just because they used that in that show.

    • Jon

      Oh, I agree. The boycott is entirely ineffectual. Still, I feel the least I can do is let other people know it exists, just in case anybody wants to be super-principled about their purchasing decisions.

  • Anonymous

    I think the reason you don’t get HQ streams most of time is because it’d be burden on the servers.?

    • Jon

      If Crunchyroll and ANN can afford to have HD streams, why can’t FUNi? They’re just hosting all the shows on Hulu anyway.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t know. I don’t have these answers! I’m sure it’s not “out of spite” or bitterness. Obviously it’d be a good idea , so I don’t know.

      • That is how I see it most of the time. I know a lot of people who don’t even have HD tv’s, let alone blu-ray players or even nextgen gaming systems. Most of the time they can’t tell bad quality at all. It is the same reason why many people were watching crappy quality Youtube rips of Naruto back before Crunchy Roll was around.

        Also who knows, maybe this new Funimation site will have HD. Has anyone seen the beta yet? I know they’ve been trying do a new site for a while.

      • Hate-Chan

        I think they’re going about it the wrong way. Maybe Funimation uses the 480p in order to allow the viewer a chance to view the episode, albeit in a lower quality way, in order for the viewer to be like, “Oh damn I gotta get the DVD, wanna see it in HD.” It’s a bit crude and unintelligent, but that’s the only reason I can think of at this point, and the most intelligent one I can see coming out of a company that tries to wave an ePenis around in the American courtrooms.

  • I’m gonna go apply to be a translator for FUNimation right now. I’ve always wanted a job where I just wait for other people to do my work for free.

    • Jon

      I beg to differ. The fact that they intentionally censored their involvement in the leak from their news story for the better part of a week is bad enough… but now we learn that they asked other news joints to do the same? That’s an attempt to stifle the freedom of the press to cover their own asses.

      Just ask Dustin. If something like this happened at CNN or any other major news outlet, it would be a huge scandal. ANN got away with it because, technically speaking, they aren’t “professional” journalists.

      • I completely agree that it’s a scandal and a breach of journalistic integrity, but there’s a difference between damage control and outright censorship. I’m not defending them, I’m just petty.

      • Jon

        Well, I freely admit that I can be hyperbolic sometimes.

      • Anonymous

        They asked some people to stop, but they didn’t start arresting people for writing articles which might land them (ANN) in hot water did they? This seems like a natural reaction to me.

  • As a side note, who would be watching America’s Greatest Otaku without wanting to inflect bodily harm to themselves? Let alone have the time to analyze the subtitles in the background?

    • Jon

      I tried watching it a few days ago. It wasn’t BAD per se… just incredibly boring. They got a bunch of extraordinarily dull otaku to do silly and mundane things, like having eating contests. Usually, reality TV shows are driven by the unique and flamboyant personalities of the participants, but AGO has no such charm.

  • Well, the comments sure are going to flood for this one…

    First off, let’s get one thing clear – we encourage piracy. We use fansubs and download them through torrent, streaming or whatever means comfortable to us. This. Is. Illegal. Would you steal a car? Would you steal a laptop? Then, why would you steal an anime? If all the current anime watchers were to buy the DVDs of all the anime they watched, I’m sure the industry would rise to become a major one and newer companies would be willing to produce more (quality) anime. How would you feel if you spent years making ProjectHaruhi and someone just hacked in and cut all data?

    What I’m trying to say here with the long winded explanation is that we are no one to critique the one company that is actually funding the industry we all love so much. We are criminals pointing and jeering at the cops through the bars. FUNimation is not the best licensor, agreed. Hell, they suck. But we’re not ones to talk. If we were actually buying their DVDs and not watching fansubs, maybe then we can complain. But I think the majority (since most are not from USA) don’t fall into this category. I don’t see how anyone can be “pinrcipled” about this, because using illegal video is a lack of that.

    Secondly, they are legally safe. Whether they’re watching a fansub or a RAW, they have acquired the license for all material which contain the video data. Sure, it’s hypocritic, but what they’re doing is legal. They reserve the right to do what they want.

    Comparing CNN to ANN?! CNN gets millions of viewers per day, and millions of hits on their website every week. ANN probably doesn’t get a million hits in even a month. CNN employs thousands of people. ANN doesn’t hire more than 100, most of whom don’t actually belong in the same country. Obviously, the “scandal” will be limited to the anime fans only.

