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Unethical Fansubbers

by Christopher Macdonald,
I just got off the phone with one of the nicest people in the Anime industry, and she was pissed off.

As you all probably know, Urban Vision holds the license for the new Ninja Scroll TV series. What you might have missed, is that UV is actually co-producing the show and that they are in fact one of the driving forces behind it. If it hadn't been for a pitch that UV made to Madhouse, there would be no Ninja Scroll TV series. In short, it's thanks to UV that the Ninja Scroll TV series is being produced.

Ninja Scroll is a very well-known title, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's being fansubbed. But it's not supposed to be fansubbed. For the most part, ethical fansubbers have long adhered to the rule that you do not distribute a title that has a North American licensor. But most isn't all. There are some fansubbers that give the activity a very bad name. One of those groups is Anime Junkies.

Anime Junkies has a huge list of licensed titles that they have fansubbed or are currently fansubbing and are available for download from IRC. They also make their fansubs available by BitTorrent. One of the great things about BitTorrent is that it is very easy for the original distributor to remove access to a fansub once it has been licensed. Unfortunately Anime Junkies hasn't done that. They have functional links to Torrent files for a number of licensed titles, including Ninja Scroll.

Urban Vision, thinking that Anime Junkies probably wasn't aware that the title was “licensed” wrote them a polite e-mail informing them that it was licensed and requesting that it be removed from distribution.

Anime Junkies' answer was anything but polite. The tirade of insults, curses and fallacies suggested that Urban Vision was doing something wrong and that Anime Junkies had every right to fansub licensed material and distribute it as an inexpensive, immediate alternative to the DVD release.

A few juicy tidbits from their reply: (the full e-mail can be read here)

“Leave fansubs to fans or do it for free yourselves. All you are doing is getting rich off a series we helped make popular.”

“Who the fuck are you anyways to buy a series we were doing?”

“You knew we were subbing, you know people fansub... So why the fuck did you start a DVD company?”

“Rot in Hell”

Shortly after this e-mail, my friend at UV had her mail-box flooded with more harassing and threatening e-mails.

Despite this, she still appreciates the work that some fansubbers do. Not all fansubbers are like this; many groups still show respect for the ethical guidelines that have always existed. Personally, I'm not sure if there's really any need for the fansubbing of brand new shows at all. But as long as the ethical code is respected, it's a start, and I respect the fansubbers for it. No one can argue with the fact that fansubbers helped build the North American anime market throughout the 90s.

To any fansubbers that are reading this: please show that you're better than Anime Junkies. Show respect for the American companies and the licensing process and remember why people started fansubbing in the first place. Don't forget that without companies like Urban Vision and the North American commercial market, many of your favorite shows wouldn't exist.

And don't forget: when a studio contacts you to remove a title, it's sometimes by request of the original creators. Some creators, such as Hideyuki Kurata, are renowned for wanting fans to see their projects by any means possible. Other creators would prefer that fans wait and see their shows in the best possible way, as even a very high quality digi-sub can't compare to a professional quality DVD.

As for Anime Junkies, I hope that everyone in the community turns their backs on them. It's the least that they deserve. I also hope that another company with more legal power really puts the letter of the law to Anime Junkies and shuts them down for good…or more.

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