March 5, 2013
News for Animeland Wasabi 2013:
How did it take this long for a con to get sued for selling bootlegs?Patrick Delahanty
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:
- 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
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.