January 08, 2008
You just can't come at anime and manga from the same perspective [on copyright].
Manga is a great environment for fan works. There are plenty of one-man doujin operations. A good idea, a bit of talent, a little bit of cash, and you too can set up shop at Comiket. I hear of some official grousing, some "we wouldn't put up with it if we could stop it", but at the same time there's several pro artists who still play around with doujin too, and others who went from the doujin environment to the pros (sometimes not even changing their characters!)
There's still the moral rights issue, of course - who wants to draw a magical girl series only to see a ton of porn for it? (Niven's comments on fan-produced Kzin erotic stories are also relevant here.) But by and large, the entire thing operates in the lee of the law, as it were. The companies retain the rights to come in and drop the hammer, sure, but so long as the fans keep it to a dull roar, that hammer is not dropped. The "standards" that fans are expected to keep it under (mostly having to do with number of copies sold/printed) are well-published, so by and large nobody gets surprised.
(As an aside, that's harder in the US environment, because the authors aren't worried so much about the damage done by the fan work as they are the legal challenges it might present; nobody wants to have some fan write a story that's close enough to the one you've been working on for a year that they'll sue you for stealing THEIR idea! So authors here don't perceive that they can afford to let a fan community flourish in the same fashion. Were there a law stating that the original creator of a work cannot be sued by people who've created unauthorized derivatives of that work, this threat would be removed, and we too might have a Comiket...)
Anime is just plumb different. There is no fan anime. It doesn't happen. The creation of anime requires, to put it bluntly, a tremendous amount of scut work. Not only that, but it's not the kind of scut work you can farm out to unsupervised workers, because if it's not done to some fairly exacting standards, the result looks terrible. It can't be done open-source. You need to have someone with a creative vision (small group is fine, so long as they can come to agree) and a whole ton of people who adhere to that vision in the in-betweens.
That sort of project can't be done by the bazaar. You can't open-source it. Basically, you have to pay people to do it. (Yes, yes, Makoto Shinkai. He's the iron man! But it took him two years to produce ONE episode, and the moment he could set up a studio and get other people working with him, he did. Should tell you something about the feasibility of doing it solo...)
What all that means is that to get anime, you have to pay people to work on it. Anime is inherently commercial. It does not exist outside of the commercial market. If anime in general cannot make money, it ceases to exist wholly. No more 26 episodes of anything, ever. So keep that in mind - in a copyleft, non-profit environment, anime dies. The whole industry packs it in. Still with me?
That doesn't mean that every anime project must be profitable (they aren't) or that anyone watching a fansub is a baby-raping murderous bastard (they aren't). There's no point in talking about the jackboot of corporate influence in copyright enforcement when it comes to anime, though. There's practically no enforcement! They can't even afford to do it, so why trip out about it? It's not like the companies are consumer-unfriendly in other aspects either. ADV's probably responsible for releasing more unencrypted DVDs than -every other source of DVDs put together-, for example.
Where the US companies use DRM, keep in mind that you guys aren't the target. They're essentially resigned, by this point, to any US consumer who wants to pirate a show being able to do so, well before the US company could possibly stop you. That battle is -over-. What DRM there is, is there for the ease of mind of the Japanese. That's why you have region codes (so their gouged consumers don't buy our relatively-cheap discs) and the like.
The real danger is that you'll get a concentration of anime fans who not only pirate stuff, but for whom buying anime is utterly alien. There's always going to be a few cheapskates and a few broke kids, and they don't represent lost sales, really, because they were never going to make a purchase in the first place. But when you get entire communities of fans who don't buy, when pirating becomes something with no social stigma attached to it whatsoever... surely I don't need to go on about why that would be a bad thing? Not just for the US market, but for the Japanese producers who are relying on foreign licensing to make their budgets?
I watch plenty of fansubs these days. There's no point in my abstaining from them. I carried the company bucket on this issue, for a long time, in a more direct way than moralizing about it on a blog. It's a thankless task for which I received no thanks. So forget that. But even then, conflating the people in the anime industry with the *AA crowd is just stupid. These guys aren't evil. They don't act in evil ways. They don't screw people (at least, not with the judicial system, heh.) Nobody sits around and says "if we announce this title this weekend, they'll stop fansubbing it and nobody will get to find out how it ends, heh!" All they'd like is that people buy shows that they enjoy, and that's not so wrong, is it?
Have you changed the way the North American anime industry practices itself? Have you demonstrated to your employers to pay attention to the situation, on a serious, vision-casting way? I don't know how you carry that bucket but by the way you put things in your blog I don't know if you're even carrying the same bucket I'm talking about. Good luck carrying your bucket Mako-chan.
