The thing about Anime

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I received a mail from the university telling us to be careful to observe all copyright laws. While I do believe in upholding the law, I would bring to question certain concerns that I have for this matter.

The big bulk of supposed piracy that take place here, as deduced by the email received, was surprisingly, not music, but anime. I checked out the authorities which supposedly represent the copyright holders to these materials. You can check out their website here. Upon reading further, I was surprised to find something which makes me wonder about the fairness of their claims.

Firstly, anime you can find in Singapore are largely not original, even those from legitimate video stores. Imagine that. Those stores actually put these videos on display, and charge a very reasonable price for them. Admittedly, the quality may not be up to standard, but how are WE as consumers supposed to be able to tell apart an original from a pirated version when BOTH of them actually have the OFFICIAL SEAL of the Censorship Board of Singapore. They claim that the Censorship Board merely checks the content for censorship purposes, and nothing more, but the fact that these were APPROVED by a government body seems to ensure that we as consumers are placed in a difficult situation.

If we go out and buy something 'legitimate' from a supposedly 'legitimate' store, only to find that they AREN'T legitimate, then where can we?

What does this mean? Let's say I'm shopping in a mall, and I see this nice video store. I enter, and it has rows and rows of anime which I enjoy. I pick one up, and the price seems good, there's an official stamp from the government, content checks out. I buy it, only to have these people tell me "Hey, you supported piracy! Now we're going to sue you until you bleed, you criminal!" I thought I was supporting the content owners all the while. So suddenly, my whole stash of bought anime is claimed to be PIRATED, and because of that I'm an offender? Please tell me this isn't so.

In their website, they conveniently put up a little list called Authorized Titles, although by the way their website is done, I'm not sure if they meant 'authorized to buy' or 'authorized to download'. For starters, they just list titles, not publishers, so I sincerely doubt it's the former. Wait, they can't possibly mean the latter could they? I don't know. Many of those listed ARE NOT LICENSED TO BE TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH, meaning no one has officially licensed the content owners to do the translation. That simply means, NO ONE CAN GET AN ENGLISH VERSION of the title. Way to go for getting us consumers to support original content.

I sincerely believe that content owners do deserve the right to be paid for their work, yet content owners should now understand that things are different. Your customers are no longer dumb and naive, and they play a very important role in determining the success of your product. I'll take music as an example. The RIAA is going about alienating its very own customers, something which seems to confirm only one thing, more and more people are turning away from your products. Now they're targeting radio stations, but hello? Don't you know that album sales only skyrocket when people actually HEAR the music and LIKE it? All the free mediums that seem to be going around, like radio and mp3, they increase exposure allowing you to make more money, because there's free publicity.

Now to bring this down to anime, I'd say take a long hard look at just WHY anime is popular in a country like Singapore. Is it because people enjoy anime? How did people in Singapore 'discover' it anyway? Why did it get so popular that Animax was introduced? Want my opinion?

It's called the internet.

Fans downloaded a series and enjoyed it so much they started telling others to try it out. This led to huge exposure for all anime titles and spawned a market from which people could benefit from. It's ironic to think that the only reason why anime has such huge market potential outside of Japan is because the INTERNET provided FREE FANSUBS AND SCANLATIONS, boosting popularity and getting the whole world to enjoy anime, but guess what? There's no 'thank you for the free publicity'. Instead, "we're going to sue you for being pirates! Argh!" Let's not even mention the fact that some 'paid for original releases' have lower quality than the fansubs / scanlations.

Licensing companise USE fansubs as a gauge to determine the popularity of a series to be licensed. That happened for Naruto and various other titles. To admit it isn't something bad, it means you embrace the fans and actually THINK of the fans instead of just your own pocket. Ensuring quality of your releases too will help quell some of the fans gripes. After all, if I paid for it, there should be absolutely NO REASON why the quality of that product is LESS than a free fansub.

Here's an insightful link:Fansubs... Our perspective

I'm not denying the fact that in essence, regardless of how anyone wants to twist the law, what's being done is illegal. However, do note that while in the eyes of the law the fansubs are in the wrong, a symbiosis between the fan community and content owners as well as licensing companies is the biggest thing that keeps this industry alive.

That said, I try to get my hands on as many original DVDs as I can, as long as the quality and price is good. I remember the GTO DVD set that I bought, as well as my Gundam SeeD and Full Metal Alchemist DVD sets. I didn't mind getting them, but I'm also still holding on to the fansubbed versions, largely because the quality of the videos and subs are better.

Oh wait, that's if what I paid for with a 'stamp of approval by a government body in Singapore' was actually an original...

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Posted by Gerald at 5/30/2007 01:34:00 AM