    ANN buried the story to protect their own interest. Perfectly natural, but not something anyone would look upto. Journalism is sometimes a swampy place. At the end of the day, it is business and they can’t afford to lose their sponsor. Unethical, but true. How did you get your hands on that screenshot of the e-mail anyway. If the perpetrator had hacked in, that’s another illegal thing to add to the list.

    When it’s all said and done, there’s not a lot we can do about this. Nice site BTW.

    • Getting into the morality and legality of fansubs here is pointless.

      No one’s trying to pretend FUNimation did something illegal. It’s just ironic that they go after the people who produce a resource that they apparently use. They try to play the moral high ground with their tirades against fansubbers and then get caught doing this. The point of the article is to help spread the word and put a spotlight on the dissonance between their posturing and their actions.

      I believe the reason he compared ANN to CNN was to show that ethical reporting should not be based on size or influence. We don’t employ anyone here and only get a fraction of the traffic ANN does, but we still do our best to check our facts and report fairly on everything. We also protect our sources, which is why the source of that e-mail excerpt is none of your business.

      • I don’t see how it’s pointless.

        I understand that part about comparing ANN and CNN but he said it would be a “scandal”. Which is quite a hyperbole.

        Hey, I was just saying. I don’t really want to know the source. That is none of my damn business. Do be careful though.

    • Jon

      First, Project Haruhi HAS been stolen, numerous times. We’ve run across many sites that straight-up copy our content without crediting us. We can’t do a damn thing about it, nor do we really care. Our Creative Commons license lets anybody who wants to freely reuse our content as long as they don’t make any money from it and attribute it to us. But even when they don’t give credit, we don’t really care. That’s life.

      Second, I have thousands of dollars worth of FUNi’s DVDs sitting on my shelf. I am not some hypocritical criminal. I am one of their customers who is genuinely upset.

      Third, I never said FUNimation did anything illegal. Fact of the matter is, they probably didn’t break any laws. What they DID do, however, is download an illegal rip of the show (and possibly further facilitate sharing that show via Bittorrent; see Glen’s comment below) after whining about piracy and suing anime fans for watching fansubs. That is repulsive behavior.

      Fourth, let me quote from ANN’s FAQ page.

      “What is Anime News Network (ANN)?
      Anime News Network was created as a news source that focuses on the medium of Japanese Animation(anime) and Japanese Comics (manga). ANN was founded by Justin Sevakis in July of 1998, and has since lead the online anime news medium with a tradition of strong unbiased coverage of major breaking news. With in-depth coverage, analysis and commentary to provide insight into the world of anime and manga, ANN has been and continues to be the #1 English language source for anime and manga news on the Internet. ANN’s goal is to make the latest, most comprehensive Anime news available to new fans and veteran Otaku alike.”

      So they CLAIM to be “the internet’s most trusted anime news source,” but have repeatedly failed in their obligation to live up to that claim. They fancy themselves journalists but have none of the integrity or dedication required to adhere to those high standards.

      Oh, and let’s not forget this golden tidbit.

      “What ANN is not:

      A television network or station;
      A subsidiary of another company;
      A dubbing / voice recording studio;
      An animation company;
      A licensing or distribution company;
      A manufacturer or distributor of merchandise;
      For sale.”

      Because we all know that ANN doesn’t license or stream anime! Oh, wait.

      As for the e-mail screenshot? It was obtained from a person (who will remain anonymous at his own request) who received the e-mail and was genuinely concerned about ANN’s attempts to bury the story. Nothing was hacked, and no illegal actions were taken on either the part of this site or our source.

      • Ryu

        Man I hope they’re not stealing my quotes, ’cause they’re all solid gold.

      • Jon

        You are quite obviously responsible for most of this site’s traffic, Great One.

      • You could have mentioned in the post that you too were an upset customer. I bought a few FUNimation DVDs at first. Realized their bad subs and autrocious princing (especially the way they blew up the file size to fit in less episodes). I ‘ve never bought from them since.

        If you owned a casino and you suddenly ordered everyone to get out of the place (I mean ASAP, including customers, employees etc.) and went around and pocketed a few chips even after telling the gamplers/players not to, is it a bad thing? Not in my book.