Posted by: omo at January 08, 2008 07:05 PM (KTrQC)
To be blunt, it isn't about any of those things that you mentioned. Copyright enforcement is a federal responsibility. Thus, copyright cases are federal cases. Copyright enforcement requires going to federal court. This is not cheap. The law compensates by offering large statutory penalties, but that doesn't do any good when the person you're suing has no assets worth naming - i.e. the vast majority of anime fans. Winning a $30k judgment against a poor person does not make money.
Anime companies aren't rich. They can't afford to spend money on copyright enforcement without the prospect of recovering some as a reward. The RIAA can say "eventually we'll cow enough people into submission that the increase in sales will compensate us", but they have several orders of magnitude more revenue to do it with (and, to be sure, profit margins that an anime company would commit murder for!) The RIAA hasn't had notable success in their legal campaign; it's foolish to think that anime companies would have greater success with their meager resources.
None of this is a result of late-breaking developments in Washington. It's basically an unintended consequence of having federal jurisdiction of copyright law; the federal judicial system is not well-equipped to deal with traffic-ticket sized offenses. It's not going to change either. You'd either have to set up a completely separate federal judiciary for copyright enforcement (huh, no), or amend the Constitution in order to change enforcement jurisdictions (even more unlikely).
I know that you think it's important that people get educated on the issue, and I do not disagree. But once you've done that, a certain amount of cynicism sets in. Nothing's going to change on these fronts - the problem with enforcement is systemic and a side-effect of a much larger issue that's totally unrelated - so why sweat it? The people in charge aren't, so I certainly shouldn't bother.
I didn't read the journal article, of course. You said its reasoning was nonsense. I don't believe that you're an idiot, so you're almost certainly right. Why waste my time? Rather than wade through dense political philosophy from an idiot's standpoint, shouldn't I work on Aika subtitles for your fanservice pleasure? ;p
And finally, my point is that I don't carry that bucket. I don't work for them these days (well, I do contracting work for other people, heh.) I'm not interested in being an apologist for the anime companies on the copyright issue. It's something they don't care about - or more bluntly, something they'd like to care about, but that they can't possibly afford to actually do anything about, so beyond a bit of complaining for public consumption, their hands are essentially tied. So if they won't put their money where their mouth is (and they have good reason not to, mind), why should I?
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 08, 2008 08:14 PM (LMDdY)
Are we just trains passing each other on parallel tracks?
And lastly, I suggest you give Creative Commons a look. That is really Lessig's baby. In light of the doujinshi situation, especially, that could be something really, really daring Japanese manga authors can do...in a few decades. We have to realize stuff like CC is not an answer to problems we have right now, it's a total new way of doing things going against the customary practices of today. And that's what we're fighting for. I was not talking about watching fansubs and the odds of being sued. It's about the right to do it outside the shadow of the law.
Posted by: omo at January 08, 2008 10:16 PM (KTrQC)
My contention is that anime is uniquely difficult to make in an open/creative commons/whatever way, because in-betweening is different from most of the jobs that go in to making a video production or what have you.
Let me contrast with subtitling. Of course you can get a show subtitled for free - it happens a lot even now, right? ;p If I felt that I wanted to help a project out, I could subtitle it and it wouldn't be too much of a big deal. Even if I was doing it for the pride of subbing, well, there's still that.
In-between work is not that nice. Nobody does it for free. It's not creative in any way - in fact, creativity specifically makes it bad. You have to follow along exactly with the key frames, or the show ends up getting off model and looking ugly. So it's skilled work - I sure as hell can't draw - but it's as close to being a human robot as you get. There's no room for your individual expression AT ALL. There's not even the pride of doing a clever hack that you'd get for, say, writing a module for Linux.
How the hell do you get someone to do that for free? That's why most fan-made animations are quite poor - they can get the key frames drawn, but you'd have to be an obsessed monomaniac to do the in-between work.
There's the stumbling block. If you can get software tools that make the in-betweening easier or faster, then you could get a few artists and a few actors and a few tech specialists together and make an anime. But for now, you need a horde of actual people to do it, and the only way anyone's ever assembled such a horde is to pay them.
If you have any ideas about this, share! Please. You could become rich! ;p
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 08, 2008 11:58 PM (LMDdY)
I have written a post about this here.
Omo, yes, you and Avatar are arguing past one another, and I explain how and why.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 09, 2008 01:03 AM (+rSRq)
Not that I'm really complaining about it being a thousand times faster, but that's not something the software gave me.
Unless high-end packages like Maya are way easier to use, I expect a whole lot of manual effort to be involved in anime production for years to come.
