Article by PatrickD    (03-05-13 02:12 AM)
If you read this site, then by now you must have heard that Funimation is suing a convention over counterfeit items. If you haven't, the basic story is that Funimation has filed documents against Miller Isaiah Timmons and ten others associated with his businesses for repeated sales of counterfeit and unauthorized merchandise at the Animeland Wasabi convention.

Animeland Wasabi was held just this past weekend and is one of several conventions and businesses run by Timmons. Funimation says its requests to stop the sale of the counterfeit merchandise sold at the convention were ignored.

Also of note is that Tom Croom of WasabiCon and Green Mustard Entertainment (which is not related to Animeland Wasabi) issued a cease and deist notice to Timmons in 2012 and Croom is discussing "filing a complaint and taking further legal action".

People have seen counterfeit, bootleg, and other knock-off items at conventions for decades. There has always been a fear that the relevant authorities would show up and shut everything down if bootlegs were found, but there are no reports of this ever actually happening. Still, many conventions have policed their own dealers' rooms out of a sense of doing the right thing and supporting the industry if not out of fear of being shut down. However, unscrupulous or ill-informed dealers and conventions have gotten away with it for so long that it's odd that it has taken over 20 years of anime conventions before this sort of legal action has happened.

Over the years, I had heard people talking about how various government agencies (including the FBI, US Customs, or police) never bothered investigating bootlegs at conventions for all sorts of reasons. The rumors were that anime cons were "too small to bother with" or "the government offices are closed on weekends during the convention". There were also rumors about a dealer or two at some convention somewhere that was hauled out in handcuffs for selling bootlegs, but those rumors always turned out to either be false or the result of something else unrelated to bootlegs.

So what ultimately had to happen, you wonder?

In a statement, Funimation's legal department said:<ul><li>
Sales of unlicensed and counterfeit goods happen at almost every convention. Sometimes convention management is extremely proactive in preventing this. Other times, we have to get involved and be rather demanding about compliance. With Animeland, even the fans and dealers were reporting infringement to convention staff, but the head of the convention refused to do anything whatsoever to remedy the problem. That's where we have to draw the line</ul>

It appears that Animeland became the target due to repeatedly hearing about infringing merchandise and Animeland ignoring the requests. As the first convention known to be the subject of legal action by any anime company, it seems likely that Funimation would like to make an example out of Animeland. In fact, I believe that just by filing legal documents against the convention, Funimation is going to make a lot of conventions that may have previously turned a blind eye toward bootlegs reconsider their position and actually start to pay attention to what their dealers are selling.

As of this blog post, no updates have been made to the Animeland Wasabi site post-con. Animeland has also previously run conventions in Henderson, NV, Albuquerque, NM, Tuscon, AZ, and Bloomington, MN. Animeland Otaku Mex in Albuquerque is currently the only remaining Animeland event with 2013 dates announced. There is no word on how this may affect that convention or any future Animeland events.

Fortunately for anime fans, all of these Animeland events are held in locations that have other conventions you can visit.
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


 
Username Comments
Nigoki 
Obsessed with robots
Nigoki
Reg: 02-25-09

03-05-13 03:42 AM - Post#12080    
    In response to PatrickD

  • In reply to:
With Animeland, even the fans and dealers were reporting infringement to convention staff, but the head of the convention refused to do anything whatsoever to remedy the problem. That's where we have to draw the line



These two sentences are what stuck out most when I read the article.
Fans pointing it out is nothing new. Plenty of times people times regular attendees (or staff cleverly disguised as attendees) have been the ones to bring the bootleg items to the attention of the whoever is running the dealers' room at a con in order to get them to stop. Usually it's a "put that away" first warning, after that it's "You had your chance, pack up your booth and leave".
What surprises me is the mention of dealers also pointing it out. I understand that people selling the real McCoy don't want someone cutting into their profits with fakes, but I hope it doesn't encourage a sort of witch hunt.

