Yesterday, FUNimation was set to begin their new simulcasting of One Piece. But as you already know, that didn't wind up happening. Instead, Funi removed all of their streaming episodes of One Piece from their websites for an unspecified amount of time. Possibly forever. Going over to where the One Piece streams once ran on the official English website reveals this message to the fans:
“As anime fans know, FUNimation Entertainment had planned, with the authorization of Toei Animation, Fuji Television and Shueisha, for the first ever online simulcast of the series ‘One Piece’ tonight at 9:00 pm CDT., just one hour after its premiere on Japan’s Fuji Television. Unfortunately, in the last 24 hours we have determined that the FUNimation servers were compromised, even though we employ strict security standards. An unknown individual accessed and posted episode 403 online and as a direct result of this illegal act, all U.S. and Canadian fans will be deprived of access to this great anime series for the immediate future. We will make every effort to locate and prosecute the perpetrator(s) to the fullest extent of the law and will provide updates regarding this most serious matter.”
Basically someone hacked into FUNimation's servers, downloaded the newest episode 403 nearly a whole day before it was to air in Japan/stream online, & posted torrents up for it for the whole world to download illegally. As a result, every episode that had put up has been removed for the immediate future.
Perhaps outright canceling the streams altogether (perhaps for a little while, perhaps forever) might seem a bit extreme. But of course that depends on who made the decision to remove the episodes. If Funi did it on their own without orders from the Japanese studios like Toei & Fuji TV, that's the best circumstance we have right now. They probably did it to show Toei that they took every precaution possible once they found out what happened, & were taking no chances whatsoever on any of the other episodes until this gets resolved. Being overcautious is how FUNimation would want to appear to Japan right now, after every thing that happened that is. If this is the case, then Funi will probably try to resume the simulcasts again in a few weeks, maybe even a few days. That is, unless Toei is really pissed at them.
The other possibility is that FUNimation acted on orders from Toei to remove the episodes immediately was they found out what happened. This would mean that the Japanese execs are extremely pissed at Funi & can't believe they trusted them with a huge title like this, only for them to screw it up before it even officially began. If this is the case, the One Piece simulcasts might very well be gone for good. What's bad is this might actually be the case. In addition to being removed from Funi's website, the One Piece eps that recently started streaming on Hulu & Joost have also been removed. Now there were no security problems with those two sites, so why else remove it? (Though it could possibly be Funi being super overcautious again.)
See, you gotta understand something about Japan's views about these simulcasts. The Japanese studios have always been extremely reluctant to change. Having their shows stream online is exactly what they used to try to avoid at all costs, because that meant it was bad news for their ratings. But what Japan has finally just started to understand is that streaming on-demand video IS the future of media. Once fast Internet existed, the masses adopted it & would not turn back to the networks telling them they could only watch shows when the networks wanted them to. Ignoring the problem & hoping people would one day return to television is just ignorant. But Japan wouldn't get this at first. For years now, American anime companies have been pleading with the Japanese studios to give the scripts & episodes to them BEFORE they aired in Japan. That way, they would have time to subtitle the eps, & put them online for international fans to watch WITH Japan. Legal, ad-supported, & free. Finally it began last year when Gonzo started to stream a few of their series online. & I guess it worked, because simulcasts are all over the Internet now. Crunchyroll, Funimation's website, Hulu, Joost, YouTube, Naruto.com, & so on. Finally, Japan was getting that this was a good idea. Finally, American anime fans could enjoy the latest anime series from Japan & do it legally.
Toei & Fuji TV are a little more stubborn then most. Even with all the others jumping on board to Crunchyroll & whatnot, Toei remained reluctant to this scary new idea. I'm sure FUNimation pleaded with them for a very long time to do this. After all, One Piece is one of the most illegally downloaded shows in the whole world. Why wouldn't you want to try to stop that with official simulcasts? Finally after convincing them for a very long time, Funi got Toei to say yes. It probably felt like squeezing water from a rock to Funi, but they eventually got it.
So you can imagine how Toei would feel about Funimation screwing this up even before it began. After ignoring all the paranoid fears that Toei had about streaming shows online & putting it past them, putting faith into Funi, their fears actually came true. Their biggest property was leaked online before even airing, & it was all the Americans' fault. "No more simulcasts ever!" is definitely a possibility of what they're saying right now. If true, not only is this bad for One Piece, but it could be bad news for the future of simulcasts in America. If One Piece's launch went off without a hitch, they'd likely start welcoming other series to get simulcasted as well. But possibly not anymore. Maybe the other anime companies in Japan have heard about this mess, & they don't want to do it anymore either.
It's affected FUNimation's other big simulcast show as well- FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The same time all the One Piece episodes were removed, Funi also took down all the FMAB episodes from their video site as well. Again though, Funi probably only did this for security reasons until they fix their security problem. I really do expect it to come back shortly, unlike One Piece. But since Funimation has given no official statement or anything regarding their FMAB streams, who knows what's really up. Also, FMAB still has its eps up on Hulu.
As far as the "hacking" thing goes, here's the thing. From what I've found it, it was extremely easy to do. I could have done it if I tried to. All the "hacker" did was found out the URL of the other episodes of One Piece that FUNimation already put up, which isn't something a complete novice could find easily, but it's also not difficult to do at all if you know what you're doing. The file naming system Funi had for all their videos was extremely simple. Let's just say that for episode 391 of One Piece that Funi had up, the file name was something like funimation.com/video/onepiece_391.flv. It wasn't exactly like that, but it gives you an idea of how it was really set up. So all the "hacker" had to do was change the 391 to 403, enter the URL into the address bar, & tada! One Piece 403 up a full day early! Not that hard to find at all.
FUNimation's main problem was not having the episode up on a secure, password protected server until the time came to simulcast it. Granted, the file wasn't visible anywhere so Funi (stupidly) thought it was safe just for that reason. But obviously it wasn't, as Funi had to learn the hard way. Besides password protection, random file names would also help. It seems they've already started renaming the files of their other streamed series, Phantom. But despite renaming them, Funi still didn't randomize them. The file names are different, but looking at the ones already up makes it easy to guess the names of the next ones. But as long as they're on a secure server, I guess that's not too much of a problem.
As a final note, let's look at how uncharacteristically serious FUNimation sounds in their message to the fans. "We will make every effort to locate and prosecute the perpetrator(s) to the fullest extent of the law and will provide updates regarding this most serious matter." Wow, that's kind of surprising coming from them, not that it's unwarranted. But it sounds like between the One Piece thief & the speed-subbers that put out FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood even before Funi does for the sole reason of "sticking it to the man" (as if Funi could be considered "the man"), Funimation is at their breaking point. The straw that broke the camel's back? Guess we'll find out as developments come out. Let's just hope that Funi's simulcasts, including One Piece, will be able to resume soon.