Piracy – Time Bandits

This may be something of a controversial post, but like Toonces I chose to drive this car over the cliff and I’ll see it through to my fiery demise.

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Ladies an gentlemen, look on in amazed wonderment as Grant dates himself in a single reference!

Today we are going to look at something which anime fans are almost universally familiar with – piracy. Recently, Miles Thomas from Crunchyroll (@MilesExpress999 on Twitter) posted a pretty lengthy discussion regarding piracy.

The Tweet In Question

Not going to lie, this really got my blood up. But before I get into why this is a serious issue for your fandom, let’s define exactly which sort of piracy we are discussing. It is important to make note of the particular breed of piracy in question because, like any act, context is vital. Stealing is generally wrong, but if a hungry parent steals from a crooked business owner to feed a starving child then we might look upon that act with more compassion. We know that there is a difference between manslaughter and homicide, self-defense and abuse. Events matter, but so does the context.

To be clear, the kinds of piracy I am not talking about do not universally get a pass. I’m not giving other kinds of piracy a thumbs up like, “Yep, totally okay, go right ahead.” I’m just trying to pinpoint the specific kind of piracy that is under the microscope to make sure the discussion stays on topic.

I also want to establish that there is some irony inherent in this discussion, since Crunchyroll was once a site for ripped anime and they have now gone straight. But let us remember that they started in 2006 and went legal in 2009, over seven years ago, during a time when legal anime streams were essentially nonexistent. They broke new ground and showed that fans yearned for this model of content delivery, back when the notion of legal streaming was essentially non-existent. The difference between illegal streams in 2006 when Crunchyroll started and 2016 when we are having this discussion is integral to understanding what’s at stake.

So, on to the feature – who am I talking to when I rail against pirates?

If you pirate shows that you have no legal means to view in your region, I am not talking to you. This is a huge issue for a lot of older material that is not streaming or was never released on anything other than VHS or laserdisc back in the day. It’s also a major issue for a lot of tokusatsu material such as the various iterations of Kamen Rider or much of the Super Sentai series. Not to mention, as I discussed in my hulu post some weeks back, not every streaming service is universally available in all regions.

If you pirate shows because you prefer a particular translation over the legal translation, I am not talking to you. I know that translation/interpretation is an issue of personal taste, and as someone with some background in language it’s not easy work and the vagaries of translation can drastically alter the tone of certain scenes or characters. I personally have never felt that the translation of legal streams has impeded my understanding or enjoyment of a work, but that may not be the case for everyone. I will give this group the benefit of the doubt, even if I am still somewhat suspicious.

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*suspicion intensifies*

If you pirate shows because the only legal option is expensive physical media, I am not talking to you. This is a bit harder to pinpoint because “expensive” is a relative term, but it is no secret that many physical media releases for Japanese media are outrageously expensive. Collecting an entire show can often be a $80-$150 expenditure, and the raw dollar-per-minute exchange rate is painfully low compared to more accessible western media. The simple fact is that not everyone has that kind of dough to shell out for a show they have never even seen, so I understand the hesitation to put money down.

If you pirate ripped versions of legal streams, I am talking to you. Miles’ tweet and discussion basically breaks down how a great deal of anime fans, many of them in the US where access to legal streams is at an all-time-high, are going to pirate sites like kissasian or gogoanime to watch ripped versions of Crunchyroll and Funimation streams.

Let me state that one more time, to make sure we are crystal clear. These are pirated streams on illegal streaming sites that are direct rips from legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Guys, as a community, we can do better.

We must do better.

Now hear me  out, this isn’t so much an attack on anyone’s character as it is a plea to carefully consider our actions. I’m not going to say you’re a bad person for watching illegal anime streams. You could be out doing much worse things, and I think some people who pirate usually end up supporting the industry in other ways by either discussing the shows or buying other merchandise.

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You could be out roaming the apocalyptic wastelands, licking blades and thieving from villages.

