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Japanese Animation Legality and Ethics FAQ

Version 2.0, last revised 8/1/99

Maintained by Andy Kent (Avatar,


1 - Introduction
2 - Legal considerations - source material
3 - Legal considerations - images
4 - Legal considerations - fan fiction
5 - Legal considerations - misc
6 - Legal considerations - practical
7 - Ethical considerations - source material
8 - Ethical considerations - images
9 - Ethical considerations - fan fiction
10 - Ethical considerations - misc

0.0 Disclaimer

I am -not- a lawyer. There, that's out of the way.

All conclusions on legal matters are made from reference to the US Copyright Code (available online at, and the Berne Conventions (available online at, plus the occasional sneak peek at the relevant sections of copyright law from other countries. There's not much legal precedent in the area, so in theory a case could go either way. I'm just telling you which way it would go if you're an average fan with no money for the OJ Legal Defense Team. ^_^

As for legal matters, the document deals with United States law, and every so often references to the legal systems of Canada and Australia when they are specifically mentioned.


I've read through -way-, -way-, waaaaaaaay too many flamewars on this subject. You know what I'm talking about... somebody new asks, "is this legal?" and every flame-happy idiot crawls out of the woodwork to slag the poor ignorant schmuck. They eat up bandwidth that could be used for
more productive things, like pointless X vs. Y fight threads or GRIT. <g>

Or perhaps you don't, which is why you're reading this document. With any luck, this will become a definitive analysis of -all- the issues involved, and we can quit yelling about them. And hopefully you'll get
a good laugh as well. I could have written a dry legalistic document that would be better at putting people to sleep than a warm glass of milk, but that wouldn't work too well. If you guys enjoyed legal research
as much as I seem to, you'd have already looked all this stuff up yourself.

This is the bit where I used to mention that I wasn't trying to be judgemental. It's true, honest. What I -want- to do (at least vis-a-vis the ethical situations) is present an overview of all the different pro
versus con arguments, sufficent for the reader to make their own judgement. I -will- mention whether a given position is generally accepted by the USENET public, so don't blame me if somebody still gets ticked at you after you've read this thing.

1.1 Updates

I intended to update this thing every month, originally. Heh.

Seriously, I -do- intend to at least revise the body of the document whenever I get information that's worth including. If you have anything constructive to add/ask/posit/ponder/bring up or whatever, please
feel free to e-mail me at

This document will be available on the newsgroup rec.arts.anime.misc, rec.arts.anime.fandom, and wherever else I'm asked to crosspost it. If you'd like a copy... then why would I provide instructions on how to get one in the body of the document?! You're already reading it. ^_^

In the initial posting of this FAQ, I told people that felt compelled to flame somebody that they should wait until KJ Karvonen posted a rant and flame him instead. Not only did KJ take exception to this (giving me the only flame Iíve received to date), but he also provided a couple of valuable bits of information that I have included in this document. So, at this point, Iíd like to apologize. Donít flame KJ.

After that, I suggested that people flame John Hokanson, the famed Working Designs opponent. But then -he- came and gave me several constructive ideas for the FAQ and has been very helpful, so I can't in good conscience tell people to flame him either. (In fact, he's completely reformed since then.
Way to go, Mr. Hokanson.)

In fact, I don't have any good ideas of who to flame at the moment. I could use some suggestions, people. ;p

1.2 Structure

First, I list legal considerations. This is mostly based on US law,  although it doesn't vary all that much elsewhere (almost all the world  is party to the Berne Conventions). Then, I indulge in a bit of ethical
talk. For most issues, it's open-and-shut. I spend a -lot- of time on the issue of fansubs, mostly because it's a lot more complicated than the rest of it.

I'm trying to be neutral and present both sides of the controversial bits, so a few sections will contradict each other in the ethical section. You will have to make up your own mind about how you feel about these things; I merely hope that increased knowledge about all the arguments makes you (a) feel a sense of responsibility and (b) less prone to making rash value judgements.

1.3 Much thanks to...

Some commentary from Scott Schimmel, Anthony Herana, Jorge R. Frank, Ken Arromdee, Cathy Krusberg, John Hokanson, Lynda Feng, James Marken, and whoever writes from "" but never signs their messages, helped in the formation of this draft. Thanks, guys.

