Anime Piracy and Bootlegs



  • At some point in time, it’s always good to discuss piracy and bootlegs when it comes to anime.

    In the case of piracy, it goes without saying that it hurts the industry, especially on the North American side of things. I also find with all the legal streaming resources that there is really no excuse for it these days. We have Funimation and Crunchyroll that have massive libraries of anime for everyone’s viewing pleasure; and that’s only two out of many.

    This is where we need to ask the question: how does one identify an illegal streaming site? It has been pointed out already, but there hasn’t been a “go to” thread for it yet.

    A good way to tell if a site is streaming legally licensed content or not is to see if they have a disclaimer or FAQ page mentioning that they aren't responsible for any of the content, it's likely an illegal site. If their videos are uploaded onto veoh, dailymotion, youtube, or other sites that allow anyone to upload content, as opposed to hosting it themselves, there's a good chance it's not legal streaming.

    Next up is bootleg merchandise, it’s something that can be a value to everyone, and it is something to discuss.

    The catalyst that prompted me to make a thread in the first place was some YouTube videos of panels hosted by voice actor Greg Ayres on the topic of bootleg anime. If you guys want to check those videos out, all you need to do is punch “Greg Ayres bootleg panel” into the search and you get a whole list of videos, and they’re pretty good to say the least. In these videos he explores how to spot bootleg material in order to avoid buying it.

    Can you imagine paying full price for a product and realizing it’s not even official or of lower quality?

    Some ways I learned how to spot bootleg product was an experience I had quite a few years ago now, I remember getting the Ranma ½ OVA box set at HMV and paying well over $70 for it; that’s three discs, 12 episodes. Not too bad for price, but that’s because it was on clearance, it has a nice plastic sleeve on it, it folds open; generally a very nice looking set.

    Around the same time, a friend was bragging to me that they got the exact same set for only $40 at another store. He showed it to me and at first glance it looked great, the case was different, it had only two discs; which are why I assumed it was cheaper, but I was wrong. At first I actually felt like I had gotten burnt in my purchase, however, he left his set at my place over night. The next day, I looked over the set and examined it closer; this time comparing it to my set. It was then the answer came to me; my set had the licencing information along with the VIZ logo, his set had nothing on it, I bought my set from a corporate store, he bought his from a little shop that had recently opened. I then realized his set was a fake set. I also found out another way of identifying if a set is counterfeit is if there are characters on the box from other anime that do not appear in the title purchased. I believe on one video Greg Ayres shows a Neon Genesis box set and you see Shinji and Asuka on there, but then some other random girl who’s not even on Evangelion. Of course there is more to it; for those who do know even more about this; share your expertise.

    It doesn’t stop there; I have come across some other bootleg merchandise that I actually bought myself thinking it was official. It wasn’t until years later, actually last year I found out two of my wall scrolls are fake. I ordered a few Queen’s Blade wall scrolls off of Amazon last year; they were pretty expensive but when they arrived I noticed something immediately; the cloth used to make them was a lot heavier, more dense and of higher quality. They all had HobbyJAPAN copyright information, the plastic rims on them felt smoother; there was something different about these in comparison to some of my other wall scrolls. I also noticed that they came from a dealer/distributor in Japan.

    So I looked over my other scrolls, a Sesshomaru one I had bought at Chapters was real; it was a little heavier and nicer along with a couple others. However, I came across two wall scrolls that I knew were bootleg; the cloth had a more plastic like feel while my other ones felt more like actual cloth, it was also very thin and felt cheap in comparison to my other scrolls.

    So, there you have it, basically it is always good to look closely at what you buy; if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If it looks like it was cheaply made it probably is, if it smells weird; which I’ve come across some DVD’s and figures that do; they’re probably bootleg.

    Obviously this isn't the whole story; since I'm not into manga I'm sure those of you who are can comment on that, also, for those who want to add about warning signs or red flags there's room for more contribution.