Second is the mention that convention staff refused to take any action. I'd like to think that cons don't turn a blind eye to bootlegs, but I know that's not the case. When someone points it out, especially the company that holds the rights it's time to take action.

Personally, I think Funi is playing it pretty smart here. They're not going out on a witch hunt for every bootlegger since that would be next to impossible and way too expensive. Rather, they found an example of not even trying to curb it.

It will be interesting to see how this develops and what lasting effects it has on dealers' rooms in general.
-Doug Wilder
Resident Mecha fanboy of AnimeCons TV!


 
Himeno 
Attendee

Reg: 02-27-10

03-05-13 07:13 AM - Post#12082    
    In response to PatrickD

Cartoon Passion was kicked out of Australia several years ago due to bootlegs.
In late 2004, Cartoon Passion set up a warehouse in Australia and contacted the anime conventions in Australia to ask about attending. In 2005, they attended Animania, Manifest and a number of the Supanova events.
At Supanova, police confiscated a large amount of stock due to bootlegs.
At Manifest, they traded for one day before committee required them to leave due to bootlegs, illegal pricing (no tax in marked prices, prices listed in USD rather then AUD) and harassing attendees.
By the end of 2005, they closed the Australian warehouse and left the country.

I'm not sure if they still operate in the US.

Animania is the only event that didn't do anything about the bootlegs (then or now) and as a result had Madman (at the time the largest anime/manga license holder in Australia) pull out of all Animania events.

A number of other stores have also been evicted from several Australian cons since.

Edited by Himeno on 03-05-13 07:15 AM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
PatrickD 
Executive Producer
PatrickD
Loc: California
Reg: 12-07-06

03-05-13 10:19 AM - Post#12083    
    In response to Himeno

Yeah, I've seen dealers get kicked out of a convention like that. When I was chairman of Anime Boston, we had one dealer that wasn't listening to the Director of Exhibits and insisted on pleading his case to the con chair. They had a bunch of obviously bootleg pillows, posters, and other stuff, but kept insisting it wasn't bootleg because they bought it "legitimately". The "proof" they kept showing us was a shipping receipt.

I asked them if we brought someone over from Bandai and he verified they were bootlegs, would they put them away? They agreed. I asked Jerry Chu to come take a look. Sure enough... "Bootleg, bootleg, bootleg..." Jerry also explained to the dealer how to recognize them as such.

The dealer put it away and we let them stay, but I don't think that dealer ever came back. I don't remember seeing them at any other cons either.

I've also heard of a company (and some voice actors and directors employed there) refusing to go to a convention near me due to bootleg issues. This remains the first time any company has actually done anything about it.
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


 
EllyStar 
New England Con Whore
EllyStar
Loc: Massachusetts
Reg: 06-24-07

03-05-13 10:32 AM - Post#12085    
    In response to PatrickD

I'm surprised it hasn't happened a sci-fi or media con yet - has it? I see bootlegs all the time of shows and movies with big production companies behind them. Do those companies just believe that these conventions are small potatoes and not bother? I saw a Game of Thrones bootleg at a con last fall and I couldn't believe the seller had the balls to put that out there.
Elizabeth: Website and Podcast Writer
My Conventions


 
hood1707 
Newbie

Reg: 03-05-13

03-05-13 11:24 AM - Post#12086    
    In response to EllyStar

Actually this happened at Star Trek and Star Wars Cons back in the 1990s. Lots of fan made items, bootleg videos, and slash fanzines were the target of the lawyers of both LucasFilms and Paramount Pictures. Cease and Desist letters were going out to fan run pages and publishers of fanzine. Then the fans revolted. Lucas was told about it and he told the lawyers to stop. (His idea was it was free advetising)The fans also stopped buying alot of the offical crap (not all but alot) and companies backed down.