And then there's the voice acting. Not as mind-numbingly labour intensive, but certainly talent-intensive (there's a reason there's a huge fansub community and no fandub community) and not something one super-talented person can do for an entire show. Progress in speech synthesis has been absolutely glacial compared even to user interfaces for 3d modeling programs, so voice actors will continue to earn their pitiful wages for the forseeable future.
I'd comment on the main topic of the discussion, but it's late, I'm tired, and I've forgotten what it is.
Posted by: Pixy Misa at January 09, 2008 05:54 AM (PiXy!)
I would have to contest that even if fansubs are legal there will still be anime. Perhaps there will be a serious cutback to the current situation; less anime will be made (and that's not necessarily a bad thing...seen the new GSG anime? There's more anime now than ever, and the 90% SNR ratio holds true), but it'll still exist since far majority of anime made today are still based on a business model financed by, primarily, domestic Japanese consumption. It will require a change in business model (GASP!!) where they aren't relying US and oversea licensees as much as they do now. Or maybe they still will, when home video distribution model changes to provide an economically viable alternative to fansubbing?
Do you really think the typical Japanese TV viewer cares about fansubs? How about even the average Hapanese otaku who watches or stick those late night shows on their DVR, and lines up at Comiket and buy 6000yen/2ep DVDs? Do people really think if fansubs are legal, Japanese companies will stop making anime? Do you really believe Japanese anime industry will go belly up if Americans stopped importing their media? Sure, things will change, but its potential demise is drastically overstated.
All this is to say that Avatar's line of thought is one that is already victim to the status quo and the brokenness of the way today's copyright industries operate.
Posted by: omo at January 09, 2008 08:55 AM (hKoFz)
Posted by: firemage at January 09, 2008 09:47 AM (oUslv)
For fansubs to be legal, that implies no copyright on the actual Japanese production, or an unlimited permission to copy that anime extended from the Japanese company (i.e. some sort of "open" release). Under those circumstances, not only is there no foreign licensing money, there's no domestic DVD sales. (Who's going to plunk down that 6000 yen if you can just copy the result and distribute it freely, legally? A very small number of otaku, sure, but enough to pay to even have the DVD authored?)
This means the entire budget is coming from the TV studio. But wait! Another TV channel can also show the same show - they've got the same right to freely copy and distribute it as everyone else, don't they? So which TV network is going to pay for the production, when their competitors will just free-ride off of them when it's done? (No, they won't make it just to fill time. Anime's relatively expensive to produce compared to, say, a game show...)
So -every- revenue stream has died screaming. How do you propose to pay the production staff? Is there another possible source of income I've neglected to address? Merchandising rights sure ain't going to cover it...
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 09, 2008 12:24 PM (LMDdY)
Uh, no? All you need is a limited license for noncommercial use.
Posted by: omo at January 09, 2008 12:54 PM (hKoFz)
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 09, 2008 01:16 PM (LMDdY)
All you need is a limited license for noncommercial use.Which reduces the damage from instant death for all the anime studios to just mortally wounding them.
Copyright is intended as a contract between creative artists and the general public. Artists get a period of exclusive rights to the commercial benefits of their work (the right to produce copies); the public gets artists who don't quite starve to death.
There are two problems with this today: One is that the rights have swung too far in favour of the creators (with copyright terms being extended faster than the years pass). The other is that many content-creating industries have been utterly bypassed by technology. The music industry is the prime example of this; the entire studio contract and album release business is already dead and just hasn't stopped moving around yet. (Which is why the RIAA is so litigious; the clock is running down and they know it, so they're milking it for every penny.)
The anime (and TV and movie) industry isn't in as dire a situation, but they're tied up in a distribution structure that is decades old and inflexible. It would take very little actual work for the Japanese studios to release subtitled versions of their shows online for a dollar or two an episode, but the red tape would likely be horrifying.
Even so, that's almost certainly where things are headed as the internet swallows up every other form of communication. And explicit legalisation of fansubs will kill that future almost before it's born.
Without that, the only things we're going to be watching in 2018 are Hello Gundam 0084 and Squidashimon, a promotional series from the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture about marine cephalopods.
Posted by: Pixy Misa at January 09, 2008 06:16 PM (PiXy!)
Copyright is not just a mechanism between the creator and the public. It's a mechanism between the creator and the publisher, with a promise to the public. A full picture of how copyright works involves those three parties. I recommend you actually read my post and read the book I linked by Jessica Litman, called Digital Copyright. It's a measly 200-odd pages and you can read a good bit of it for free on Amazon.
