Infringing anime downloads increase DVD sales

A thoroughgoing report from the Japanese Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry on the effect of piracy on anime DVD sales concludes that while some channels (rentals) are harmed by infringing downloads, others (sales) are helped. Which is to say: copyright infringement doesn't mean your business is doomed, it just means a small shift in emphasis and strategy:
"Estimated equations of 105 anime episodes show that (1) YouTube viewing does not negatively affect DVD rentals, and it appears to help raise DVD sales; and (2) although Winny file sharing negatively affects DVD rentals, it does not affect DVD sales," the researchers conclude.

"YouTube's effect of boosting DVD sales can be seen after the TV's broadcasting of the series has concluded, which suggests that not just a few people learned about the program via a YouTube viewing. In other words YouTube can be interpreted as a promotion tool for DVD sales," it adds.

The results of the Japanese research confirm that piracy does not always have to be associated with a decrease in sales. Similar effects have been observed for music piracy and book piracy as well.

Internet Piracy Boosts Anime Sales, Study Concludes

(Image: DVD collection, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from fabokun's photostream)



  1. So in essence, we humans are hoarders by nature and like collecting shiny things.
    Showing us more precious things makes us buy more.

    Colour me unsurprised.

  2. I would have appreciated if you made a editor’s note by the word Winny, pointing out it’s the Japanese equivalent of Limewire or Kazaa etc. I learned that a long time ago, but it didn’t click in until I stared at the word in confusion for two minutes.

  3. I think it’s common sense that if you’re the type of person willing to buy something, then giving free access to samples of that thing will make you more likely to buy it, while cutting off free access will make it less likely for you to do so.

    Conversely, if you’re the type of person who will only download things for free, you’re not going to buy it one way or another.

    In either case, cutting off free access doesn’t have much of a point. I can probably think of 20 examples off the top of my head of TV shows and bands I’ve put money into because I was able to get into it for free first.

  4. Not too sure I understand the download angle since the article quotes folks viewing videos on YouTube and other forms of embedded online media.

    1. If you can see it in your FireFox browser you can download it as it plays via any number of widely available plug-ins. If the imbedded player has a “percent loaded” indicator that means it’s downloading the whole video to your disk drive somewhere so you just keep track of “somewhere” and make a copy.

  5. This works for the same reason that the official manga publishers and rightsholders don’t crack down on doujinshi fan-works. They’ve seen that letting the fans tell their own stories with the publishers’ toys (their IP) makes the fans more likely to buy official merch.

    The imprimatur of Official/Authorised still counts for a lot; especially if – as the primary producer – you’re the one who can add value to the goods no-one else can match.

  6. There’s a deeper issue of semantics at play in this discussion.

    Defining ‘piracy’, like ‘terrorism’, is a matter of broad interpretation. If the conversation on the definition is narrowed, declarative (think Levett’s Law), and/or institutionalized then we find ourselves in an instance more that of a (myopic) power struggle than an exploration of reasonable limits and dynamic possibilities.

    I would never suggest that there is no such thing as piracy, just as I would not be so naive as to state that there is no such thing as terrorism or a terrorist; but, I would vehemently hold that the current conversation–dominated by big industry–is tragically narrowed as seen in this report (amongst many others).

    Imagine, if you will, what the result could be if we placed today’s dominant attitudes towards copyright imposed upon Shakespeare’s century.

    An example closer to home for me comes in the difference between copyright rules and education when compared between Canada and the US. In the US you can show virtually any legally available media to your class provided it is for “educational purposes.” However, in Canada, you can only show what is licensed to a particular board of education (in turn often determined by that board’s financial state).

    Yet, by showing any and all (legally obtained) media I would be, in essence, advertising and promoting for free. I am not, if I am doing my job as an educator well, showing the film for entertainment purposes, rather for pedagogical purposes; yet, if my board does not have a license to for a certain film, I cannot show it.

    I could, perhaps, understand this if the opposite wasn’t the case in the US (a predominant definer in copyright, not just a military might).

    The singular motive behind this cannot, then, be copyright infringement. It is, rather, that this aspect of resource is seen as lucrative here in Canada–to the detriment of education, students, and–I believe–the industry.

    CRIAA, in an odd way, is far more draconian and greedy that RIAA, it would seem…

  7. One thing about anime in particular is the regional release aspect. The shows play in Japan, and are available often less than a week later with extremely high quality fan-produced subtitles. If you wait the year or so (if a very popular series – less popular stuff you may never see) for the DVDs to appear in the US, you get rewarded with vastly inferior subtitles in most cases, and shitty dubs. And, you’re a year behind the discussion by the “cool kids” talking about the latest series online.

    This is a really interesting business opportunity, I think – hire the people doing fan-subs (on a part-time contract basis perhaps), get the rights from the Japanese studios to release at the same time (or a week later) as the airing in Japan, and stream them online either netflix pay-style or supported by advertising. Provide all the extra cultural information the fan groups provide, too, which is one of the key missing elements from the DVD releases.

    The US anime distributors are not completely brain-dead, but there’s massive room for improvement, and a major opportunity for growth I think.

    1. Funimation, Anime News Network, and Crunchyroll all offer free streaming of anime series (with CR a paid option if you want it sooner), some even after the Japanese broadcast. Netflix also has stuff available for streaming or DVD rental. And iTunes and Amazon have episodes to buy. So there’s not much of an excuse any more.

