Anime Distributors Learn That Fansubbers Are Telling Them What The Market Wants

from the good-for-them dept

We’ve discussed a few times how the distributors of Japanese anime have often had something of a love-hate affair with “fansubbers” — fans who take the original videos in Japan and subtitle them in foreign languages for fans in other countries. A few years ago, we noted that rather than set loose the legal hounds on fansubbers, many anime companies embraced the fansubbers and used them to learn where there were strong potential market openings for foreign distribution. It was like free market research. On top of that, many realized that the fansubs helped increase demand for the authorized product. Unfortunately, not all anime distributors have seen things the same way, but many have.

Matt writes in to tell us about the case of the Dattebayo fansub group, which has been doing rapid, high quality releases of certain popular anime titles. The company behind the anime has never bothered them. Rather than try to shut them down, the US licensee of the series has decided to put up its own free subtitled versions, knowing that if it tries to put significant restrictions on them, it will never work. The group is actually charging people for a week, right after the shows air in Japan (rather than the typical long wait), but then will offer it free. In response, the fansub group is going to stop creating their own versions, noting they only did so in order to watch the videos in a reasonable time frame. Once again, despite what some in the entertainment industry claim, we’re seeing that you absolutely can compete with so-called “pirates.”

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Comments on “Anime Distributors Learn That Fansubbers Are Telling Them What The Market Wants”

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Kirion says:

Not everyone learned the lesson

We can confirm that FUNimation Entertainment has obtained an agreement authorizing FUNimation to act on behalf of Media Factory to prevent infringement on specific titles.

The authorization agreement for Media Factory is for:

Soul Eater

Though these series have not been licensed to a local distributor in North America, it is important to note that the rights owned by Japanese producers are still applicable, and enforceable, worldwide.

On behalf of Media Factory, please drop Soul Eater and remove all torrents from torrent sites and your irc channel, direct download sites and other places used to distribute the fansub.

Here is the DMCA notification for Soul Eater.

December 1, 2008

RE: Copyright Infringement

In compliance with relevant federal copyright law, I submit the following:

I hereby certify, under penalty of perjury, that the following information is accurate to the best of my knowledge
and belief.

I am an employee of FUNimation Entertainment. I am authorized to act on behalf FUNimation Entertainment
(“FUNimation”) with respect to the matters discussed herein.

Media Factory (“Media Factory”) has authorized FUNimation to take enforcement actions on behalf of Media Factory for the purpose of stopping copyright infringement. Media Factory owns and controls various exclusive copyrights and trademarks related to the animated motion pictures known as Soul Eater collectively referred to as the “Properties”. Among the exclusive rights of Media Factory in the Properties are the rights for production and distribution of home videos, DVDs, and other home video formats and devices.

Our investigations reveal that the above referenced site is being used for the unauthorized copying and distribution (downloading, uploading, file serving/swapping, streaming, stream embedding, torrent seeding, torrent tracking, torrent linking, other linking, link aggregating or any similar activities) of digital files embodying the
Properties. The use of the Properties in this manner is NOT authorized by Media Factory and is a violation of Media Factory intellectual property rights, including its rights under the Copyright Act. Infringing materials can be accessed via the torrents posted at the following URLs:

FUNimation Entertainment hereby demands that you expeditiously disable all access to said infringing materials.

This letters was send this week to several fansubs group. Funny thing is, this Soul Eater anime (and few other titles that was mentioned in dmca takedowns) is not even licensed in USA yet. And apparently, they doesn’t care about worldwide market at all.

Eric the Grey says:

Re: Not everyone learned the lesson

This isn’t really new. Other companies have requested that fansub communities remove their titles from distribution, and for the most part, the community has complied. MOST of the fansub community will stop once such a request has been made, OR the title is licensed locally.

This company seems to have felt it necessary to go the DMCA route instead of simply requesting it. *shrug* Either way, I’m sure the biggest part of the community will stop releasing their titles. Those that continue will do so anyway, regardless of local licensing anyway.


PaulT (profile) says:

Common sense, please?

I’ve never understood the animosity of many anime companies towards fansubbers. To my mind, it’s a very simple equation: there is far more anime released in Japan than the domestic US (or any other Western country) market can possibly support. Therefore, there is always going to be demand for titles that will never be released domestically.

Fansubbers take the titles they’re interested in and enable them to be experienced by non-Japanese people. They’re not going to sub movies that already have translations, as there’s less demand for them. So why not see which titles are generating the most interest and use that to work out which of the hundreds of series might make a profit on an offical release? Better than trying to prosecute people for showing an interest in material they’re blocked from seeing any other way.

As for Kirion’s post above, this is very telling:

“Though these series have not been licensed to a local distributor in North America, it is important to note that the rights owned by Japanese producers are still applicable, and enforceable, worldwide.”

In other words, we’re not interested in making this series available to you officially, we’re not interested in taking your money from imports (as an official English translation presumably doesn’t exist for importers) but we’ll still prosecute you for being interested enough in the series to check it out. Idiocy.

