One Cut of the Dead, one of Japan’s most popular movies of 2018, may have had its U.S. release put in jeopardy thanks to a bootleg version of the movie being officially uploaded on its Amazon Prime Video page.
One Cut of the Dead, directed by Shinichirou Ueda, is an independent zombie movie that grew from its small budget beginnings into one of Japan’s biggest hits, eventually earning the domestic equivalent of $28.4 million. Thanks to its immense popularity, the movie was preparing to move into international distribution in 2019.
However, before these plans could be put into action, a bootleg version of the entire movie was briefly uploaded onto the Amazon Prime Video streaming service. Amazon allows distributors to upload their own videos to the service, and relies on a system similar to YouTube’s Content ID to take down claims to sort out distribution rights. This means that smaller films like One Cut of the Dead can be susceptible to issues like this, where anyone who happened to have a bootleg could upload a version of the film. Even though the film was taken down shortly after it went up, Prime subscribers could still download it to watch it offline. Amazon would have no way of removing it from their devices as a result.
Adam Torel, who owns Third Window Films One Cut of the Dead’s international distributor, has been trying to reach Amazon in hopes of getting some kind of explanation. However, Torel told Dread Central that he’s started to feel like his only course of action would be legal.
“As a small company, lawsuits can be time consuming and expensive, but I really wonder what would have happened if this was, let’s say, the new Avengers film or an Academy Awards screener?” he said.
While this incident may seem like a minor hitch, for a small movie — even a popular one — to secure international distribution, something like this can prove to be a roadblock. Torel said as much in a tweet from Third Window’s official account, saying, “Proper version is out in UK cinemas Jan. 4 and DVD/Blu Jan. 28. But, this shit may have caused American release to be stopped ...”
It’s unclear as of now what will happen to One Cut of the Dead in the US, and whether or not the official version will ever make its way to Amazon. However, with so much trouble befalling one of the 10 highest-grossing movies of 2018 in Japan, and possibly derailing its journey to the United States, this case certainly raises questions about Amazon’s uploading process for Prime Video.
Polygon has reached out to Amazon for comment and will update upon hearing back.