  • This is my opinion but buying used dvd's or other media is not much different from buying bootlegs. Lets say you buy a used anime from a dvd store that costs $30, well that store only gave $3 or $4 max to the person they bought it from and the anime publishers get no money from that sale

    One sure way never to get a bootleg is buy from Rightstuf.



  • IMO Piracy is never justified. Just because you have the internet, that doesn't give you the right to take anything you want from it. Media is not nesseccary for survival. It's not like your stealing milk & bread to Feed yourself & your children. Your just illegally downloading something because you can. And that's wrong. Given on rare occasions some companies &/or creators don't mind fan distribution of their program to a certain degree, but most of the time, your probably Just gonna piss em off.

    And yeah sometimes you don't have legal access to everything you want, but oh well. Tough cookies. I wanna watch more Case Closed the what Funimation put out, doesn't give me the right to watch the rest through illegal means.

    As for bootlegs. Yeah, gotta be careful, specially when buying online or cons!



  • Protip for spotting bootleg Blu-rays: if it's listed as "region free", there's a very high chance that it's fake.



  • Yeah, gotta watch for bootlegs. Bootleg merchandise can sometimes be hard to tell apart from the legit stuff, but there are things to look for that give it away, and if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Some figures require only one glance to tell it's a fake, but others are pretty well done so you have to look closer, at both the figure AND the box. For DVDs, knowing what the legitimate sets look like beforehand helps. And region 0/region free usually means fake, but there are exceptions. I've not heard of any kind of bootlegs for manga. The easiest way to avoid bootlegs is to buy from official retailers.

    @Chrisc:

    This is my opinion but buying used dvd's or other media is not much different from buying bootlegs. Lets say you buy a used anime from a dvd store that costs $30, well that store only gave $3 or $4 max to the person they bought it from and the anime publishers get no money from that sale.

    Eh, the difference is that bootlegs send no money back ever and by buying them you're just supporting illegal activity. Used DVDs are legal copies of the show that somebody paid for once upon a time which sent money back to the publisher/creator.



  • I support Funimation's simulcasts because they're free and easily available. I do the same for shows that simulcast on Hulu. I don't support Crunchyroll because I can't justify spending money on television shows that I don't physically own, so I have alternative means of watching the simulcasts I want to watch in high quality

    I can understand people with a greater sense of morals than myself that avoid pirating for shows that have been licensed by North American distributors, but to be perfectly honest I don't think I quite understand the point of not watching a show you want to watch if it hasn't been made available in your region from any licensing company, and doesn't appear as though it will ever be



  • @Riles, Maybe because just because you have the ability/power to do something doesn't mean you should. I really don't understand the lengths people will go to, to justify a form of theft, and not even over something beneficial towards your survival, just something as trivial as, I'm bored and I want to watch this but it's not legally available where I live, so what the f*ck, guess I'll just steal it/ watch a stolen copy off a website!

    It's like ol uncle been says with great power, comes great responsibility. Sad so many people a use set powers for such petty reasons. Then again, I guess that is part of human nature, for better or worse.

    Seriously, if your gonna steal something, at least do it for something that makes sense or is nesseccary for survival , not just , I'm bored so I'm going to torrent/ illegally stream this anime because I can. That….is weak. Far too many people these days are horrid when it comes to the net and their sense of entitlement it brings.

    As the old song goes, you can't always get what yea want. I think people often forget that.

    Edit: I hate typing on this damn iPad, soooo much.



  • I'd actually argue that it's companies that have increased entitlement over the internet since some companies can somehow justify putting a price on everything, like withholding simulcasts for paying subscribers only while other sites promote free simulcasts. Piracy countermeasures wouldn't exist if not for greed and entitlement from the company's perspective

    I'm not defending or supporting either side of the discussion, mind you, but I will certainly say that illegally watching a show that cannot be distributed to me legally is definitely not the evil incarnate that some people make it out to be



  • I agree companies are greedy and entitled, that's nothing new, they've been like that sense far before the Internet was around. And I agree that when a company is doing something blatantly wrong in any way shape or form they should be called out on it.