Nevertheless, we have got to value the work that these creators have done. The only difference between watching an episode of a CR/Funi translation stream legally and illegally is that the legal stream gives something back to the creators and translators who have made this available for us. While some people buy merchandise for various shows they have watched illegally, many shows are watched once and discarded – giving those creators not a single dime for their work.

If we do not support legal streams, they will not make the shows we want.

If anime companies receive no compensation for streaming, they will stop allowing them.

If we do not support the industry, there will be no industry.

Folks, let’s be real – we are living in a golden age of access to anime/eastern media. For those of you who weren’t alive or part of the fandom in the 80s and much of the 90s, we used to have to go through some pretty absurd hoops to get this stuff. We would spend hours upon hours networking, scouring Blockbusters, digging through the collections of a friend’s older sibling, and all sorts of toil just to watch a low-res fifth generation set of episodes from the middle of a series with no subtitles or any clue as to what we were seeing. It may have built character and taught me an appreciation for every scrap of anime I could find, but that was not fun and I do not want to return to those days.

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Old School Fan Scars – I once worked an entire summer to pay for a 13 episode OVA. 

What we have now is truly remarkable. Simulcasts are the crown jewel of the fandom – peak access, people – and we have got to understand that it costs time and money to bring us that content.

That’s what it ultimately comes down to: money or time. The only ways to support anything are time and money. Not every anime fan has equal amounts of disposable income, but if you are a fan then you have some time to spare. The time it takes to watch those extra 2-5 minures of commercials means literal money for the companies that make and translate the shows we love. If you are watching dozens of anime episodes, but can’t spare those extra minutes per episode, then you may not have enough time to be a fan in the first place. This is a time intensive hobby, a luxury good, it is not necessary for survival nor guaranteed. If we don’t preserve it then the industry will cease to be.

Sure, even if the industry stopped production tomorrow we would have years of content to work with, but eventually it would dry up. Without new content to encourage discussion and fire our imaginations this would grow stale. Without legal and easy streaming options we simply won’t have new fans to replace the old and the community will die out, figuratively and literally.

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“Oh golly, I love classic shows like Sword Art Online. They just don’t make shows like this anymore.”

Sure, you can rip CR/Funi streams and tell yourself you are not hurting anyone. You may even be right – there is not necessarily a direct negative impact that you put on these companies by pirating. However, there is something that is 100% verifiable:

When you rip legal streams you are helping no-one.

You might think that piracy sends a message, that it lets these companies know that you want different translators or less commercials or whatever else you believe. The truth is piracy does send a message, but it is almost universally not the one you intend.

When these companies see you pirating legal streams, they don’t say, “Ah, they would have preferred a more accurate translation, we will change our business practices in the future. This is clearly on us, our bad guys.” What they see is a confirmation of all the worst stereotypes that exist about anime fans – that they want everything for free and will give nothing in return. And knowing from past examples how many anime companies operate, they would much rather go down with the ship than keep producing content for people who will not give them the time of day. I want anime streaming and access to be like 2016, not 2006, and if things revert back to the way they were before then we will lose a lot more than ten years.

We have to give a little bit if we want to continue enjoying what we love, and 5 minutes of commercials is a small price to pay.

If we don’t pay it this season, we may never get a next season.

 

 

 

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33 thoughts on “Piracy – Time Bandits”

    1. Yeah, CR has had an interesting transformation as a company. It’s good that you support legal sites, I do everything I can to do the same. Even if I have to watch the same commercial sox times in a row, it’s for the greater good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. At least they redeem themselves and wanted to support the cause. I don’t mind supporting them but I don’t like seeing the same ads. I want to buy anime, not clothes or cleaning supplies.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I love the access to legal streaming services I have these days. Everytime I read one of these articles I remember how hard getting access to anime used to be and illegal downloads and streams were kind of essential to get any content. That isn’t the case anymore (for the most part with most shows). We definitely need to support the legal streaming services so they continue to expand and deliver great content. Thanks for sharing your views.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Two important things to note:

    1. We don’t have official numbers, but insiders have hinted for a while now that streaming revenue has become a significant source of revenue for anime studios.

