Sony claims to offer subs “appropriate value” for deleting digital libraries


Enlarge / A scene from One Piece, one of the animes that Funimation has distributed.

Sony is making an effort to appease customers who will lose their entire Funimation digital libraries when the anime streaming service merges into Crunchyroll. Currently, though, the company’s plan for giving disappointed customers “an appropriate value” for their erased digital copies isn’t very accessible or clear.

Earlier this month, Sony-owned Funimation announced that customers’ digital libraries would be unavailable starting on April 2. At that time, Funimation accounts will become Crunchyroll accounts. Sony acquired Crunchyroll in 2021, so some sort of merging of the services was expected. However, less expected was customers’ lost access to online copies of beloved anime that they acquired through digital codes provided in purchased Funimation DVDs or Blu-rays. Funimation for years claimed that customers would be able to stream these copies “forever, but there are some restrictions.”

Rahul Purini, Crunchyroll’s president, explained the decision while speaking to The Verge’s latest Decoder podcast, noting that the feature was incorporated into the Funimation platform.

“As we look at usage of that and the number of people who were redeeming those and using them, it was just not a feature that was available in Crunchyroll and isn’t in our road map,” Purini said.

The executive claimed that Funimation is “working really hard directly” with each affected customer to “ensure that they have an appropriate value for what they got in the digital copy initially.” When asked what “appropriate value” means, Purini responded:

It could be that they get access to a digital copy on any of the existing other services where they might be able to access it. It could be a discount access to our subscription service so they can get access to the same shows through our subscription service. So we are trying to make it right based on each user’s preference.

Clarifying further, Purini confirmed that this means that Sony is willing to provide affected customers with a new digital copy via a streaming service other than Crunchyroll. The executive said that the company is handling subscribers’ requests as they reach out to customer service.

Notably, this approach to compensating customers for removing access to something that they feel like they purchased (digital copies are considered a free addition to the physical copies, but some people might not have bought the discs if they didn’t come with a free digital copy) puts the responsibility on customers to reach out. Ahead of Purini’s interview, Sony didn’t publicly announce that it would offer customers compensation. And since Funimation’s terms of use include caveats that content may be removed at any time, customers might have thought that they have no path for recourse.

But even if you did happen to demand some sort of refund from Funimation, you might not have been offered any relief. The Verge’s Ash Parrish, who has a free-tier Funimation account, reported today on her experience trying to receive the “appropriate value” for her digital copies of Steins;Gate and The Vision of Escaflowne. Parrish noted that Steins;Gate isn’t available to stream off Crunchyroll with a free subscription, meaning she’d have no way to watch it digitally come April 2. Parrish said Funimation support responded with two “boilerplate” emails that apologized but offered no solution or compensation. She followed up about getting compensated for a premium subscription so that she’d be able to stream what she used to digitally own through Crunchyroll but hadn’t received a response by publication time.

Following up with Funimation’s PR department didn’t provide any clarity. Brian Eley, Funimation’s VP of communications, reportedly told Parrish via email: “Funimation users who have questions about digital copies can contact Funimation here. A Funimation account associated with a digital copy redemption is required for verification.” Ars Technica reached out to Crunchyroll for comment but didn’t hear back in time for publication.

The downfalls of digital “ownership”

Sony’s plan to delete access to customers’ digital properties shows the risks of relying on streaming services. The industry is infamous for abruptly losing licenses to programming, changing prices and accessibility to titles, mergers, as is the case here, and collaborations that change what customers are entitled to.

When asked about this broader industry challenge on Decoder, Purini acknowledged customer inconvenience but noted the importance for Crunchyroll to “keep our resources and teams focused on what would help us bring the best experience for the broader audience.”

It’s unclear how many users were using their Funimation digital copies. However, some may consider their digital copies backups that they won’t use unless they’re no longer able to play their physical copy, giving Funimation customers peace of mind.

Although Funimation claimed that digital copies would be viewable “forever,” their terms of use note that Funimation can remove content “for any reason.” However, it’s not uncommon for customers to avoid reading lengthy, wordy terms of service agreements. Terms of service are easy to understand for an industry participant like Purini, he said, but “that might not be the case with a broader general audience.”

That said, with streaming becoming a more substantial part of people’s media libraries, users must understand what they’re spending money on. Access to beloved shows and movies over the Internet isn’t guaranteed, and inconsistent compensation plans are often the result.



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