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Anime Piracy 
14th-Jun-2007 02:58 pm
Finally, after nearly 2 weeks since the articles on our 2 major newspaper, I'm going to write something about it. And there I was, 2 weeks ago, thinking things were going to be better for the anime community with increased coverage of anime related news in the local media. LianHe did a short coverage on cosplay while the TV8 or Channel U covered the cosplay cafe and gothic lolita fashion at Alice 88th I think.

I'll cover briefly what is happening and any discussions I found interesting in my recent browsing.

First of all fansubs are illegal, have no doubts about that. Just that there wasn't a powerful enough entity here to persue the matter. AVPAS is a new entity formed recently to combat piracy. They currenlty hold rights to the list of series found here (http://avpas.com.sg/AVPAS_Authorized.html). Funny thing is most of the core members listed are staff of ODEX, even their contact number is the same. Private commercial entity or not, it doesn't matter now since they have backing from the Japanese to allow them to ask ISPs to release private information about their users without filing for a court case first.

How are they doing it?
We(referring to the anime community) has noticed that the ones caught are all using bittorrent. This is due to the fact that each bittorrent client keeps info of who it is connected to (IPs), and is easily accessible by anyone who use the same .torrent file. There are also trackers that would list the IPs of users who are currently connected to it. So just take down the SG IPs and ask the ISPs for their info. Encryption of data in that aspect is pointless.

I do not think it is feasible for the ISPs to do an exhuastive search of everything downloaded by all their users, and since it would turn into an international affair if AVPAS requests logs from http servers that hosted the tracker/torrent file, using less well known sources might still be possible.

The more hardcore fans are enraged over this issue. To date, 3 letters from fans have been published in ST forums. Here's 1 of them with the scanned article (http://ckwiz.blogspot.com/2007/06/i-emailed-straits-times-journalist.html). In the letter, it mentioned there is a community of anime bloggers who purchases anime related items on a regular basis, and their boycott of ODEX is due to the low quality (bad subs, bad dub, outdated releases, bad censorship). The point of low quality has been beaten to death and been brought up so many times that some are irritated by it; thinking that they are just excuses for pure downloaders.

The problem here is everything is murky. DarkMirage of a popular blog has attributed some of the faults to ODEX being aloof from the fans. His letter to ODEX hightlighting these points can be viewed here (http://www.darkmirage.com/2007/01/09/an-open-letter-to-odex/).

I feel the problem is information too. Nobody actually knows the potential market for anime. Nobody knows how many are downloaders and how many are buyers. In fans' view, ODEX underestimates the hardcore fans, believing them to be a minority of the total market. In ODEX's view, Hardcore fans overestimates themselves to be the biggest group of potential buyers. Who is right?

Another favourite arguement for fansubs is promotion of the series. Something like the "try before u buy" idea. Which was the original purpose of the fansubbers. Nowadays some fansub groups continues a licensed series, simply ignoring the code of honour. The temptation to just keep the downloaded version is probably too great for most. The "try before u buy" idea is only suitable for people with buying power, i.e the hardcore fans. They are able to get latest releases of DVDs via imports which are too expensive for the average viewer. However watching fansubs is like being exposed to a whole wide range of options, nobody, hardcore or not, would willingly go back to the confinement cell that is ODEX.

The anime community is slowly moving into society, the pioneers should be well into their 30s. As more and more of us infiltrates(lol?) the society, hopefully it will be easier to find people with power sympathic to our cause. Like this lawyer student in sgcafe, digging through the law books to inform us about the legal implications of certain actions. Some things I found interesting from his posts are, watching videos on youtube-like sites should not be chargeable (for the viewer), fansubbers could sue ODEX for using their translation of Gundam Seed Destiny without permission.

To me the part about youtube video seems to be based on how he interprets a "network" and viewing videos from it. Not being a law student makes me unsure about this. Haha.

The part on fansubbers sueing ODEX was just for interest. According to him in reality, since fansubbers could be sued in return by the japanese company, the fansubbers will never take a stand against licensing companies that uses their translation. This has been exploited by ODEX quite a few times, which I can only give confirmation from a person who once worked in ODEX. Unfortunately out of irritation I posted that info in sgcafe which his boss frequents and it sabo'ed him. I removed the post the next day but the damage was done, quite sorry about that.
14th-Jun-2007 01:38 pm (UTC) - Arlow
Yoz Darkenlore , its been a while ^_^

Am quite surprised that you feel so strongly about the political landscape of the Anime community on the anime piracy issue.