I get the feeling a lot of people didn't understand my post. That's fine, I write like ass backwards anyways. (Or is that Avatar's dayjob? I kid.) But the greater sin is not read what I linked and then proceed to criticize my position, I think. My position is a pretty popular position but rarely stated because, well, there aren't a lot of people with JDs wasting away at dead end jobs that allows them the time to blog; plus it's a hard topic to fully grasp anyways, lawyer or not. I don't even know the half of it. However there are a fair amount of literature (albeit mostly academic) about these things, written by people who can actually write, and have first-hand dealing with all these issues. Go read that book.
Avatar: "For what possible reason would an anime company issue such a license?"
Why would they need to when the fans are already doing it? I mean, that's how it is. The line is drawn; you either sue, and if you can't, you might as well give it away. It's probably worth at least the good will and positive press it generates among the hardcore fans.
A lot of media companies are just panicking because they "can't" give it away. Sometimes the best way to adopt to changes is to embrace it, you know? They're going out of business one way or another unless they do something different. If they are satisfied fading into history with a finger pointing to blame piracy, so be it.
And please read up on creative commons before you reply. Namely creativecommons.org/about/
Posted by: omo at January 09, 2008 08:22 PM (KTrQC)
Copyright is not just a mechanism between the creator and the public. It's a mechanism between the creator and the publisher, with a promise to the public.To be more clear, copyright is a social contract between creators and the public. The concept of a publisher as we understand it today exists in light of that social contract.
But the greater sin is not read what I linked and then proceed to criticize my position, I think.Sorry, but your links suck. The first three contain nothing of interest, and after that, people tend to stop bothering to click. I clicked on the link for the Lessig presentation, and waited for it to load, and waited, and waited, and then closed it.
However there are a fair amount of literature (albeit mostly academic) about these things, written by people who can actually write, and have first-hand dealing with all these issues. Go read that book.What good is that? The problem isn't academic, the problem is commercial.
It's probably worth at least the good will and positive press it generates among the hardcore fans.Which is of little interest to a company that now has no income.
And I know what Creative Commons is. And as soon as you explain how it can directly generate revenue for an anime studio, it will become relevant.
Posted by: Pixy Misa at January 09, 2008 08:44 PM (PiXy!)
Omo, here's the key question:
Where does the money come from?
Until you offer a satisfactory answer to that question, all the rest of your rhetoric and links are obfuscation. You're still making an argument based on perceived morality and a feeling of entitlement. Until you address the fundamental economic issues, I won't take you seriously.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 09, 2008 09:44 PM (+rSRq)
The difference between "och, we can't sue because it's expensive and the people we could sue don't have any money" and "well, we'll just give the anime away" is simple - in the first model, you still have some revenue, and in the second, you don't. Not having revenue is bad, because that is how you are paying your in-between crew (and the rest, of course, but theoretically you could get other jobs filled in with volunteerism.)
I'm not trying to knock CC as a matter of course. I'm fully aware of the power of giving away something and then getting people to buy it if they like it. Baen Books has made -so- much money off of me that way! But I also like anime, and the CC model cannot be made to work for anime, not without some sort of nifty-keen advance in automation that makes in-between work a thing of the past. If you don't mind me saying so, I like anime more than I like esoteric copyright licensing schemes. I hope everyone here does - this is, more or less, an anime blog! ;p
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 09, 2008 11:27 PM (LMDdY)
I don't know if you know marketing, but when someone shows you a survey about microeconomics and social purchasing behaviors, you read that and you apply it to how you sell your product to max profit and min costs. It's just that. I don't know (highly doubt this) if any of the US based anime companies would pull a survey like the one I linked, which took 2 years to make. But somehow if these companies think they're making informed business decisions and still comes out condemning fansubbing, I'll defer to their NDAs and behind-door methodology. Just don't mind me when I laugh at their appeal to honest fandom and alienating their greatest supporters. Seriously. If you want to stop fansubbing, you might as well take an AK-47 and start shooting, if you're too poor to sue. Short of those alternatives, you just have to do the best you can. And sometimes it means getting your MBA and read what academics have to say, because it might help manage your business.
Pixy Misa: if you still can't load the Lessig flash, let me know and I'll post it for you. It rephrases some of the stuff you're saying, with less inaccuracies. The problem is not just commerical. It's social and practical. And it's really something I care a lot about. But on the flip side if I'm having a conversation with someone who doesn't really want to put in the effort to read a chapter of a book online for free, I can't force you to care.
And as a side nitpick, copyright is not a social contract. It's something that only exists by statute--copyright under common law was expressedly rejected and it was always a codified matter since its conception both in England and even earlier in continental Europe. A bit of legal history for you. And it has virtually nothing to do with the public, really. It's just a justification publishers and some legal scholars use to make us feel good.
