A few months ago I talked about how a large American distributor of Anime called Geneon was going out of business, and also pointed out that this might be a sign of things to come.

At the time I said this:

Certainly the concept that linear media overlords can spoon feed content to a willing audience is an idea whose time has passed. DRM just becomes a way for the elite to prove how cool they really are, by crawling over each other in their efforts to crack it.  And the concept of file-sharing as a criminal lottery doesn?t seem to have stopped the phenomenon of peer to peer file sharing from growing leaps and bounds.  After all, the more people who are doing it, the less like it is that you?ll be the one who?s going to get caught.

Anime is currently screwed in the US because the licensing delays has reversed the equation. It’s the pirates who are providing the high quality content for America.  These fan-subbers, who are translating the shows within days, or even hours, of their initial airing in Japan, are creating valuable content, and giving it away.  Because, unfortunately for the Anime companies, un-translated shows have little or no value.

And this open letter from Anime News Network makes the argument with far greater depth:

As the anime industry has not given these customers what they want, these freshly empowered consumers are taking it themselves. Therefore, even if massive, expensive lawsuits were filed against fansubbers, the problem would not stop. Stopping current fansubbers would create a market vacuum. Fans would just find another way (and, as Odex recently discovered, they’d be very angry as well).

Before legal action will be effective, fansubs must be replaced. THERE HAS TO BE A LEGAL, INEXPENSIVE WAY TO WATCH NEW ANIME IN ENGLISH. Not necessarily own, but at least watch.

ADV Films and Funimation know this and have both attempted to fill this void with television networks, streaming and download services. However, neither can offer a show newer than a year old.

There are myriad ways of supporting such a venture. A low subscription price. Advertising. But it has to exist, and it has to be easier to use than bittorrent. It has to show new anime DAYS after it airs in Japan. It has to be available to most of the world. It can’t lock out Mac or Linux users. All of these are reasons people will use to justify continued piracy.

I’d recommend reading the whole piece.  It’s a well stated analysis by someone who passionately cares about seeing the content creators make money.

It also meshes perfectly with some things I’ve been told by my own “Industry insiders” as well as my early experiences putting DragonBall Z on the Internet (legally) back in 2000.

For better or worse, Anime is content’s canary in a coal mine that’s rapidly running out of air.  Seeing what, if anything, they can do about it will give us a preview of how the content providers are going to deal with our wired world.

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