Well , the optimal suitation to me is , that translations for anime are quickly and professionally done in other languages.

One core reason for Fansubs prob is the language barrier issue and availability.

Pricing and quality wise , we can use Korean / Taiwan VCDs/DVDs as a benchmark of sorts.

Whats your optimal suitation to this current Tango ?


15th-Jun-2007 07:09 pm (UTC) - Re: Arlow
I feel there isn't really much point in trying to earn off video sales these days. Not until there is an update on copyright laws involving digital media over the internet. I doubt the Japanese companies themselves are earning much from video sales. Instead, I think they are earning from tv commercials and anime related products such as gundam models, figurines, calendars etc.

This seems quite probable if we consider that since the HDTV encryption has been cracked about 1.5 yrs ago, the more popular series have topped 1280x720 video resolution, as compared to the old 640x480 from tv rips. Normal DVD videos also have only a meagre 720x480 usually. Further more, HDTV is a digital format, which means less noises and less cleaning up needed as compared to analogue TV rips. Japanese fans themselves are heard to be keeping the unsubbed HDTV or even fansubs, a testimony to the quality.

Video sales is currently quite dead I believe, since no one seems to care about the biggest pirate that is China.
15th-Jun-2007 08:29 pm (UTC) - Adding on
Delving slightly deeper. Peter of ODEX, who is the big boss, used to frequent sgcafe. There, he gave me an impression that while eventually ODEX will produce something to cater to the real fans, ODEX's primary purpose was still to bring anime to the masses, so that they will have the capital to fund better releases. That didn't sit quite well with most of the anime fans i think.

Anime by most standard is a niche market (something like catering to small group of people with specific interests, such as gundam modelling). The way ODEX played it is like the taiwan, korean and japanese dramas, where they reach audience through television broadcast. That works for those types of dramas because they usually target the older people who aren't that tech-savvy and this group of people would rather save trouble by buying from shops.

Anime is different. The group of people likely to try animes are young and tech-savvy. If they see a show they like on tv, they are more likely to ask someone who they know has anime watching as a hobby. They will rely heavily on the recommendations and opinions of the hobbyist initially. If they gain enough interest, they will seek the sources themselves and be converted to fans :p. Truely, it is more likely fans become fans through other fans rather than ODEX's efforts.

The anime community itself is also divided into many clans. Sad to say due to the very nature of messages sent across in most animes (freedom of self expression, self-righteousness, be true to oneself, etc) and the inexperience of viewers (most are students and thus inexperienced in the ways of the working society), has caused some of them to be violently against the commercial exploitation of anything anime related. They feel anything done in the anime's name should be done for the love of the anime. Much like how fansubbers claim to sub for the love of their series and abhors any attempts by anybody to earn from their works.

There are 2 major cosplay clubs in Singapore. One is expectedly named as Singapore Cosplay Club. It has been around longer and has older members in its management. It is responsible for an annual cosplay event that happens usually in July. The shiroi tsubasa anime club (i think?) is the most recent incarnation of the Miyuki Anime Club that is responsible for the annual cosplay event that happens in December. It is run by younger people and was plagued with political issues that young people always seems to be involved in, causing it to be reformed.

The Singapore Cosplay Club is registered as a profit-making organisation. It also attempts to make the cosplay events it organises free for cosplay players by I think, getting sponsors in related industries. There was a call by the other faction of the anime community to boycott SCC's events a few years ago, due to them thinking that the sponsors were using them as cheap advertisement for their products. A recent coverage of cosplay due to singapore street festival (labelled as SSF in http://sgcafe.com/showthread.php?t=33786) has rekindled this arguement due to a mention that SCC has trademarked "Cosplay" in Singapore which many view as an attempt at commercialisation.

It is to be noted that the starter of the topic is 31 years old, who recognise the fact that a commercial entity was needed to (at least) represent the anime fans in Singapore, if there were to be any major anime event to be held here that needed Japanese support, such as bringing in voice actor/actresses. KeoKepa is a very well known critic in the forums who has valid points about the lack of transparancy of SCC's funding. However his reputation precedes him, making hard for most to deal with him in the right manner.

I think it takes alot of PR work to deal with the anime fans in Singapore and to toe the fine line between commercialisation and passion. Even if someone can do it, I doubt it is something to earn big bucks in.
15th-Jun-2007 08:32 pm (UTC) - Actually
hmm....ya know, If only I could know more about the top people personally, I think the drama going on would make a great anime.... lol
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