      And I wouldn’t always trust fan translators over the professionals. There are tons of examples of shoddy fan translations, either getting it wrong or leaving in random untranslated Japanese words for some false sense of “authenticity.”

      1. “(Translator’s note: keikaku means plan)”

        “People die if they are killed…”

        “So this is the power of The Power!” (granted, I like that one)

        “Are you aware of the frequent occurences of the mass naked child events within the country?”

        Though I think Strato goofed in the opposite direction by translating “moe” as “turn-ons” — “charm” might’ve worked better.

        1. I don’t watch anime, so I wouldn’t know, but maybe, just maybe that’s what it says in the original? Japanese literature at least seems to full of non-sequiturs like that. I recently read the following sentence in a Murakami novel, so nothing suprises me anymore ;-) (crappy translation from Japanese by me):

          The brain is different from a toaster and also different from a washing machine.

          1. Which one? “Mass naked child events”? That one was a bona fide mistranslation. Other fansub groups translated the relevant Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex line as “Do you know about the kidnappings in this country, which involves foreign mafia?” and “You know there have been mass abductions here involving overseas mafia recently, right?” I don’t know what the official translations (subtitle or dub) are.

        2. “Moe” is only “charm” if you think it’s charming for a fully grown woman to act like she’s a shy 15-year-old. And that there is a problem. “Lolicon” is a very nice word, makes it sound really legitimate to ogle a pre-teen. Doesn’t change what it actually is.

    2. There’s one big thing to remember here: as far as I can tell, this study only covered Japanese viewers. I can’t be certain, not being able to read Japanese, but since they included non-Japanese cartoons like Ben 10 Alien Force (which would only be called “anime” in Japan) and anime unavailable commercially outside Japan (or at least in the States) like Yes! Precure 5 GoGo, Kodomo no Jikan, Mokke, and Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei, I’d bet on it.

      If we were to ask about the international fandom, which has thoroughly integrated infringement into its culture, you’d need another study or three. Do note, though, that the RIAA’s mass-lawsuit tactics have been used very little by US anime companies — Funimation’s recent lawsuit is an anomaly, and I think most would agree that they’re going about it much more reasonably than the RIAA. The industry as a whole, and Funimation in particular, has also been taking huge steps toward providing legal alternatives — go to their website or YouTube page, and you’ll find dozens of anime series streaming full episodes, often the entire series (in the US). Not to mention the simulcasts they’ve done for series like One Piece, Hetalia: World Series, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, along with most shows broadcast in the noitaminA block since last spring (such as the currently-running Fractale and last spring’s The Tatami Galaxy). They’re very much in touch with their fandom.

      (By the way, I would strongly question the claim that fansubs, by and large, are “better” translations. It’s certainly nothing I’ve seen a professional claim, and my own experience agrees that by and large, their quality is to say the least highly variable. Granted, the official Hayate the Combat Butler subtitles have more than their share of typos, and Crunchyroll’s shows are…also variable.)

  8. Am I the only one who noticed this:
    “Funimation announced lawsuits against *1337* alleged BitTorrent downloaders.”

  9. A guy I work with is always talking about how the availability of downloads increases sales, but, despite having a dozen terabyte external drives filled with JP television shows, books (that fell of a truck and into his computer) and recent comic books (which also magically fell off a truck), he brags about not having spent a dime on any media in over a decade.

    As the price of storage has dropped and the ease of downloads increased, have DVD & Blue Ray sales really skyrocketed? Last time I checked, media sales were spiraling downwards.

  10. Actually, the anime fan base outside of Japan has known this for years. How many people are willing to buy a DVD for a movie or TV series they haven’t seen? Even if you are, would you do it for a show you’ve never heard of?

    Fansubs and free streams are pretty much the only relevant form of advertising for anime series now. Almost everybody learns about new series by watching the free stuff, or from people who have watched it. Their advertising money is pretty much limited to letting the fans know that the commercial release is finally coming out.

    For the most part the only people who buy anime stuff are people who are already a fan of the series. Kill the fan subs and other free sources, and your potential customers will just end up buying something else instead. Handle it badly enough, and the fans may actually come to despise you.

  11. Fansubs of anime and stuff seem to be all over the Internet with little or no effort by the publishers to stop it. It’s free publicity to the whole English-speaking world. Now I sit awaiting my Saturday night One Piece fix…

  12. This is the big happy fantasy of Boing Boing that pirating is somehow magically increasing sales of what is being pirated. It’s BS. I am a working composer and musician and things have never been so bad, all the film people I know are watching their industry die. It’s the reality of things so you have to adjust and I do have a career. No one wants to pay for your work as an artist. The public does not want to pay for music, clubs don’t don’t want to pay you to perform. Which is why allot of my mates go to Europe to make a living. We will still have art in this country but it’s becoming an art seen of administration and professional amateurism. Which is fine, but just don’t pretend it’s something else.

  13. The thing with fansubs is that they’re legal as long as no one owns the rights in the nation in which they’re being distributed. Basically there’s no one to file the claim because no one actually owns it in that region. All that changes once someone buys the license state-side. Most of the more responsible and conscientious immediately stop fansubbing at that point, some wait until they get C&Ds (which does happen), and the dregs keep right on doing as they please.

    There are a few animes I first saw as fansubs and then purchased as soon as they became available in the US, so I guess I’m part of this trend.

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