An Email About Fansubs and Morality

I don’t normally do this, but I figure that with this being the first week that Crunchyroll went legit and started streaming new episodes of Naruto, I had to put out a final plea to my audience.

I had received an email last week concerning my Greg Ayres and the Fight Against Fansubs post from a reader I’ll refer to as Brian. Because he was nice in his letter, I sent him back a long email about my views and thoughts on the issue.

After reading over my response, I realized that there are some points I wrote about that really all my readers should know, not just Brian. Because I have stopped downloading fansubs and written many pieces on the negative consequences of it, I often hear people saying that I either hate technology, hate anime fans, or that I must be in the pocket of the industry.

So this week, I’d like to repost Brian’s email and my response to clear the air and let everyone know exactly where I stand on the fansub issue, why I do what I do, and what exactly I’m asking of my readers.

No I’m not intending on flaming you.

Good now that that is out of the way I can get on with what I actually want to say.

Thanks for giving me the kick in the pants I probably needed. After reading your article I immediately went to amazon and realized that some of the things that I’d downloaded over the summer were imported and available on the website for relatively reasonable prices. I did the proverbial forehead slap.

Do you consider buying used as a bad thing? Frankly I can’t afford to drop fifty or sixty dollars on a box set if I can buy it used off of amazon for twenty to thirty less. Is that bad in some way?

Like I said at this point I’m completely guilt ridden and some how feel as though you could be my moral compass in this issue.

I wasn’t angry at you. I knew what I would be getting myself into. As a musician, I completely understand why the wonderful people who create anime should be given what they deserve. I’ve always used fansubs as a way to get at things which are very old or hard to find here, but I’m crafty and pretty good at finding things so I guess I’ll put it to better use.  Maybe I’ll even get a netflix account since that just sounds awesome to be able to get stuff that way.

All in all your blog has just become something I think I’ll have to read with regularity. I hope you get that dream job in the industry since doing things we love for a living is always an awesome thing to have. You’re definitely on your way.



Hey Brian,

Thank you so much for the kind email. Normally when an email starts off with, “No I’m not intending on flaming you,” it typically is a flaming email. So I was very happy to see a rather nice response to a post that gets me so much hate mail.

I guess my first response would be not to be so hard on yourself. While Greg Ayres can get very harsh when it comes to fansubbing and those who watch fansubs, I’m a little more sympathetic. I was watching fansubs for three years before working on that post, so I’m very familiar with how easy and efficient the system works. I had written before that the reason why fansubbing is so big with anime is because it is the best way to distribute anime. That is why I don’t blame fans for using it, and I believe that the only way the industry is ever going to beat fansubbing is to come up with a way to make money off of them.

I guess the ultimate message I’m trying to convey is that no one is entitled to free entertainment,. I do see a lot of fans who keep on taking and taking and never give back to the system. Then these fans have the nerve to complain when somebody takes away that free download. So what I’m preaching is that we all need to be a little more humble when it comes to anime, and we should make any effort we can to respect the people trying to make a living doing it.

I went to a rather radical extreme of showing my respects when I stopped downloading fansubs. I realized that I really didn’t care about watching the newest and freshest anime, or that it was not going to kill me if I go my whole life never seeing any one show in particular. I also realized that I could afford a Netflix subscription and the occasional boxset with my salary.

However, not everyone is in the same situation I am, so it’s hard to me to force others to go with my approach. The only “moral” advice I can give to anyone is that if the show is available in a legal and legit way, then please don’t go for the pirated version. Piracy and illegal downloads should only be used as a last resort for anything, and should never be considered as your preferred option.

That is why I think that buying a used DVD is perfectly okay. I’ve sold many of my old anime DVDs on Amazon, and you know what I did with the money I got from these sales? I used it to buy new anime DVDs. The money did go back into the system.

The same applies for rentals. If companies were so concerned over a few people sharing a single DVD, then they would not allow their shows to be available for rent on Netflix or other video rental stores. However, I’ve personally heard top people inside of the anime industry praise the idea of fans renting their shows on Netflix, and even recommend it as an alternative to fansubbing.

When you pay for an anime DVD – even if it is second hand or through a rental service – you still are supporting a sanctioned form of distribution that is ultimately profitable. And now the internet is opening up new ways to monetize off of this entertainment, and the industry is finally starting to experiment with idea.

So as more companies are finding legit ways to put anime for free online, I ask that you please support those shows using their legal forms of distribution instead of the pirated bittorent method we have all become too comfortable with. If Baka-Updates has the torrent that new episode of Naruto online a week before it is legally available on Crunchyroll, then for God sakes, wait a week for the legal version to come out and do not download that bittorrent!

As much as it sucks, the fansub monster was inevitable. Fans are to blame for letting their selfishness get the better of them, but the Japanese are also to be blamed for not recognizing the needs of the global market and for not embracing the internet years ago. We have now reached a tipping point where both sides are going to have to compromise, or everyone is just going to run out of money and bye-bye anime.

So all I can morally ask of you is to be willing to compromise. Think of the needs of the people on the other side of the screen when it comes to anime, and do what you think is best for everyone when it comes to obtaining that video. But judging from the tone of your email, you seem to be ready to do that, so I think you’re ok in my book.


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