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Every couple of months, a situation will crop up where the legal rights holder to an anime comes in and quashes some sort of unauthorized derivative work. Fans don’t always let the letter of the law stand in the way of how they express their passion for their favorite shows, though, and defenders often assert that no harm is actually being done, so long as the rights holder wasn’t already producing the same product. There’s no need to shut down an unlicensed T-shirt operation, the argument goes, if the company isn’t actively producing shirts itself.

Maybe that was going through the head of one Nagoya resident when he noticed a glaring oversight in the marketing machine behind hit anime One Piece, and decided to start selling one-dollar bills with copied stickers of the series’ band of pirates.

On October 29, the Okayama Prefectural Police’s Misaki Precinct reported the arrest of Tomoaki Tanahashi, a white-collar worker living in Nagoya’s Kita Ward. Somewhere during the course of the year, the 45-year-old Tanahashi hit upon the idea of supplementing his income by selling unlicensed One Piece merch on the Internet.

Copied DVDs of the anime itself might seem like the obvious way to go, but anyone unscrupulous enough to feel OK buying bootlegged discs would probably just download the show for free from a pirate site. Instead, Tanahashi made the unusual selection of making copies of One Piece stickers, slapping them over the face of George Washington on one-dollar bills, and offering them for sale.

▼ Really, Tomoaki? You didn’t think to change “One Dollar” to “One Piece?”

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We’re not sure which is weirder, Tanahashi’s product, or the fact that between March and August, four people bought them. As a matter of fact, one of the transactions, which took place in May and brought Tanahashi about 1,500 yen (US$14) for a single bill, caught the attention of officers from the Misaki Precinct during a sweep of the Internet for online crimes.

Tanahashi was arrested this week on suspicion of copyright law violation, and a subsequent search of his home turned up evidence suggesting he’d been planning to expand his lineup, as officers found more U.S. currency with stickers of the cast of Disney’s Frozen taking over for the first president, plus another 448 unmodified dollar bills.

The investigation is still ongoing, but the police have commented that while the stickers are unlicensed reproductions, the bills appear to be genuine. Still, Tanahashi’s unorthodox scheme coming to an end is one more example that crime doesn’t pay, even when half of what you’re selling is already cash.

Source: Hachima Kikou, Sankei West
Top image: Wikipedia
Insert image: Hachima Kikou