    2. Crunchyroll distributes profits to anime creators based on the shows you choose to watch. Even if you pay for the Crunchyroll sub (and only 10-15% of CrunchyRoll viewers do), the money that goes back to Japan only goes back to the studios that make the shows you click on. In other words, what you watch has a direct impact on the future of anime i.e. the types of shows that will be made in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Precisely. Even further, the shows we click on and watch provides vital analytics for determing the kinds of content we want. Pirate sites are not going to report that info to creators/industry representatives.

      Like

    2. I was actually going to comment asking about that. I can sort of see a really weak argument in favor of piracy if the money you spent on CR didn’t make it to the original creators of the content. Glad to know this works out in such a direct way.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lol, I remember signing up for a CR account back in ’07-’08 just so I can watch this obscure gore movie that I can’t remember the name of off the top of my head xD

    I definitely agree that we are now “in a golden age of access to anime/eastern media” (or at the very least, it’s a great time to be alive if you’re an anime fan). But awareness of that may also be something to look at. We have people who have only just become anime fans, simply because of how “easy” it is to get — without knowing really the implications of streaming illegally-obtained legal sources. Erasing the notions that “piracy doesn’t hurt anyone” or anything of the sort is an important first step in all this. I commend your efforts in doing so here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am very impressed with this post and this is such a controversial topic some people don’t even want to touch so I praise you for that !! This was a brilliant post covering this topic I’m def sharing this !! Sadly when it comes to piracy I believe it comes down to peoples choice if they choose to do so not everyone is going to be part of the group.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Even it when it comes to movies that won’t appear on streaming sites for a while, like whenever funimation puts a movie into theaters that not everybody has access too, it’s still better to wait for an official release then to pirate it because the quality is assured. Waiting can be hard, but it’s worth it.

    But yes, I love legal streaming. :D.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear goodness, this makes me feel like crap. I’m one of those people who use Kissanime. I’ll admit it. I used to use Crunchyroll. Until I found Kissanime. My thought process: no ads? I can download episodes? No problem! This was before I knew what was legal and what wasn’t. (What can I say? I wasn’t an aniblogger back in 2012.) I use it now because of convenience. Typically, I don’t have time to sit through the ads. My lunch break is 30 minutes long. Plus, it takes enough time to buffer.
    No, I’m not defending all the people who use illegal sites. Or even defending myself. But I didn’t know for the longest time. I always assumed Kissanime was legal. Until…let’s see…maybe a month ago? Or when I started officially aniblogging? (Yeah. I was a stupid kid. And still am.) I didn’t know the difference.
    I know I should change now, but it’s this awful habit. I go back to Kissanime. Ever. Time. It’s an unconscious act. And I know I should stop it. Really. Truly. But, for some reason, I can’t. It’s funny (but not funny) that I know the airing animes I’m watching have new episodes by tweets from CR, but then I go to Kissanime. How ironic.
    I really do want to change. God, it hurts my heart to see this. And I should. And I will. But, the thing is, habit sets in and things change. It’ll take a hella long time for me to get used to logging into CR, but I think, if I take one step, it’ll change.
    Also, for other people, it’s habit too. Or not knowing. Or a combination of both. (Like me.) There is the feeling of ‘maybe this is wrong’, but people don’t know. I didn’t use CR from the LONGEST time when I started watching anime in 2012. I didn’t know about it. Nor did I understand the ramifications of using Dubbed Episodes or whatever that site was. And not all of the animes I wanted were on CR. So I had to watch them using other means. People might not know about CR. I’m not sure how. Their marketing department is BOSS. But there are many factors that contribute to continuously using Kissanime. Part laziness. Part ignorance. Part habit. It’s an awful, vicious cycle. We have to change things from the ground up, if we want to move those stats in Miles’s Tweet to favor CR.
    One day, though.
    But, for now, it’s one person at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First off, in all honesty – thank you for your comment and your sincere response. It’s really hard to admit that sort of thing.

