Part of me feels like piracy will never stop being such a charged topic in this community. While piracy and talking about piracy will always be relevant, I don’t typically talk about it in editorials because there usually isn’t much to expand on and there isn’t much of an idea to share. Piracy is, in most common cases, bad and a lot of people who follow the law more often than not and go out of their way to support creators know this and push this idea. It’s by no means an incorrect idea, but I feel like more often than not people don’t like seeing the other side of a piracy argument. As a creator, someone who supports other creators through things like artist commissions and purchasing physical media, and a consumer, I of course have an opinion on piracy. Back last year I talked about how piracy could be looked at from the other perspective but with piracy-related things surfacing this year with things like KissAnime being (presumably) targeted by FUNimation, Nyaa’s original site being shut down, and show acquisitions by Anime Strike along with impatient fans waiting for Netflix to release the much awaited Little Witch Academia television series pushing people to pirate instead of use the legal avenues available by them has made piracy a bit more relevant than usual.
Something I’d like to do is instead of look at every side of the argument and dissect and do research like so many others already have, I want to share an opinion about something that can deeply effect me; especially because of the state I’m in with my growing career as a creator. While anyone that follows me on Twitter knows this, I do more writing than just weekly editorials on Anime Corps. I do independent posts on my own heavily inactive blog which I don’t get any pay for, but I also have self-published two novels and due to my starting position in this massive creative industry, piracy can hurt and effect me in many ways. While I’m opposed to piracy, I don’t necessarily despise it, and for good reason.
Luckily, I’m obscure enough to where if my works are getting pirated I don’t know where they’d be and I doubt many people would steal them. For explanation’s sake, however, let’s just assume that my works are being pirated despite my doubt and let’s take in the 962 free reads across all of the sites I’ve legally uploaded my novels to into consideration as well. I can safely say without sharing too much that I have earned somewhere in the ballpark of $100 USD from all of my book sales total from the minute my first novel went live, with each book costing $8 USD. Let’s say I only get $2 USD from each sale (which isn’t the case), then if every free read alone was a purchase I’d have made instead over $2,000 USD in royalties which is obviously a drastically larger amount of earnings. Assuming there’s piracy in the mix as well, well over $2,000 could be made off of my work; again I cannot stress enough that I have an extreme doubt my novels are being pirated.
I feel like that comparison is worth looking at for anyone who isn’t in, or trying to get into, the creative industry. If in three years you could have made $100 or $2,000 the choice is obvious. In plain numbers, the amount of impact a free avenue has on even just me, someone who’s fairly unknown and has an incredibly minuscule following when compared to larger names in the industry, could not be clearer. From a purely business perspective, I could say I’ve lost about $1,900 (95% of theoretical earnings) in sales due to only legally free options. So let’s talk about this for a little bit. Let’s put aside the implications of 962 free readers, the impact of sharing, and how many sales a growing free audience could theoretically yield for a minute and just look at the cold numbers.
95% of the money I could make, I didn’t. Without going into why I’m not more bothered by this than someone else might assume I’d be and also while massively overly simplifying, imagine if we applied that number to anime. If a nobody like me who’s productions are funded by a practically non-existent audience (when in comparison to the rest of the industry) can “lose” 95% of their earnings, what if every anime studio out there was hit just as hard because of illegal means? Undoubtedly, there are more pirates in the anime community than legal consumers, while this isn’t backed up by fact it’s a very easy assumption to be made based on things like Crunchyroll only reaching 1,000,000 paid subscribers in February of this year compared to the 15,972,871 views of the series Attack on Titan alone on KissAnime. So let’s apply the same broad assumption to these numbers. Let’s assume Wit Studio got $2 USD per view of their show, and let’s assume that all 1,000,000 Crunchyroll subscribers watched Attack on Titan (which obviously isn’t the case). That’s $2 million USD versus over $33 million USD “possible earnings”; 96.2% of the money the could theoretically make in this hypothetical world is “lost” from the western audience alone on one show.
Obviously, this is over simplified, and even if Crunchyroll does a cost per view payout to studios the number they pay is likely infinitely less than $2, but the percentage remains the same. 96.2% of possible earnings lost; even in an over simplified world, that number is enormous. It isn’t necessarily the type of thing you can just equate to any other job because the creative industry is more complex than that, but imagine for a minute if you could have 96.2% more money than you have now, and imagine the only reason you don’t have it because people didn’t want to pay you for work you did. From a business perspective this is more or less what it boils down to. More than likely, the number is even bigger if you take into account how many people torrented the show, and how many people illegally streamed the show on other sites. Despite anime’s growing popularity in the west, the reason we aren’t being considered as a major market and as a reason to get things like Deadman Wonderland season two or full anime adaptations of exceptionally well done OVA series’ is because of that 96.2% lost.