Now, there is sort of an uneasy truce that happens at Cons. Bootleg vidoes are policed if they have been "Offically" released. All others get a wink and a nod. But, you will see very little in terms of fan made items (other then costumes) or the fanzines. Most of the fanzines have moved to the net, where it is harder for the lawyers to find them.

 
EllyStar 
New England Con Whore
EllyStar
Loc: Massachusetts
Reg: 06-24-07

03-05-13 01:00 PM - Post#12089    
    In response to hood1707

I feel like DVDs have a much higher level of bootleg wrongness than merchandise, unless the bootleg merchandise in question is a exact knockoff of existing, licensed stuff. DVDs are extremely easy to create, unlike merchandise. Plus I feel it may be easier for a vendor to be duped by bootleg merchandise, especially stuff like pillows or plushies, than DVDs (which may have been the case in Patrick's example, or the guy might have been lying). Unless it's of something that doesn't exist on DVD (which I have seen before, but it still doesn't make it legal or right), I think it's a really shady and jackass thing to do.

There isn't just fan stuff with costumes though. Especially at anime cons, you see a lot of fan made items in the artist alley. Plus Etsy as well. That's a whole other issue about copyright that makes my head spin just thinking about it. I think companies should lay off "fan" stuff, but how do you determine where that line is?
Elizabeth: Website and Podcast Writer
My Conventions


Edited by EllyStar on 03-05-13 01:01 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
Nigoki 
Obsessed with robots
Nigoki
Reg: 02-25-09

03-05-13 02:30 PM - Post#12091    
    In response to EllyStar

I think the bottom line is they were asked to stop, and didn't.
Ignorance is one thing, but if you know it's wrong and don't stop, you've got to face what's coming to you.

Costumes being sold, items in an artists alley, and things in the similar category are a different case because they aren't knockoffs of items that are already available. I think that's where the gray area of a lot of DVDs you see comes up. What if you liked a show years ago, but it's never been released on DVD or put on streaming service like Netflix?

I think of that every time I see someone selling a bootleg complete series of Mighty Max. I'd love to be able to rewatch the full series, but I can't bring myself to pay for what I know is a bootleg.
-Doug Wilder
Resident Mecha fanboy of AnimeCons TV!


 
PatrickD 
Executive Producer
PatrickD
Loc: California
Reg: 12-07-06

03-05-13 05:18 PM - Post#12093    
    In response to Nigoki

Don't worry guys! Apparently "everything will be taken cared of."
http://forum.whereisanimeland.com/index.php?topic=495.msg3807#msg3807

*facepalm*
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


 
EllyStar 
New England Con Whore
EllyStar
Loc: Massachusetts
Reg: 06-24-07

03-05-13 05:34 PM - Post#12094    
    In response to PatrickD

First thought that came to mind...

  • In reply to:
"How can you close me up? On what grounds?"
"I'm shocked... shocked to find that gambling is going on in there."
"Your winnings sir."
"Thank you very much."

Elizabeth: Website and Podcast Writer
My Conventions


 
CZ3RO 
Newbie
CZ3RO
Loc: Toronto
Reg: 05-17-13

05-17-13 01:17 PM - Post#12460    
    In response to EllyStar

What are your thoughts on unlicensed hand-made items, fan-made (and sold) merchandise and costume pieces?

Do you think we'll see a time when license holders will come down on home-made crochet Pokémon plushies, sculpey Naruto headbands or costumes depicting trade-marked logos/emblems from various properties?

Will/should con organizers prohibit the sale of this stuff, or do you think it should get a pass for not replicating actual products available from the legit licence holders?

It's a gray area to me, and I can see arguments for both sides.

 
Nigoki 
Obsessed with robots
Nigoki
Reg: 02-25-09

05-17-13 01:28 PM - Post#12461    
    In response to CZ3RO

It is definitely a gray area. I think it's safer since it's a unique, fan-produced item. They aren't mass produced for a huge market or made to be knockoffs of genuine article items.
-Doug Wilder
Resident Mecha fanboy of AnimeCons TV!


 
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