Bandai USA has pre-emptively told subbing groups not to distribute copies of the upcoming “Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society” or they would risk litigation. The movie will premiere on a Japanese satellite pay-per-view channel on September 1 and released on Region 2 DVD on November 24. The company holds the North American license and, according to their press release, will release the title sometime in 2007. Way to be generic, guys!
This may be the fiercest corporate action yet against fansub groups mainly because of the high-profile of the title in question and because it was a blanket threat. If a English-language sub group actually does take this on a project, I will credit their ballsiness to high heaven while hoping they have very good lawyers. If Bandai cares enough to issue a press release, you can be damn sure they have the cash and resources to back up their challenges.
Bandai made some accurate legal assertions in terms of intelluctual property law but still said things that made me groan. First, they claim that “several fansub sites have publicly announced plans to create and distribute illegal fansubs”. Who, Bandai? Which sites? The only group that subtitled the trailer was Ayu and they said “in no way does this mean we will sub the actual movie”. Besides, if Italian, Spanish or even French subs come out, I doubt you’ll take action as proudly stated you and Manga Entertainment have “secured the exclusive right to distribute this title in the US” and such foreign-language subtitling is hardly “unfair competition” when it seems there will be no non-English subtitles on the official release.
Second, they said “the creation of translated versions of Solid State Society is considered an unauthorized derivative”. Never did they mention straight rips which seem to suitable substitutes for those Americans knowledgable in Nihongo to waiting 6-12 months for a legally obtainable disc and aren’t willing to pay 9800 yen for Region 2. Also, *.srt files could technically be considered not a complete translated version but It can be if they are packaged together with an accompanying video file.
Bandai is most likely really super-duper serious about this and maybe 1-2 raw versions may come out after the PPV airs. However, there most certainly WILL be raws when the DVD ships and I guarantee more than one group will secretly release subs because Ghost in the Shell is popular and there is certainly demand for it. If there wasn’t significant demand, why would Bandai have issued this warning?
Just look at the case of “Final Fantasy: Advent Children” last year. Initially, DVDs of the film were supposed to be released simultaneously in America and Japan on September 14. A rip of the disc was leaked onto the Internet a few days before its intended release and English subtitle files were up days later. Demand for them was high since Sony Pictures had just delayed the US release two months (November). That was the first in a number of changing dates until finally it streeted on April 25, 2006 — seven months late.
Bandai, I promise, heck, I even pinkyswear that I will buy this movie whenever it comes out here in the States. But if I happen to see a version floating around online a couple months from now while I conduct my daily Web browsing, consider the opportunity seized.