        However it is hypocritical. They’re leeching off fansubbers to save money on translators maybe. That’s low. They dropped the charges against 1336 people though.

        But seriously, how stupid can they be? When the cops come around, the first thing you do is hide the murder weapon, not display it proudly on your shelves. Are the people down at FUNi so dumb that they didn’t even think of playing some other video? Hell, an old DBZ re-run would remind the common people on what anime is.

        “Repeatedly” ? I’m not an ardent ANN follower, so I don’t know if they were in any previous tight spots. Well, were they?

        I don’t think ANN licenses anime. But the streaming of aniem does not refer to “distribution”. Distribution of goods refers to selling and/or delivery of goods. Streaming for free or simulcasting is just proming or previewing. Once again, a bad decision considering that most PC cam recorders can capture the video.

        Like I replied to Yuki, you don’t need to tell me (or anyone for that matter) the source, but don’t (just a friendly warning, not a command or a threat) go all Julian Asange and rip data from personal e-mails.

  • I want to point out this post on the ANN thread because it’s awesome:
    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/bbs/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=1082315#1082315

    • Thanks for the link. Thread’s pretty interesting. His theory does have a flaw though. Downloading through bittorrent, doesn’t always mean uploading. You can lock upload speed to 0kbps. Plus, if you dig around, I’m sure that HS versions could be found on other filesharing sites such as Rapidshare, Megaupload and such. Still don’t get em in the clear though. That guy (on the post you linked to) is being attacked by the mods, but most of what he says is on solid ground, so I think the mods are going to hide their blishes by locking (and maybe deleting) the thread.

  • Anonymous

    The thing I don’t get is why they downloaded the pirated video… when they could just ask the company that did the original subtitles for the original LEGAL video. They have the right to the text… they have the text on paper for the voice actors to read (which they got from the same company)… so why download a pirated video? This would mean that they didn’t only downloaded it off of a torrent for absolutely no reason, they also likely uploaded it to a torrent for no reason.

    Wait… I know! They probably did it for the spiffy font. 😛

  • Snicket

    If it makes you feel better, Jon. I’ve been boycotting Funimation for years for numerous reasons; many of which have been mentioned on this blog already.

    It comes as no surprise that they would go to such lengths to stop the public from knowing their method to ‘cut costs.’ However, i am surprised that they needed to in the first place. Has Funimation fallen so low, that they need to resort to blatantly using something made by the people that they went sue happy on a short time ago?

  • Fair and unbiased reporting. Good job sir.

    Also, America’s Greatest Otaku isn’t something Funimation created. It’s Tokyopop’s crappy reality show.

  • Vic

    This article has the words “spicy” and “interesting” written all over it :3
    Thanks for sharing, it can ruin anyone’s day to see how corporate biggies make use of their titles to take out people while they move along the lines of what they claim to be “against”.

    Kudos to Jon for this article. You’ve proved to be very good to use your words to stir up people to think more. I for one wish something much bigger comes out of this.

  • Heh, you can’t resist a good slam against Funi, can you Jon?

    Are they a bunch of hypocrites? Yea, probably, but it seems to be popular opinion on that ANN thread that the HS subs are simply restyled Crunchy subs e.g. Cruchyroll’s translation which Funi most likely has the rights too, so I could really care less. If it saves them a day of work by throwing that up on the monitors, I say all the power to them.

    I don’t expect them to be ethically perfect all the time. Heaven knows we as fans/reviewers/whatever aren’t, not to mention this was more then likely an individual’s decision anyways. Hell, the fact that there is an actual script there (http://i.imgur.com/0ZYRa.jpg) makes me wonder if that HS release wasn’t (retardily) thrown up on the main screen last minute for the cameras to have something to read.

    Also PH? Unbiased? Don’t make me laugh. This very article is very biased, not that there is anything wrong with that.

    • Jon

      I never claimed this article was unbiased, did I? In fact, it’s very clearly labelled an “editorial.” Then again, Project Haruhi doesn’t claim to be anything more than a fanblog. We certainly don’t make bombastic claims about being “the internet’s most trusted anime news source.”