    But for me with piracy, it's not really the companies I care about, it's all the other people that worked hard to make the product. It's kind of a middle finger to the artist/writer/etc of the work in my opinion. Again some don't mind, heck there's creators that are completely fine with &/or support free/fan distribution of their work. Others however are very protective. So it can be a middle finger to the creator(s) and little guys involved with the project more at times then the big wigs.

    And stealing. From greedy scalpers, sadly makes you no better then Set scalper.

    I do agree its understandable to see why people partake in piracy and the creation of bootleg media, but it is something that is over all detrimental to the industry, and may well cause cooperations to take rash actions that could have a negative effect on all customers. Heck, DRM restrictions are already annoying enough as is! *. What do you mean I can't make my own custom Blu-Rays with anime & toons I've downloaded off of iTunes…ugg!!! XD *



  • I can see why people would want so see an anime that is being streamed on like dailymotion.com illegally that's not being streamed any other way, but Downloading off torrent sites is totally stupid.



  • I'm not a proponent of piracy, but I don't think it is that big of a deal. I don't accept the notion that "every piracy is a lost purchase": if someone is going to pirate anime when it is so easy to get legally then I have doubt that they would have bought it if they couldn't have pirated it. I also believe that DRM inspires piracy because it is such a pain in the neck ;)

    History is filled with examples of companies not innovating or making bone-headed decisions that they think will make them more money but it turns out that they couldn't see the forest for the trees. I think that anime companies are another entry in the history books on that as they did not rush to embrace the internet or streaming and I can't help but think that the success of quasi-legal streaming sites and download sites finally opened their eyes to this.

    When it comes to Piracy and Funimation I'm ambivalent as, back in 2010, they bragged at Otakon about how they joined a coalition to take down OneManga, the manga "streaming" website that has yet to be equaled in selection, security and ease of use. Killing it before there was a legal alternative that was at least as good seems dumb to me. Also, Funimation enlisted the help of "badass" lawyer Evan Stone to ruin the lives of people who pirated an episode of One Piece, the equivalent of the cops giving you a life sentence for jaywalking.



  • @neonwalrus:

    The catalyst that prompted me to make a thread in the first place was some YouTube videos of panels hosted by voice actor Greg Ayres on the topic of bootleg anime. If you guys want to check those videos out, all you need to do is punch “Greg Ayres bootleg panel” into the search and you get a whole list of videos, and they’re pretty good to say the least. In these videos he explores how to spot bootleg material in order to avoid buying it.

    [This panel? I know he's done the panel a few times, but I'm curious if he's done any recently with more up to date information.

    @Renzokuken:

    Protip for spotting bootleg Blu-rays: if it's listed as "region free", there's a very high chance that it's fake.

    This is more accurate for DVDs, since I believe most Japanese produced anime Blu-rays are released as Region Free, but those are generally easier to spot, since they're typically 2-3 episode at $60-90 a pop.

    @Riles:

    I support Funimation's simulcasts because they're free and easily available. I do the same for shows that simulcast on Hulu. I don't support Crunchyroll because I can't justify spending money on television shows that I don't physically own, so I have alternative means of watching the simulcasts I want to watch in high quality

    A number of shows simulcast on CR are Sentai titles, and will be getting a physical release from them, and not all Funi or Viz simulcasts are guaranteed to get a release on home video, so this argument just sounds like a justification after-the-fact to me.

    @sidereal_presence:

    I'm not a proponent of piracy, but I don't think it is that big of a deal. I don't accept the notion that "every piracy is a lost purchase": if someone is going to pirate anime when it is so easy to get legally then I have doubt that they would have bought it if they couldn't have pirated it. I also believe that DRM inspires piracy because it is such a pain in the neck ;)

    Perhaps it's not 1:1, but even if 10% is lost sale, that's a huge number for shows like Naruto, One Piece and Attack on Titan.