Posted by: omo at January 10, 2008 12:22 AM (KTrQC)
But who says about giving it away? There's no giving away. You're still selling it. Don't pull that "I know what I'm talking about" nonsense. If someone pulls out a HK bootleg you still can do what you can to shut them down today.
The difference is in how people who care about your product enough to fansub it and write you passionate email to get it licensed perceive your operation. It's a viable alternative and it can work.
Posted by: omo at January 10, 2008 12:26 AM (KTrQC)
To put it bluntly, you're still not looking at it from a revenue perspective. There are plenty of fans who really like Geneon and wish they were still in operation. But they're not! At the end of the day, public perception is not as important as paying attention to your business fundamentals.
Seriously, though, where is the money coming from? If you're allowing people to distribute your product freely, what exactly are they paying you for? This ain't software, nobody needs technical support (even for Eva!)
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 10, 2008 02:37 AM (LMDdY)
And I think that's sort of my point at the very beginning. Companies go out of business from a wide variety of reasons and fansubbing is just one of them. We need a lot of data to see just how that kind of substitution effect work in real life, to go by beyond just sales numbers.
"Seriously, though, where is the money coming from? If you're allowing people to distribute your product freely, what exactly are they paying you for?'
It's already being distributed freely, yet people still buy anime if you can differentiate your product from what is being distributed. Admittedly "legal" is distinct from "illegal" but there are other practical reasons why. We all know fansub viewing is likened to watching the TV by today's standards, and there's a point to be made that if DVDs of TV shows can sell as it is given away for free for all practical purposes, anime can fit the same model using fansubbing. The rest of the problem is one of marketing and not one of "we must make it illegal to force people to buy."
Posted by: omo at January 10, 2008 06:31 AM (KTrQC)
What revenue? Companies that are making money go out of business too? I'm looking at a "what's happening today" perspective and trying to come up with (irrelevant to my original point in some sense) ways to help companies. It's totally plausible that it could work.
Posted by: omo at January 10, 2008 06:33 AM (KTrQC)
There are multiple ways to make money while your product exists for free.
1. Social Stature (have you watched Paris Is Burning?) -- buying the DVDs means that you are 'better' than the people who steal it . Or it shows that 'you are no longer a poor college student'. Or it 'shows your dedication to the show'. There are a variety of social ideas that would and do encourage people to buy Junk from popular shows (like posters. What good is a poster? you see it for a week, and never look at it again. In Reality, it shows your allegiance to a show, and your enjoyment of it). So, via merchandizing and the actual DVDs, you will gain a lot of money. Will it be the same amount? Probably not, but it might be more.
2. Building identification with the author. Somethingpositive.net, talesofmu.com, GirlGeniusOnline.com. The list goes on -- people who have created a fanbase that wants to support a particular author. Some subsidize by donations, others by selling print copies, and still others by selling plushies with switchblades. But the important thing is that all of these are feasible moneymakers.
I would pay twenty bucks that I don't have to see another season of Full Metal Panic.
Posted by: lbk at January 10, 2008 08:52 AM (xAAUf)
The second won't work in this case, though, because of two reasons. First, you're talking about a LOT of revenue here - you're not just supporting one creator and his family, but the whole staff needed to make an anime. Second, there's competing sources of merchandise - especially notable is going to be the original manga, which people are going to (rightly) associate with the creator of most shows. I mean, it's good thinking, but no go.
Omo, biggest problem with the TV metaphor is the totally different revenue model. Those TV shows were paid for during their original TV runs; any DVD revenue they get is a tasty piece of profit. Nobody's making TV shows at a loss and counting on DVD sales to make up the difference! (This does happen somewhat with movies.) Additionally, the difference in viewers is multiple orders of magnitude. Anime's still quite a niche product - even if you price it very cheaply, there's still a fairly hard ceiling on how many units you can possibly move. TV can live with a much smaller number of viewers purchasing, not only because they've already paid for the production of the actual show, but because a smaller percentage of viewers that purchase is still much larger in absolute numbers.
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 10, 2008 12:25 PM (LMDdY)
Building a culture that encourage buying is something that giving away some of your rights can do. Think of it as a social contract, except explicitly stated rather than tongue-in-cheekily enforced by fansubbing nerds. I believe it's a powerful statement that costs very little on the behalf of the license holders.
Posted by: omo at January 10, 2008 01:03 PM (hKoFz)
After all, it's all about making a profit, right?
Posted by: DrmChsr0 at January 13, 2008 12:15 PM (xRnpX)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 13, 2008 03:13 PM (+rSRq)
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 13, 2008 08:34 PM (LMDdY)
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