Sony is erasing digital libraries that were supposed to be accessible “forever”

one piece

A shot from One Piece, one of the animes that Funimation made DVDs for.

How long is “forever”? When it comes to digital media, forever could be as close as a couple of months away.

Funimation, a Sony-owned streaming service for anime, recently announced that subscribers’ digital libraries on the platform will be unavailable after April 2. For years, Funimation had been telling subscribers that they could keep streaming these digital copies of purchased movies and shows, but qualifying it: “forever, but there are some restrictions.”

Funimation’s parent company, Sony, bought rival anime streaming service Crunchyroll in 2021. Since then, it was suspected that Sony would merge the offerings together somehow. This week, we learned how, as Funimation announced that its app and website would close on April 2, and Funimation accounts will become Crunchyroll accounts. Most of Funimation’s catalog is already on Crunchyroll, Funimation’s announcement claimed.

But in addition to offering video streaming, Funimation also dubbed and released anime as physical media, and sometimes those DVDs or Blu-rays would feature a digital code. Subscribers to the Funimation streaming service could add those digital codes to Funimation and then stream the content from the platform.

With Funimation claiming that customers could access these digital copies “forever,” I could see why someone might have thought this was a reliable way to access their purchased media. For people lacking the space, resources, or interest in maintaining a library of physical media, this was a good way to preserve treasured shows and movies without spending more money. It also provided a simple way to access purchased media online if you were, for example, away on a trip and had a hankering to watch some anime DVDs you bought.

But soon, people who may have discarded or lost their physical media or lack a way to play DVDs and Blu-rays won’t have a way to access the digital copies that they were entitled to through their physical copy purchase.

Funimation’s announcement says:

Please note that Crunchyroll does not currently support Funimation Digital copies, which means that access to previously available digital copies will not be supported. However, we are continuously working to enhance our content offerings and provide you with an exceptional anime streaming experience. We appreciate your understanding and encourage you to explore the extensive anime library available on Crunchyroll.

Regarding refunds, Funimation’s announcement directed customers to its support team “to see the available options based on your payment method,” but there’s no mention of getting money back from a DVD or Blu-ray that you might not have purchased had you known you couldn’t stream it “forever.”