    When it comes to Piracy and Funimation I'm ambivalent as, back in 2010, they bragged at Otakon about how they joined a coalition to take down OneManga, the manga "streaming" website that has yet to be equaled in selection, security and ease of use. Killing it before there was a legal alternative that was at least as good seems dumb to me. Also, Funimation enlisted the help of "badass" lawyer Evan Stone to ruin the lives of people who pirated an episode of One Piece, the equivalent of the cops giving you a life sentence for jaywalking.

    If I remember correctly, the crackdown OP downloaders was prompted by pressure from Toei.

    The best defense against unintentional bootlegs is being knowledgable about the distributors, retailers and products. Recently, I'm more worried about getting a bootleg figure, since I do almost all my disc shopping through Amazon or Right Stuf.](http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2284E6F23A3632FF)



  • If I remember correctly, the crackdown OP downloaders was prompted by pressure from Toei.

    That doesn't make it any less disturbing. The "Nuremberg defense" :(

    I'm not sure Funimation would have needed much pressure to do this as they gloated all those years ago about how they took part in the coordinated assault that killed OneManga. I do wonder if Funimation's zealous drive to "drop the hammer" on any pirates that it can find and to have its material removed from as many piracy sites as possible have kept piracy of Funimation stuff more popular than it otherwise would have been, sort of like the Streisand Effect.



  • I've used illegal streaming sites and still do. However, I do have my reasons.
    If a series is available to buy for a relatively cheap price (here in the UK that's mainly older stuff, unless I want to import from the USA and pay a bit extra due to tax and strange exchange rates, sometimes up to double the price!), I'll buy it; but not before I've checked it out online. I prefer dubs as well, so finding a site that legally streams dubbed anime for free is difficult and I don't see the point in paying money to watch something so I can choose whether to buy it or not.
    Personally, I don't see how I'm "hurting the industry" if I'm buying 90% of what I watch online.

    A lot of this may be down to where I live however, because if I lived in the USA, I could stream stuff from here and I wouldn't be limited by region codes and have to pay import tax on 90% of the stuff I buy.



  • @Swordy537:

    I've used illegal streaming sites and still do. However, I do have my reasons.

    Personally, I don't see how I'm "hurting the industry" if I'm buying 90% of what I watch online.

    I also buy 90% of what I watch online, the only stuff I don't buy is what doesn't get licensed. I did join Crunchyroll this season but only because everything I watch is being simucast before the subs go on other streaming sites and the quality is 10 times better.



  • @EyeOfPain:

    A number of shows simulcast on CR are Sentai titles, and will be getting a physical release from them, and not all Funi or Viz simulcasts are guaranteed to get a release on home video, so this argument just sounds like a justification after-the-fact to me.

    Oh no, it's not any sort of justification at all. I just really dislike CR for delaying their free users a week, and I find it ridiculous that any company would ask for payment from consumers for subbed simulcasts

    I'd just as soon use The Anime Network over CR for most "simulcasts", if not for the problem that they're typically always five weeks behind because of whatever licensing restrictions they have. If I had to pick one or the other as the only choices available, I'd pick The Anime Network ten times out of ten



  • @Renzokuken:

    Protip for spotting bootleg Blu-rays: if it's listed as "region free", there's a very high chance that it's fake.

    Lack of a dub and both English and Chinese subtitles is another good sign, particularly if also region free. I can't think of any US anime release has Chinese subtitles, and while there are some legitimate R3 DVDs with English subtitles they are swamped by the huge quantities of bootlegs.
    24 episodes on free discs for a tenner is also a sign that something is not right - if it sounds too good to be true , it probably is.

    @sidereal_presence:

    When it comes to Piracy and Funimation I'm ambivalent as, back in 2010, they bragged at Otakon about how they joined a coalition to take down OneManga, the manga "streaming" website that has yet to be equaled in selection, security and ease of use. Killing it before there was a legal alternative that was at least as good seems dumb to me.

