Space Dandy Leaks. Will the Licensor Freak?

Space Dandy Key Art - 20131025Yesterday,, Anime News Network reported that the first episode of Space Dandy leaked onto BitTorrent trackers. The leaked episode, which was in the Japanese dubbed format, was uploaded with the following comment:

That was hard to seed :s Work done. Madman, better fix your leaks *again*.

Space Dandy was originally scheduled to launch at Otakon Vegas today, followed by the English dub premiere on Toonami. The comment is most likely directed toward Madman Entertainment, who was scheduled to simulcast the series for Australia and New Zealand. Previously, the company had to stop streaming Kill la Kill when users access episodes on the company’s servers and leaked episodes of the show prior to their Japanese broadcast date.

This is far from the first time an anime series has leaked online. FUNimation were among the first high profile leaks, when their streams for One Piece hit trackers before its Japanese airing,¬†and Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ was streamed too early. ANN’s anime streaming service would later be with a high profile leak of the second episode of Oreimo. Previously, human error led to an accidental release of the final part of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 episode 3.

When these leaks happen, though, it’s always interesting to see how all of the players involved begin to act. Once the leak is made, time becomes a major factor in potential profitability of a title. This becomes especially apparent in an age of social media, and the various other ways that people connect with one another. Suddenly, each hour on BitTorrent means a potential hour that the episode could be on, say, YouTube or DailyMotion. It’s a potential hour that spoilers can leak on social media, and an hour that images from the show could filter out to sites like tumblr. Each hour that a show is out in the wild is one hour where people can be spoiled, and an hour that will dissuade viewers from using the legal services.

At the same time, distributors are typically bound to agreements, through which certain requirements must be met. Typically, these requirements involves obligations on availability, security, and timing, among other factors. In plain English, this means that episodes of a show must be able to be seen in a specified format, to specific people, on a specific date. So, for example, with Aniplex’s simulcast of Nisekoi, an agreement was undoubtedly signed that allows for the show to be:

  • Streamed
  • To North American viewers
  • X hours after the Japanese airing.

So, through this agreement, releasing the title early, or in the case of Madman, allowing the title to be downloaded via lax security undoubtedly constitutes a breach of contract. Depending on the agreements, the penalties of a breach can range from a fine, to outright termination of a streaming agreement. As we’ve seen in the One Piece and Oreimo leaks, the shows were forced to be taken down until security was brought up to a level that would satisfy the licensor. In Kill la Kill’s case, the show was taken down entirely.

If the leak did originate from Madman, as the torrent comments state, then I wouldn’t doubt that there will be severe repercussions for the licensor. This would be the second case in an incredibly sort time-frame, which would cast a degree of doubt in Madman’s ability to maintain a secure environment. This would undoubtedly cause strain in future simulcasting agreements, as licensors will be wary of just how well the company will be able to be trusted with sensitive materials, such as early receivable episodes and promotion-related materials. The immediate impact remains to be seen, especially since Space Dandy still hasn’t officially aired in the US let alone Japan. However, it’s safe to say that it will be something worth looking into in the next few days.

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