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Two people who turned full-length films into watchable YouTube videos in just 10 minutes have been hit hard by a court in Japan. More than a dozen copyright holders have targeted the pair in a civil suit alleging infringement of 54 films. A decision by the Tokyo District Court this week ordered the pair to pay $3.56 million in compensation.
Dedicating two hours to watch a movie can be quite entertaining these days, especially when the busiest among us claim they can guzzle 200 TikTok videos for much less.
The so-called “Fast Movie” channels seem to offer a middle ground. Popular mainstream movies that last a few hours are edited down to about 10 minutes and then uploaded to YouTube. The goal is to keep the story somewhat intact but despite the obvious flaws millions of people enjoy watching it.
Fast paced movie
Signs that film companies were about to send a message poured in last year. Japan does not recognize fair use, and even if it did, experts predicted that “fast movies” would still cross red lines. People who make ad revenue from “fast movies” are certainly not going to make things better either.
In June 2021, three Fast Movie YouTubers were arrested in Japan following criminal complaints from several media companies. All three faced possible prison sentences as well as fines for crimes allegedly committed in 2020.
Faced with overwhelming evidence, the defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced to between 18 and 24 months in prison, suspended for up to four years, plus total fines of about $25,000, payable to the state.
But it didn’t end there.
13 media companies are seeking damages in a civil suit
In May 2022, 13 member companies of the Overseas Content Distribution Association (CODA) and the Japan Video Software Association (JVA) pursued their victory in the criminal case by filing a civil case in the Tokyo District Court.
Listing 54 copyrighted works including ‘I Am a Hero’, ‘Shin Godzilla’, Asmik Ace, Kadokawa, Gaga, Shochiku, TBS Television, Toei, Toei Video, Toho, Nikkatsu, Nippon Television Network, Happinet Phantom Studio The defendants, Fuji Television and WOW, said “Fast Movies” were viewed 10 million times on YouTube, causing total damages of 2 billion yen ($14.2 million).
However, for the purposes of the civil damages action, the plaintiffs have filed a partial claim of 500 million yen ($3.56 million) against the defendants collectively.
Tokyo District Court decision
In a decision issued yesterday in the Tokyo District Court, Judge Masaaki Sugiura acknowledged that defendants responsible for uploading “fast movie” edits without permission must compensate the rights holders for the damages they have caused.
In line with the media companies’ reduced claim, the defendants were ordered to pay 500 million yen, approximately $3.56 million. After the plaintiffs sent the clearest message possible, they followed up with a joint statement by their partner anti-piracy groups.
“This is a ruling that fully corroborates our claims, and we believe it should be a significant deterrent against future copyright infringement,” a joint statement by CODA and JVA read.
“Compared to other copyright infringement cases in recent years, the amount of compensation awarded in this case is significant. The 13 plaintiffs acted united so as not to allow criminals to escape punishment while profiting from copyright infringement, and the significance of this ruling is immeasurable.”
More work to be done
Another major goal of media companies around the world is to prevent pirate websites from generating advertising revenue. After receiving a request from Shueisha, one of the largest manga publishers in Japan, anti-piracy group CODA requested action from an advertising company in Spain.
CODA has confirmed that advertisements have been placed on 27 pirated manga websites in Japan and Hiroyuki Nakajima, legal director of the CBEP ‘Cross-Border Enforcement Project’) that CODA runs in cooperation with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, has requested, in writing, a comprehensive Spanish law firm, to stop placing advertisements on these websites. On October 17, 2022,” says CODA.
The advertising agency responded on October 30, stating that although it is impossible to absorb the contents of all the sites that provide its services, it has canceled contracts with the sites in question and stopped providing services to all 27 sites, and promised to guarantee that it will not provide services, nor will it conclude contracts with those who infringe intellectual property rights in the future.”
CODA says it has continued to monitor 27 sites and can now confirm that 26 do not carry any advertisements provided by the unnamed agency. The remaining site is under investigation.
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