      Once again, I have no problem with them using HorribleSubs rips. Some overpaid and under-qualified middle-management type has probably been on their case to slash the budget, and they just cut corners wherever they can. What I do have a problem with is FUNimation’s bad-faith lawsuit against thousands of random people who downloaded a One Piece fansub. The American court system has already found that such ‘fishing expedition’ lawsuits are exploitive, little more than a way for companies to use their vast legal resources to force those who can’t afford a lawyer into cash settlements based solely on their IP address. FUNi knew perfectly well that this would have zero effect on piracy, and went ahead with it anyway. They even published a grandiose, moralistic blog post defending their noble war against the evil pirates who are killing the industry.

      And now, after all that bloviating, we found out that they use pirated media themselves for sheer convenience? That, my friend, is hypocritical.

      Fansubbers have been saying for years that pirated digital copies of shows are far superior to the “official” versions. Now it seems FUNimation agrees. So why don’t they drop the One Piece fansub lawsuit already, admit their mistake and stop trying to piss in the wind?

    • This was indeed a proof of FUNi’s hypocricy, but I doubt that it’s gonna change much. Are people going to stop visiting ANN because it buries a few stories? No. Are people going to stop buying FUNimation DVDs because they’re hypocrites and download fansubs? No.

      It’s not that fans love FUNimation all that much anyway. They put ADV, Genon and Bandai over it (according to an ANN poll).

  • Funimation does not have to sue itself. Funimation has a license to distribute these programs; it’s everybody else uploading on BitTorrent that doesn’t. If their license does not include distribution through a method such as BitTorrent, then the original licensor could opt to sue them, but I’m pretty sure that Funimation’s contractual obligations to act in the interests of the original IP holder within their trade area does not include an obligation to sue themselves. If it did, you can bet their licensing agreement will be amended to exempt them from such an obligation, as it is not in the interest of the licensee or the licensor.

    It’s fun to point out apparent hypocrisy and other contradictions on the internet… unfortunately in many cases, as in this one, the reality of the nature of the relationships between the various parties is not fully appreciated.

    • Elder Haman

      Exactly. Funimation has the license, so it’s not illegal for Funimation to use fansub material.

      Look, I see no reason to hate on Funimation. They are an important part of promoting anime in America. That doesn’t means I think they are angels who do no wrong, they are just a business trying to make an honest dollar.

  • It’s not called pirating when you have licensed the series for release or air the series. Once they claim the rights to a series it’s automatically considered illegal for a fansub group to sub it because an actual company has claimed the right for distribution. So how about you actually do some research before you start throwing a tantrum because a company has every right to download/distribute a show once it has been licensed.

  • Guest

    I work for Funimation, and I can verify that we do use illegal downloads to get a glimpse at new shows we just signed contracts for and to use those subs as cues for dubbing. Horriblesubs is an especially popular choice.

  • ArcTanGentleman

    Most plays are licensed in such a way that the original writer owns the derivatives and has a license to all changes. You have no guarantee that Funimation does not (rather practically) include the same terminology in all of their licenses. (I would, have you seen their contracts?). In fact, given copyright law and the ‘availability + similarity’ clause, it’s just common sense. Also, if crunchyroll was not explicitly licensed to prepare derivative works, which Funimation/Crunchyroll may not have worried aboput, it’s possible the subs are actually unlicensed and I think it is likely that Crunchyroll has made far more over said subs than Funimation.
    “Translations are a derivative work, only the copyright owner can authorize a translation that will be distributed.”
    The problem is that two translations might well have one sentence that is the same or identical, that can happen, possibly, if translated by two people with similar speaking styles it would wind up being very similar. Funimation is stupid, if they weren’t their best series would be much more popular. However, I doubt they are stupid enough to allow changes to their series such as a translation (which they must provide a license for in order for it to be legally distributed) to be used in copyright action against them.

    Also, you state Crunchyroll, considering that their commercials state that they give a significant amount back to the original content creators, I doubt this is an issue. In fact, nowhere in your entire complaint do you claim to have contacted Cruncyrolll.
    Just because you think it is an issue, does not mean they do… they are not us. And the copyright OWNERS and artists are ultimately the ones who would have to start litigation, and they are the only ones with such rights.
    My big complaint about Funimation is how poorly they have marketed their works and how little money they have made, comparatively.