Reigniting the flames of fansubs

In an interview with ActiveAnime, Viz Media’s director of PR Evelyn Dubocq slammed all forms of internet piracy. Despite the generic corporate style of her responses (which show little-to-no knowledge of the anime community as a whole), Dubocq’s remarks have inevitably reignited the flames of debate within the anime community.
On one side we have the hippy-like fansubbers who feel like everything should be free and on the other, there are the hard-line DVD fans, their motto is that “anime is a luxury, not a right”.
Now before we go any further into this entry, we may as well ascertain one simple fact; by downloading and watching anime fansubs, you are breaking the law; irregardless of if it’s “unlicensed” outside of Japan, you are infringing copyright law.
Now that you know this, whether or not you watch fansubs is, and always should be, a question of considered personal ethics. I can only speak for myself, but the reason I download anime is because I am a fan and to put it simply, I just want to watch the latest and greatest shows as soon as possible. I’m not patient enough to wait another year for the US DVD releases and heck, we live in modern times now; we shouldn’t have to wait so long anyway.
Now I’m aware no one is entitled to anime- after all, like the hardliners say, it is a luxury, but my love of anime knows no bounds. I’m not downloading fansubs because they are free, but rather, just because it is anime and I want to watch it now.
By picking up fansubs am I hurting the Western anime industries? No. Given how niche a genre this really is, anime has and always will survive through fan-driven word of mouth. Naruto is the most downloaded anime of all time; at it’s highest point over two hundred thousand people were downloading new episodes every week, has this detracted from it’s runaway success in the United States? Has it even affected DVD sales?
Of course there will always be leechers that only download anime and never buy the real thing, but then, if say fansubs magically disappeared tomorrow, would they suddenly begin investing their hard earned cash in official anime DVDs instead? Of course not, once a cheap skate, always a cheap skate. No money is lost or gained on these people.
The world of anime fansubs is not as black and white as some will have you believe; unless you are 4Kids (in which case; fuck you), they should never be considered a replacement for the official DVDs but similarly, unless a better- and legal- means of previewing subtitled anime becomes available, fansubs will always serve an absolutely vital service to anime fans, something I am very grateful for.

8 replies on “Reigniting the flames of fansubs”

And so, another ill-informed corporate voice once again raises an issue that will seemingly never be resolved. While I can sympathise with Ms Dubocq’s concerns with leechers and ‘cheapskates’ (a group of people I have no time or respect for) she is ignoring the harmless effects that unlicenced downloading has: the bottom line is, it is good advertising for fans.
You’re right, Paul: leechers won’t buy the DVDs. They have no consideration for the hard work of others so I couldn’t care less about those arseholes and the industry shouldn’t either. More conscientious individuals will watch the fansubs but do the decent thing when the DVDs come out and buy them – these are the fans who should be taken into consideration. I’d love to have the likes of Mushishi and Macross Zero on DVD but since they’re not licenced that isn’t an option.
No doubt about it, fansubbing of unlicenced shows is a grey area: legally it’s wrong but morally it isn’t – my personal view is ‘no victim, no crime’ (after all, fansub groups are motivated by love of the medium, not financial gain). By all means prosecute bootleggers who make money at the expense of others’ efforts but if a company doesn’t even own the rights to a series in that country it isn’t their concern.

I consider this to be ane extension of the music piracy problem. Many people will happily consume music via radio or music video television, provided they do not have to pay for it. Many people will happily pay $15.00 – $20.00 for a CD of their favorite artists’ new material. Many people take a look at the pricetag on those CDs and balk. It only costs a few cents to press that CD. The original artist only receives a few cents of royalties on the purchase of a CD. Where’s the rest of the money going to?
This question germinates the internal justifications of people that pirate music. "I’d pay for it if I could get exactly what I want, for a reasonable price," they say, and copy away. The same can be said of DVDs, be they anime or otherwise. I can spend $25.00 for four episodes of a show, or I can get it free on the Internet. Is it $25.00 because that’s how much it really costs to distribute? I don’t know, but I can get an episode of Battlestar Galactica on iTunes for what? Two bucks? That’s far more reasonable, and more likely to get my money.
Companies that want to get serious about combatting a digital format that they think is cutting into their bottom line should provide more attractive alternatives. Yes, I’m a cheapskate. I also have a rather sizable DVD collection, it just grows a lot more slowly these days.

Besides the issue about it right or worng to download, paying the company or not. I live in a contry where the law is worded so that many anime do not make it in the contry. And those that do are dubbed and cutted to a point that it feel like you are watching a completly different show.
For me, besides getting the lastest and greatest, it’s to get the show uncutted and dubbed. You can’t even mail order anime outside the contry, cause there’s peoples that do, and get throw into jail or pay high fines, for importing anime with contents that’s banned.

Fansubs are VERY different from music piracy. The MIT professor that presented at that symposium on anime at MIT last month pointed out a lot of differences that he noticed when he compared the the two.

Doesn’t anyone *rent* DVDs? I just finished watching Gantz. It’s not a series I would ever pay to own, but was happy to shell out a few dollars to rent. I got to see all of R.Kenshin that way, including the Samurai X OVAs. To own the series would have cost hundreds of dollars I am not willing to spend on a series I am unlikely to watch more than once.
I honestly don’t understand why more is not said about this as an option. (Unless there are corporate shills hiding in the woodwork, of course.)

Anonymousie, "Netflix", I must have rented some 300 dvd’s easily over the last 3 + years, 90% anime. So yes I rent anime, and if I like the series I’ll buy it (GITS, BGC and R. Kenshin are on my buy list.)
I tend to use fansubs the same way, if the series is licensed in the US i’ll rent it and maybe buy it, if I like the series. I think like many people who download anime, we are looking for new exciting series to watch, BUT there is no guarrente that it will be licensed in the US.
Sometimes I am amazed at what gets licensed and what doesn’t, who the hell picks the series?

I think online rental services could be the way to go, but still it is arguably a lot easier to just pick up a fansub. That will be the case until there is an anime-driven iTunes-style video delivery platform and it would all have to come from the Japanese side of things too- and if the Japanese start releasing their newest series subtitles on the web months before the US DVD releases, I can see there being some real friction. I can see a bubble or two being burst in the next 10 years.
Random Reader: You make a good point about how people often look at this whole fansub issue from the perspective of their local industries only. Speaking as a UK resident, it’s not fair to forget everyone else as long as the US is happy.

dRAT – I’m really hoping that Mushishi is liscensed. I want to own that in the worst way. I am keeping my fansub on disc just in case it isn’t, you know? That’s a reason to download fansubs and one of the reasons I do.
bateszi – I think when it comes to new anime, you are right.
I totally agree with you about the iTunes thing. That would be the way to go. I don’t think that Japanese companies would release subbed versions before the English language versions, however. A more likely scenario would be concurrent DVD releases after network broadcast.
The US/Canada/UK/Oz have the population to make the demands. I think we need to remember that primarily English speaking nations are the ones who benefit It’s the silly Region X DVD players that need to be fixed. The companies who put up artificial borders need to be thumped on the head.
I can’t imagine how it is for Random Reader. It makes me feel bad that I’m jealous because you get Little Britain before us! ^_^;

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