As a creator or as just a person, that much of your possible earnings being gone is ridiculous. If I was only in it for the money, I would not even dare try and create an anime or even still try to continue writing novels for that matter. While love for the craft drives 100% of the work done in the passionate parts of the creative industry, passion can’t pay bills, passion can’t pay employees, and passion can’t feed families. This is what hurts the most when I try to give away Crunchyroll guest passes and people don’t take them because it’s Crunchyroll, this is what hurts when people default to asking if something can be consumed for free instead of for a price, this is what hurts when KissAnime is a more well known name to someone than Sentai Filmworks. More than anything, this is what bugs me. The absolute avoidance of supporting something created when perfectly legal options exist.
Before someone begins disagreeing with me too much, I know all too well that not everything created and wanted to be consumed is available, and I don’t hate people or even disagree with them for turning to fansubbing groups when they want to watch something that’s in licensing hell like the glorious and amazing Nichijou was for a good chunk of time. Also, trust me, I’m going to get into why I don’t despise pirating in just a moment, but the most important side of the argument can’t just be ignored. Even in my editorial last year I said I understood if someone pirated now with the intention to pay later, but understanding and accepting aren’t the same thing and purchasing later down the line doesn’t mean pirating doesn’t hurt the industry. I’m glad more and more people are buying the box sets of anime they torrented, I’m more and more people are migrating from sites like KissAnime to sites like Crunchyroll, and I’m glad pirates are turning into legal consumers. What irks me is that the problem exists in the first place and that free is an absurdly more demanded method of consumption than even paying small subscription fees for works.
So for a minute, let’s put into consideration what good piracy can do. I wouldn’t be surprised if a good portion of my regular audience was pirates and I know many people who either still pirate or once did, including myself, so what good can piracy do? The one and only thing that piracy can do that is 100% good, as in nothing negative arises from the up side, is making otherwise unavailable productions consumable and creating a market for it. Going back to the previous example of Nichijou, until FUNimation picked it up recently, this show was completely unwatchable anywhere in the west in a legal way. While people might argue you could have bought the BD box sets from Australian scalpers, the prices were so absurd and the number of sellers was so scarce, it might as well have been impossible so I’m going to consider it as such. What watching Nichijou could and what it might have actually done (I don’t work for FUNimation or know anything about their decision making process, so I can’t say for sure) is shown there is a massive interest of a production and where there is massive interest, there are people willing to purchase the offered goods that were previously non-existent.
Other than this, however, as a creator I can’t say I like piracy for any reason but that. I can’t justify watching a show available through Anime Strike or being delayed for release on Netflix illegally because the avenue is there. I know it’s an incredibly anti-consumer thing to say just spend money don’t worry about the ramifications, and trust me I know just not watching anime you can’t reach behind a $160 paywall isn’t a reasonable request either. For every box set you end up buying because of a show you watched pirated that also had a legal streaming service owning rights to is money lost. For every piece of merchandise you swear is supporting the industry more, there is money lost. Piracy can do incredibly little good, and that incredibly little good is more of a norm in this community than any other I’ve ever been in. If I want to watch a movie, the right away is that it might be on Netflix, not torrenting. If I want to play an indie game, the first instinct is to check out Steam, not piracy. If I want DRM free music, I check Bandcamp, not illegal download sites. While I’m not perfect and I have done my fair share of piracy in the past, the amount of piracy that goes on in this community is frankly stupid, and it makes no sense that our first instinct should be wondering which group will be torrenting the shows we want to watch. Plain and simple; the opinions of a creator.
Been awhile since I’ve written a post that I felt like would get a lot of people disagreeing with me. Also been awhile since I’ve written an almost 2000 word long post with no images. Nonetheless, thank you for reading this week’s editorial. I have little doubt this topic will create a little bit of a stirring in opinions, and I’m not opposed to people disagreeing with me by any means so please, leave your thoughts in the comments below; I read every comment and I’m always interested to see what you all think each week. As always if you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m not writing for this blog, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I’ll see you all next week!
The featured image for this post was drawn by 地方民.
– TorrentFreak: FUNimation Targets ‘Pirate’ Streaming Site KissAnime
– TorrentFreak: Anime Torrent Site NYAA Goes Down After Domain Name Deactivation
– Crunchyroll Surpasses Over One Million Paid Subscribers