Anonymous Coward says:

As a fan of Dattebayo’s flagship anime, I can’t tell you how excited I am about this.

Currently my choices are:
1. Download Dattebayo’s version around 24 hours after the anime is aired on tv.
2. Watch a crappy low quality stream posted sometime after that.
3. Wait a few years for it to be released over here with a crappy dub.

The original Japanese company posting a free high quality version within a week of release is perfect for me. I even have the option to pay for new episodes that I’m genuinely excited about.

This serves the company better, and this additional revenue stream may create some incentive to produce higher quality shows (which serves me better). They’ll also get immediate feedback in dollars on which shows people want to see and which people are willing to wait for.

This is a solid example of beating piracy by offering a convenient product that’s also quality. It even makes me want to buy a Naruto T-Shirt, believe it.

L Jones says:

Anime companies logic

Anime companies logic:

1) Advertise to no one but Japanese.
2) Stop anyone watching anime outside of Japan.
3) Be surprised that no one buys it other than the Japanese.

The main rule of media is the more people who watch it the more likely they will buy it. The chance of a person who does not watch anime going into a shop and spending 50 pounds or more on a DVD box set is almost zero. Most of the people who buy anime most probably have downloaded it and watched it before buying it.

Not only this , anime companies lose money by stopping people downloading, as a lot of people will buy music cds, ovas, toys and posters that they would not have bought if they have not seen it.

Anonymous Coward says:

The way I plan to do it

I use to be into anime a lot but fell behind because of no internet at home for over a year. Once I play college debt catch up, I plan to get a decent computer to host up my files. I will download what I want, then purchase them when they come out. Then I can rip the DvDs at max quality and stream the videos within my home/apartment. If I can’t download a fan sub, I won’t buy it.

bshock (profile) says:


First, I’m familiar with the Dattebayo group. They do indeed produce anime fansubs, and do it rapidly and adequately. They also like to post occasional rants where they claim they’re going to stop subbing their most popular series. They’ve done this at least once a year since they started. Don’t believe them.

Second, anime distributors are basically lying schlockmeisters. Distributors mangle translations, choose wildly inappropriate voice actors for dubs (if you can stomach dubbed versions), put out their degenerate versions long years after anyone cares, and generally act like bottomfeeding scum who have utter contempt for their customers. The idea that they’ll give away anything for free after a while is about as reasonable as the pusher down the street doing the same thing — sorry, the first dose may be free, but the next one is going to cost you. The scheme is pathetically transparent.

Finally, why do you still need subtitles? How long does it take you idiots to learn Japanese? No matter how well you translate it, English takes all the flavor out of what is often a fairly bland product from the start.

Anonymous Coward says:

I like the fansubs from Dattebayo and that they will add explanations to some of the jokes and other things that you would not get or pick upon if you are not very familiar with the culture or the history.

“How long does it take you idiots to learn Japanese?” If we added 4 more hours to the day I would have time to pick up another language.

Funimation's Stance - Gen Fukunaga Interview says:

From the ICv2 interview with Gen Fukunaga, founder and CEO of Funimation, from January of this year.

In particular question/answer #2:

Do you think the impact of downloads on anime is just the leading edge of a trend that’s going to affect all packaged home video, or is it something different?

Yes, I think so–I think it will affect all packaged home video. How well it’s protected and how people like the MPAA react are going to be big questions. The big Hollywood studios have the power, and they’re going to set the standard on how protection is going to be enforced. We’re going to be more followers with whatever Hollywood does, so we’ve been watching what they’re doing and certainly we feel the anime industry must do a lot more anti-piracy work.

It’s good to see at least one company, VIZ, taking a different tact. Work with/compete against the customer/”pirates” instead of attacking them. Some Japanese companies and the American distributors are learning to deal with the new landscape. Others, like Media Factory, still seem to have some lessons to learn.

Rommel (profile) says:

Producers should know they can stop "globalization" of media

I’m a big fan of the Naruto series, I started to see it in Cartoon Networks (CN) in Mexico, but they just showed like 30 chapters and they start it all over again. Given that I wanted to see more I went to a friend how has the complete series “buerned”. When Shippuden appears the Web becomes my source for more Naruto.
My kid loves Naruto, he had already got 3 PS2 Naruto (originals) video games, two toys and some themed cloth (which I hope is original since I bought them in a legitimate store in Chile). It is very likely that I’m going to buy more Naruto’s stuff and videogames in the future, probably even the DVD’s from the series (If they sell it in Mexico in the future).
My point is that CN Latin America is still airing chapters from 2005, if it haven’t been for fansubs who provide the anime in Spanish subtitles, we wouldn’t had bought some many merchandise.
Conclusion to producers: Media is not “local” anymore since the Internet arrived, when you produce any form of content it had the potential to reach every person in the World, who could become a potential buyer of your merchandise. If you don’t plan to deliver your content to everybody, then please don’t try to stop your fans (potential clients) from getting your product by themselves.

Finally congratulations to Viz Media, I will be waiting to see the same happening for the Latin America market (which is probably bigger than the American one)

(Sorry about my English since it isn’t my native language)

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