Two people who transformed full-length movies into YouTube videos that could be watched in just 10 minutes have been hit hard by a court in Japan. More than a dozen copyright holders targeted the pair in a civil suit claiming infringement of 54 movies. A decision handed down at the Tokyo District Court this week orders the pair to pay compensation of $3.56 million.
Setting aside two hours to watch a movie can be a luxury these days, especially when the busiest among us claim they can guzzle 200 TikTok videos in much less than that.
So-called ‘Fast Movie’ channels appear to offer some middle ground. Popular mainstream movies lasting a couple of hours are edited down to around 10 minutes and then uploaded to YouTube. The aim is to keep the storyline more or less intact yet despite obvious drawbacks, millions of people enjoy watching them.
Fast Movie Crackdown
Signs that movie companies were about to send a message trickled through last year. Japan does not recognize fair use and even if it did, experts predicted that ‘Fast Movies’ would still cross red lines. People generating advertising revenue from ‘Fast Movies’ certainly wouldn’t improve things either.
In June 2021, three ‘Fast Movie’ YouTubers were arrested in Japan following criminal complaints from several media companies. All three faced potential prison sentences plus fines for crimes allegedly committed in 2020.
In the face of overwhelming evidence, the defendants entered guilty pleas and received prison sentences of between 18 and 24 months, suspended for up to four years, plus total fines of around $25,000, payable to the state.
But it didn’t end there.
13 Media Companies Seek Damages in Civil Lawsuit
In May 2022, 13 member companies of the Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA) and Japan Video Software Association (JVA) followed up their win in the criminal matter by filing a civil lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court.
Listing 54 copyrighted works including ‘I Am a Hero’ and ‘Shin Godzilla’, Asmik Ace, Kadokawa, Gaga, Shochiku, TBS Television, Toei, Toei Video, Toho, Nikkatsu, Nippon Television Network, Happinet Phantom Studio, Fuji Television, and WOWOW, said that the defendants’ ‘Fast Movies’ had been viewed 10 million times on YouTube, causing two billion yen ($14.2 million) in overall damages.
For the purposes of their civil damages lawsuit, however, the plaintiffs entered a partial claim of ‘just’ 500 million yen ($3.56 million) against the defendants collectively.
Tokyo District Court Decision
In a decision handed down yesterday at the Tokyo District Court, Judge Masaki Sugiura acknowledged that the two defendants responsible for uploading the ‘Fast Movie’ edits without permission should compensate the rightsholders for the damages caused.
In line with the media companies’ reduced claim, the defendants were ordered to pay 500 million yen, roughly $3.56 million. Having sent the clearest possible message, the plaintiffs followed up with a joint statement delivered by their partner anti-piracy groups.
“This is a ruling that fully upholds our allegations, and we believe that it should be a great deterrent against copyright infringement in the future,” a joint CODA and JVA statement reads.
“Compared to other copyright infringement cases in recent years, the amount of compensation awarded in this case is large. The 13 plaintiffs acted in unity so as not to allow the criminals to get away with impunity whilst profiting from copyright infringement, and the significance of this judgment is immeasurable.”
More Work To Be Done
Another key goal of media companies worldwide is to prevent pirate sites from generating revenue from advertising. After receiving a request from Shueisha, one of Japan’s largest manga publishers, anti-piracy group CODA sought action from an advertising company in Spain.
“CODA confirmed placement of advertisements on 27 pirated manga sites in Japan and Hiroyuki NAKAJIMA, Legal Director of CBEP ‘Cross-Border Enforcement Project’) run by CODA in association with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, requested in writing, thorough a Spanish law firm, to stop placing ads on these sites on 17th October 2022,” CODA says.
“The Ad Agency responded on 30th October pointing out that although it is impossible to grasp the contents of all the websites that it renders services, it had canceled the contracts with the sites in question and had stopped providing services to all the 27 sites, and promised to ensure that it would not provide services, nor would it enter into contracts with those who infringe intellectual property rights in the future.”
CODA says that it has continued to monitor the 27 sites and can now confirm that 26 carry no ads provided by the unnamed agency. The remaining site is under investigation.