      Secondly, don’t beat yourself up too much about it. Anime fandom and piracy started decades ago. If it weren’t for bootlegs we probably wouldn’t have a big enough community to even be having this discussion. You didn’t start this, so don’t carry it around like a burden.

      And lastly, I’m glad you intend to change your viewing habits. I now consider this post to be a success, so thank you and know now that your passing viewing will actively help all of us.

      Like

  7. The “it’s too expensive” option really gets on my nerve sometimes. “I can’t afford a $7 a month subscription or a $10 manga every few months, but let me buy a bunch of expensive drinks at a cafe, go out to the movies, download games, etc.” There are options for all budgets, and if you really can’t afford anything, I’m sorry, you’re going to have to sit through ads.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Finances are tricky things, and I hesitate to tell anyone they have to buy something (no matter how insignificant I think the cost is).

      But like I said in the blog post, we all have time to give, because otherwise there would be no way to watch these shows. That is something which we all can give.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh. I was there right from the beginning when Crunchyroll started. I was one of the first members. The quality of the videos from back then were laughable, but nevertheless they had good selection during that time. The subs were also hilarious. Lots of mistakes. Then they began to improve and improve and improve until they evolved into this huge presence for anime fans like us now. I don’t have my old account with them anymore. I used this really embarrassing username. Anyway, it feels so nostalgic to remember that time.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. First of all, shout out to Karandi for introducing me to your blog! I completely agree with everything you’ve said here. I also didn’t know that Crunchyroll use to offer illegal streaming. I had been watching anime mainly on Netflix, but decided to get a subscription to Crunchyroll last month. People who rip off shows from these sites are doing the rest of us a HUGE disservice, and (in the end) themselves too. Thank you for reminding everyone that this is a huge problem still.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading it Kimmie! Glad we are on the same wavelength.

      I agree, it’s hard to know sometimes, but it’s not about whether you have or haven’t used piracy in the past. This isn’t an “original sin” type of thing. It’s just a matter of choosing legal options wherever possible to make sure that we reciprocate for the content we consume. Ripping a legal stream is just flat out not helping anyone.

      Like

  9. I remember when I use to have to download episodes on my psp. Using a site called reality lapse. everything was Japanese audio with english subs. Those ugly yellow subtitles. That I still hate seeing to this day. lol My desktop was old as hell. after I downloaded them on my psp I would have to transfer then to my computer. So I can watch them using the real player. so much effort back in the day.

    The memories. The dedication.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have to disagree with you regarding the groups of people you decided not to mention in this argument of anime piracy. Stealing is still stealing, whether content is released exclusively in another country or you suddenly become poor, and that will never change. I’m pretty sure that nobody created the anime they watch illegally, invested in the anime they watch illegally, or paid for the anime they watched illegally, so what, in any circumstance, ever gives them the right to steal? I have to be honest and say that I believe those groups you avoided are poor excuses to steal. Regardless of what I know to be true, nobody can be forced to stop, so I’ll do my thing and they can do theirs.

    But as to the rest of what you said, I wholeheartedly agree with you! Those who don’t support the anime industry while consuming the anime industry shouldn’t have any business in the anime industry. We as a community need to support the content creators who have devoted time and effort to the shows we know and love.

    Great article and very well-written!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by and checking this one out. While I certainly agree that theft is theft, context is still important. If it weren’t for piracy/bootlegs of media properties that weren’t yet licensed in the states, then what we consider the anime industry wouldn’t have ever really gotten going. Or at the very elast, it would look completely different than what it currently looks like. But thanks again for weighing in on the discussion, even if we aren’t in 100% agreement.

      Like

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