July 17th, 2023 Update
We’ve made the decision to file a counter-notice and will continue to do so on every single url under the DMCA as fair use.
It’s no secret that Japanese and Korean publishers want to crack down on piracy websites given the amount of them that exist. Illegal sites that offer manga, manwha, and anime are among some of the top results depending on what title you’re looking for. Kadokawa, and its DMCA practices, are among the most unfair and well known.
To crack down on illegal websites, Kadokawa and other publishers outsource the task of tracking and filing DMCA claims to google. Comeso gmbH serves DMCA notices on behalf of Kakaopage, Naver, Munhwa, Kadokawa, Toei, Sogakukan, Ghibli, and other top publishers in the anime and manga space.
Comeso GmbH is one of the largest services handling this and, starting in January 2023, has submitted over 6 million URLS per month to be delisted from Google, according to googles transparency report.
Comeso gmbH boasts on it’s main website that they have an average removal rate of 97.7% and zero lawsuits against end-users (their clients) – which makes sense considering the process of filing a counter-claim against a DMCA request brings liability to independent website owners who cannot possibly go up against a giant corporation.
Since January 2023, they have served over 6 million removal requests per month. It might seem that they could verify the validity of each request, but doing so at this scale would be nearly impossible.
Instead, in order to maintain the appearance of increasing numbers on behalf of their clients, they simply issue DMCA requests to nearly everyone. This includes MyWaifuList, which has received numerous DMCA requests in error – causing our organic traffic to tank on certain titles and keywords and hurt our standing with Google.
Kadokawa Corporation Abuse
Publishers have a responsibility to combat illegitimate DMCA takedown requests, even when they originate from third parties. They should not only be holding their vendor accountable, but verifying that vendor has SOPs for identifying, verifying, and classifying websites illegally hosting their content. They cannot simply throw up their hands and go “oh well”, waiting until public outcry compels them to do a job which is the responsibility of the copyright holder.
As documented by Maddison Case in “Anime Copyright Strikes: When Are They Worth It?“, Kadokawa has a history of issuing DMCA requests to creators on YouTube, angering many fans. AniNews is one such recipient of those DMCA’s and, under YouTube three strikes policy, the channels existence was threatened. Case noted the favoritism at play, stating that certain channels, such as Trash Taste, are not subject to these requests.
Outsourcing of tracking and filing of DMCA takedowns by Kadokawa and other publishers to third-party vendors like Comeso GmbH, which lacks proper oversight, is bad for everyone.
Abusing Google’s DMCA Process To Attack MyWaifuList
Kadokawa, in addition to the other other holders, have leveraged Comeso GmbH to take down the following URLS:
One thing you’ll notice is the content is less than what is available on similar wiki pages. It includes an image (promotional material for media outlets, news, etc), a synopsis, the medium, the romaji name, the original name, and any other fan-submitted data that we may collect on the title such as when it aired and what studio produced the work. All of these items listed in the sidebar are not subject to copyright claims, as promotional media served for the sake of promoting the anime is meant to be used for announcements by media websites, news sites, etc. If this were not the case, the entire media-news industry would implode overnight.
Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn (Koukaku no Pandora:Ghost Urn)
I would like to note that this anime in particular does not even have any details other than the name.
This content is no different from what you would find on MyAnimeList, AnimeNewsNetwork, Anilist, or any other smaller anime fan website. There is no content on any series page that allows users to read the source material, as the primary function of MyWaifuList is for characters. We have never and will never be a place for illegally acquiring source material. This is evident if the issuer of the DMCA took the time to look at the website.
However, both Kadokawa and Comeso GmbH have no intention of doing so due to the lack of accountability built into the system. Google also does not allow us to request secondary review or contest a DMCA without the threat of legal action by the copyright holder. The DMCA also has no mechanic requiring the alleged copyright holder to make themselves available for contact to verify the materials.
There is also no way for us to contact the holder as a smaller site. Similarly, we don’t have the numbers to spur our fanbase into action like many larger sites or influences do.
Important Observation – The DMCA Requests Are Not Properly Filed
Another observation about the DMCA requests being filed is that they are not properly filled out in accordance with the DMCA guidelines. Not only is the type of media required, but the specifics of the infringement must be listed. Neither of these are the case as seen in the Lumen filings. No description is being given, the type of work being unspecified, and just a name and a link to Kadokawas home page.
Being Delisted On Google Hurts Users, Too
Another issue I would like to highlight from this is the problematic websites which still retain their primary ranking in the top pages of Google because the publishers, or Comeso GmbH, have determined them to be “safe”. This artificially creates a whitelist for top results in google for series information and prevents competition from smaller websites.
Users seeking series information are now shown a “whitelist” that does not include MyWaifuList or any other site that has failed be properly reviewed by the publisher or DMCA issuer.
The result is commercial: users will see more ads from “approved” sites, and smaller websites will continue to be buried at critical times when series are trending.