I quote a message from Mark Neidengrad about the recent change in Houbankyou policy, since I don't know much about it. Thanks.

If you've sent me e-mail about the FAQ recently, and don't see your name on the above list, go ahead and thump me over the head with a frying pan. I lost my HD about a month ago and the e-mail archive went with it.

1.4 Humor warning

I've got a twisted sense of humor, so please bear with me. I'll keep the punning to an absolute minimum.


2.1 Is it legal to copy my friend's videotape?

Oh, an easy one. Short answer, 'no'. Duplicating tape is illegal under US (and just about everybody else's) copyright laws. Only those persons or companies that have been authorized by the original creator may make copies legally.

2.11 How about anime?

Unfortunately, anime is not exempt from copyright laws. Sorry. ^_^

2.12 So, if I copy anime, am I going to jail?

Ever see the beginning of a tape, where the FBI warning is? See where it mentions "severe criminal penalties"? (Boy, they're not kidding; just look at Title 17, USC, sometime.)

The chance that you'll actually run afoul of the law on this subject is low.  Very low. You're more likely to get hit by a drunk driver. A lot more likely.

2.13 Really?

Yeah. Copyright law is a civil, not a criminal, regulation. In other words,  the police don't enforce copyright laws, but the lawyers do.

A lot of tape duplication takes place under the radar of the companies involved, as it were. If you dub a copy of Tenchi Muyo for your pal next door, sure it's illegal, but how would Pioneer ever know?

Now, if you made a -lot- of copies of Tenchi Muyo for people, the chance increases every time that you'll be exposed. Most domestic companies are very much not happy when this sort of thing happens.

If you actually advertise your services for duplication of tapes, then the chance that you will be noticed (and thus acted on) by a domestic company increases exponentially... all it takes is one person to see your notice and report it to the company involved. In that case, better have a lawyer handy.

2.14 I can still tape anime off of TV, right?

Oh, yes. Anime works the same as any other television program. What, don't know the legalities of taping programs off of TV? It's easy.
 - Taping and watching it later is legal.
 - Taping and giving to a friend is not -quite- illegal. Theoretically, that copy is supposedly for your own use only, and you're not authorized to transfer the ownership of that copy. In practice, you've got nothing to worry about.
 - Taping and making copies for a friend is not legal. You're not authorized by the owner to copy that show, only to watch it.

2.15 What about the unsubtitled anime that you can rent at some places?

I'll let Mark Neidengrad handle this one, since I've never rented one of these myself.

Ah...I think you've overlooked one _massive_ example of "enforcement" -
the oft-lamented restriction on tapes made from Japanese television
bound for rental stores in the U.S. by the Housou Bangumi Kyoukai.  My
understanding is that all Japanese rental tapes in U.S. stores must be
vetted by the Houbankyou or their deputies (such as the Overseas
Carrier Service in the Los Angeles area).  Any store caught renting
tapes that do not have (or have erroneously) the sticker of approval
are subject to tape confiscation and further legal reprocussions.  The
proprieter of Idolland in Monterey Park told me that at least two other
stores had had their tapes seized by the LAPD for not complying with
the strictures - since both Japan and the US are WIPO signatories, the
U.S. is obliged to use its law enforcement authorities to uphold
Japanese copyrights if the Japanese so request.

So it's not that there is _no_ enforcement...

*snort* A PR nightmare, on a very small scale as it turns out.
Certainly the Houbankyou members didn't hesitate in handing down their
edict and reducing the number of tapes from Japanese TV from a torrent
to a trickle - something like half a dozen series _total_ (not just
anime), give or take, at any one time. Since the number of fans
impacted (i.e. those elite enough to go after tapes hot off of Japanese
TV instead of waiting for the rental-approved or home video release, or
more likely a fansub thereof) was small, this travesty has gone mostly
unlamented.  And the few members of the anime industry that I've posted
the question to at AX haven't shown much sign of being able to (or
being interested in?) doing anything to reverse the situation.  Indeed,
the HBK's ban was very cheap: piss off only a small minority of fans
(who tend to be sneered at by the fan "mainstream" anyway), and at the
same time all but cut off the "detrimental" flow of new material into
the fan underground.  I wonder if, had Fushigi Yuugi been cut off by
such restrictions, it would have garnered the sort of crowds or
outpouring of fan sentiment that we saw at AX this past year...

