Bandai to Subbers: “No Solid State Society!”

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.


13 responses to “Bandai to Subbers: “No Solid State Society!”

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  2. You are arguing on very minute technicalities that Bandai and the likes probably don’t even care about.

    The truth is, Bandai just has to send a e-mail to the ISP and the whole site is gone until the fansubbers are the ones who have to prove in court that they are not infringing on copyright, which they are. That’s the DMCA for you Americans.

    .srt files by themselves are still infringing on copyright because translation rights are part of it.

  3. I know that ISPs tend to shutdown first and ask questions later, but Bandai only has North American rights… it would be ludicrous to attempt to enforce that in Russia or Sweden. We all saw how well it worked when America’s feudal copyright emperors unleashed their hounds on Pirate Bay. Perhaps what we will end up seeing is U.S. and Canadian IP addresses blocked by fansub sites.

  4. Because:
    -subbed versions have better distribution networks than straight rips, and you don’t have to jump through hoops to get them
    -partial translations for more than personal use are still illegal according to copyright law

  5. I would hardly call it “intellectual property” when they didn’t translate it…now, I’m not well versed ni copyright laws, or anything of the sort (I’m a translating music-playing programmer…), but if you translate it, wouldn’t it be considered YOUR intelectual property? (and besides, fan translations are better anyways (I know this from experience as being a Japanese-American, as well as a translator.), and I’m thoroughly convinced that those translators are random bums hired off the streets of Seattle…

  6. I agreed with Freedom III. It’s not really a translation unless the original author releases an English version. If anyone else does it, it is an interpretation, in short, their own version of the communication in question.

    IMO, I also think that fansub translations are better. If we had no fansubbers spreading anime as it was, fansubs would harbor little interest for non-Japanese speaking people, and wouldn’t sell as well. I’d like to see those US profit margins if fansubbers never distroed a series prior to its US release.

    They are just getting greedy. They know that fansubbers have helped make GITS popular, and are hoping that if they prevent any fansubs of SSS that they can use that momentum to make more money.

    Perhaps they should stay out and consider secretly donating money to some of the major groups that spread the word and subs that let the corporations make their money in the first place.

  7. I think I was a little too fervent in picking apart Bandai’s press release when I wrote this a month ago. Of course, straight untranslated rips of DVDs distributed over P2P are illegal and I was not trying to promote or induce piracy. It’s your fault if you read it that way.

    @Freedom III: Your own translation would be your own IP but just that and nothing else. The author would still maintain the supreme rights to their property. Think about translations of books for a moment. Assuming the work is not in the public domain, the author or their estate still holds the copyright to the original text, plot and characters. A translation into another language credits the translator with some cut of the work’s sales but the copyright for the. In that example, the work is licensed to be translated for release in a particular region. The same goes for anime licenses; the distributor bids for a license to translate and usually, but not always dub, a series for consumption in a particular region while the original studio that created the anime holds the appropriate rights.

    @Kovonovitch: What about French translations? Or Spanish, German, or Italian ones? I must remind you that English is not the only language in which anime is fansubbed even though it seems to be the most common one currently being used. Like any good company, Bandai wants to protect its trademark franchises. I think they would do an all right job selling a title without the help of fansubs if a) they promoted it using good advertising, b) the anime got good reviews from online and print sources, and c) the price point was appetizing. Pre-license fansub distribution may contribute to many DVD sales but not to all of them. Give people in marketing some credit because not everyone who buy anime DVDs watches fansubs.

    By the way, what’s with this elitist “fan subtitling is better than professional subtitling” mood? I’ve had pretty good experiences with DVD subtitles. I know I’d probably have more inclination to criticise if I knew a lick of Japanese, but please refrain from generalizing regarding Japanese-to-English translation work. I’m sure most of those being paid to subtitle have a firm grasp of Japanese; otherwise they wouldn’t have been hired in the first place.

  8. Some open subtitles organization has a subtitle file (srt) for it ^_^; (the quality seems a bit low, however… -missing words, simplifications- but it still helps a lot, so thanks to them ^_^).

    Don’t forget to buy the DVD, when it goes out ^_^

  9. I’d hardly imagine GITS in Russian video-shop. Piracy version – quite possible, but no official.
    Here we are, no officiall sales of russian destribution (language) and no official english versions sales.
    How long do you think it’ll take to find *.srt + raw?
    5 minutes something.
    Will I care about rights with no official release, hah?

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  11. I wonder if they realize that the people who get the fansub will also buy the damn dvd. I watched the first season in english and then 2nd gig with the fansubs well before it was released n english. The experience is different enough to force you to get both.

    Oh, and the episode in 2nd gig with an adolescent Major folding paper swans for Kuze moved me when I watched the fansub because the meaning was explained. I would have never gotten it with only the english version which I thought wasn’t done up to snuff.

  12. I already saw “Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society”… And I’m still wetting for their litigation.. LOL … Is a good movie but inferior when compared with Stand alone complex.

    See you

  13. Jim !!

    I think you are totaly Right