    Not having a legal alternative doesn't give your carte blanche to do what you like. There are no legal hitman operations on my area, but that doesn't make it OK for me to set one up…



  • I used to buy bootlegs when I was younger and did not know any better but now I try to buy the official releases. I also buy stuff I have downloaded at which point I delete it, I believe in supporting this industry.



  • Legal Options for me above all. I prefer buying and physically owning discs since I'm a collector and legally streaming shows.

    When I first started my anime collection I mistakenly ended up with several bootlegged sets, all of which I have since replaced with legit releases. First of all because I want to support the companies and second, because the things were of horrendously bad quality that literally began to destroy themselves over time in what I can only assume is the infamous "laser rot". After the first two or three I started being more careful and shopping at more legit places, paying attention to the companies that put anime out legally, and learning how to spot fakes.

    As for illegal downloading or illegal streaming of licensed content, i do not approve of them and don't do it.

    However, if the series has not been licensed by anyone, I consider it fair game to download or stream it from a fansubber as long as no legal method exists for me to see it and understand what is going on (such as Japanese Region A Blu-rays with English subs), since that would be the only method available to people not in Japan who don't speak Japanese to see unlicensed works. Me watching unlicensed shows does not effect Japanese business since they're not currently selling the show to my country so I don't think it's bad and if a distributor like Funimation licenses it then all I have do is buy it, when it becomes available. I only ever use this method of watching if I can't find a legal option though, and lately everything I want to watch has been getting licensed and legally streamed so I haven't had to resort to it, which makes me quite happy. On a side note I've rather even buy such Japanese imported Blu-rays that have English subtitles rather than downoading or illegal streaming, and I have done so on several occasions. I own 7 such releases from Japan, and 4 Australian releases on DVD.



  • Piracy as a whole I have some varying opinions on. I've pirated things before, and I don't feel bad about doing it, not anime in particular, but just pirating in general. For example, the first couple Assassin's Creed games on PC, I really wanted to play, yet they didn't release them when they released on consoles and Ubisoft is notorious for not caring about PC gaming, so why would I ever pay money and support them? It simply doesn't make sense to support a company that doesn't care about you in any way.

    Something like anime I don't pirate, but I also don't buy it honestly. Just like I don't buy movies, or any other TV show, I very rarely if ever watch the same thing twice. In fact the only anime I've seen twice is the DB/DBZ/DBGT series, because I watched it as a kid off and on on Toonami, and then I watched it from start to finish not too long ago. But I hadn't seen every episode, and it had been like a decade. I've never watched any other series of anime/tv more than once, so I really can't justify spending $50+ just so I can look at a box.

    That being said, obviously if you support something you should always get it legally. And I can't really justify pirating anything you actually care about, because you're clearly hurting the company that made it. I'll also agree though that the majority of people who pirate things wouldn't ever buy them. I would never buy an Assassin's Creed game, because I'd never support them, whether I pirate it or not, I'm not buying it for sure. So I can either pirate it if it's something I'm interested in, or just ignore it if not.

    As for illegal streaming, don't see much of a point. Most of what you want to watch can be found legally somewhere. However, not everything. If you can't find it somewhere legally, then you're kind of out of other options in my opinion. If companies made it easier to legally get watch their shows it wouldn't be as big of a problem. Companies have gotten better in recent years, but it's still not perfect.



  • @Shiroi:

    Not having a legal alternative doesn't give your carte blanche to do what you like.

    That pretty much sums up my opinion on it. The only thing I would add is that if it feels like people are judging you for going the pirate/bootleg way to get your anime fix, then don't try to justify it. Trying to rationalize it isn't going to win you any sympathy from me on the matter. I understand that people take liberties with the law. People speed. People try to game the system that they feel is unfair. If it you do it, fine; just keep it to yourself.


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