As an example, MyWaifuList has been issued a DMCA for Zom 100 by Comeso gmbH just as the series has released globally (including a netflix release). This has a direct harm on our traffic, organic performance, and artificially suppresses us from search results while promoting “official” sources as a side effect.
If you want to read more about our DMCA abuse, you can look no further than KovertNews, which covered MyWaifuList’s struggle to keep titles listed.
Kadokawa Sends Content Creators DMCA Takedowns
Kadokawa’s consistent actions towards YouTubers have sparked controversy and frustration within the online creator community as well. The company has aggressively targeted and attacked YouTubers by issuing takedown notices and demonetization claims against their videos – videos that fall well within the boundaries of fair use. Kadokawa’s heavy-handed approach not only stifles creativity and expression but also hampers the livelihoods of content creators who rely on ad revenue for their work. Creators have taken note that the strikes not only contain the wrong timestamps, as pointed out by TheMetalBlade5 in his youtube video “Dear KADOKAWA, Do You Know Fair Use!?” – but also that the strikes are fully automated, just like google listings DMCA.
Another Youtuber, The Shuckmeister (262k subs at the time of writing), quit making Konosuba videos due to copyright strikes from Kadokawa as well.
What Our Users Can Do
If you would like to help us bring attention to this, give us a tweet or share this article. It’s our hope that legitimate sources of anime information be kept alive, including us.
Our users spend countless hours submitting Waifus with proper information from the source material, measurements, birthdays, bios, etc, so that way we can be a fast, reliable, website for anime characters. Let’s help make MyWaifuList one of the top sites for this information – not buried under ad-riddled fandom sites or official sites whose primary goal is to drive sales.
If you’d like to help keep us afloat, you can do so by sponsoring us on Patreon. Patreon users get priority submissions for new waifus, a place on the dashboard, and more customizable profiles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kadokawa is a Japanese publishing company specializing in books, manga, anime, and international film.
Kadokawa, and other large publishers in Japan, use Comeso gmbH, a company located in Germany, to automate and serve DMCA takedown notices.
Kadokawa does not verify DMCA takedowns and instead uses Comeso gmbH. Historically, users who appeal DMCA takedowns with Kadokawa are not able to have a meaningful conversation with the copyright holder. Secondly, Comeso gmbH refuses to engage with end users, allowing both parties to avoid accountability.
You can submit a fair use appeal, but as often experienced by youtubers, it will likely be ignored. Popular channels and influencers with large followings will have drastically different experiences and typically are not DMCA’d, or will get the DMCA withdrawn.
Illegitimate DMCA requests stifle free speech, access to information, and creativity. For instance: a producer of an anime in Japan could send DMCA notices to websites which have reviews that are critical of the work. Alternatively, a publisher in Japan could buy a website such as MyAnimeList, and then DMCA all it’s competitors ensuring that organic traffic, reviews, and information is controlled exclusively by them.
If you are in the United States, please contact your representative using the house.gov website and request that the DMCA law be updated to force publishers to make available contact information to individuals who wish to contest copyright under fair use. Companies should not be able to hide behind outsourced third party services, adding obstacles to end users ability to exercise their right to fair use as guaranteed by the law.
MyWaifuList firmly believes that our platform falls within the fair use exception for several reasons.
1. MyWaifuList provides users with a platform for discussion, voting, and commentary on fictional characters. Our website facilitates discussions by encouraging users to engage in analysis, critique, and the expression of their opinions about these characters.
2. MyWaifuList is not profit driven, and has never been profitable. Our platform focuses on fostering a community for fans to share their passion and exchange ideas regarding fictional characters. While there may be ads or sponsored content on the site, they are solely intended to cover operational costs and ensure the sustainability of the platform.
3. MyWaifuList only utilizes characters and series in a limited manner necessary to achieve our purpose: assisting users in finding Waifus, voting on Waifus, and discussing Waifus. The images featured for series are those same images available as promotional material to media outlets and other websites (MyAnimeList, AniList) promoting the work (official cover art, newest promotional art). Our series also facilitate a Watchlist feature, which is present on nearly every other website (MyAnimeList, Kitsu, Anilist) – allowing users to track episodes watched and rate the series accordingly for display on their profile.
4. MyWaifuList’s activities do not negatively impact the market for the original copyrighted works. If anything, our platform serves as a promotional tool by generating interest, fostering discussion, and attracting potential consumers of the original works. Users who are passionate about specific characters often seek out related merchandise, official releases, and other media, contributing to the market demand.
MyWaifuList regularly updates and maintains historical listings and historical rankings for characters for each season, and uses the airing shows to compile the ratings for the top characters, and most disliked characters, in real time on our ranking pages.
Based on the aforementioned factors, MyWaifuList firmly believes that our platform qualifies for fair use protection and is a beneficial service for all anime fans.