I will also note in passing that the HBK did this, not only pissing off
fans of anime, but the sizeable number of Japanese nationals or low-
generation immigrants who relied on Japanaese rental outlets overseas
for their television programming...

Thanks, Mark.

2.2 What about fansubs? Are they legal?

No, fansubs are illegal as well.

2.21 What's a fansub, anyway?

A fansub is a tape that has been translated by somebody besides a licensed company. Thus, FAN SUBtitle. (Fan dubs also exist, but are much rarer and more expensive to produce.) Basically, somebody takes the original Japanese source (preferably LD, but sometimes VHS) and uses a computer to add the translation in subtitles with the aid of a device called a 'genlock'. I won't go into details, mostly because there are many more well-suited explanations than mine online. Try going to the Anime Web Turnpike ( and looking under their fansub/fandub section.

2.22 But there isn't any American company that has the rights to (x), so it's legal, right?

No, not really. The US and Japan are both party to the Berne Conventions, which deal with copyrights. Without going into a lot of rigmarole, if it's copyrighted in the US, you can't copy it in Japan and get away with it, and (more importantly to us) vice versa. Technically, it's -just- as illegal.

2.23 Okay, what about enforcement?

There is none. At all.

2.231 What, none at all?

With a few exceptions, no. (In fact, the only one of which I am aware is the recent Sony-Rurouni Kenshin issue, in which a few fansubbers received a message from Sony's Japanese operations telling them to stop, as it was interfering with their ability to sell the series to a domestic company... more on that later.)

2.232 Why not?

There are a variety of reasons. First is the most obvious... the language barrier. It's a lot harder to let a Japanese company know that somebody is violating their copyrights than it is a US company. It's also more difficult for them to track down the offender, more difficult to deal with the US legal system, et cetera. This makes it very expensive for one of the Japanese companies to actually take action.

Also, the company has to think about its public image. Most corporations are very, very hesitant to engage in legal action against their customer base... nothing alienates the shopper faster than having legal documents shoved in their faces. Both of these factors make the companies less likely to act.

2.233 But these fansub distributors are selling the tapes!

<nod> Yup. See the "ethics" section for analysis of that.

2.24 So, the production of a fansub is illegal, then?

Actually, no! (Surprise!) If you purchase a legitimate source of the original Japanese show (on LD, VHS, or DVD), and then translate it yourself or get a friend to, and run it through the genlock on your computer to add subtitles... then you have a legal fansub. Congratulations.

Naturally, this is a heck of a lot of work, and most people can't get access to genlocks or translations. This is why many fan-subtitlers distribute their work to others. The act of copying the fansub and giving it (or selling it) to other people is the illegal part, and those copies remain illegal. In other words, if you have an anime fansub, and you didn't make it, it is illegal.

2.25 Is there any way to have a legal copy of a fansub that I didn't make?

Not precisely as such, but... if you purchase an original Japanese copy (on VHS, LD, DVD, or whatever, and legitimate, mind!) and then obtain a fansub, you're not really breaking the law. Well, yes, you are... but the company that produced the anime in question is not going to see it that way. After all, you're no longer a scum-sucking bootlegging bastard, you're a valued customer! (Joking, guys.)

2.3 Can I do that? Import the Japanese product?

Oh, yes. A copy produced legally in Japan can be shipped anywhere in the world and remain a legitimate copy. US law places no limit on the amount of legitimate stuff that you can import, so go hog wild. (Expensive, though.)

2.31 What if it's licensed in the US? Can I still get the Japanese version?

Yeah, go ahead. The US companies get exclusive agreements for US production and distribution, but those don't place any restrictions on the Japanese company selling Japanese-language product. And once it's been sold in Japan to an exporter, it can be shipped to the US with no worries.

2.32 What if I have a friend in Japan? Can he tape it off TV and send it here?

No, that's not legal. Again, extremely incredibly infitismally small enforcement on the issue, but still not legal, no more than your neighbor can do the same thing.

2.4 How are fan dubs different from fansubs?

They aren't, legally. Still illegal to copy, though not necessarily to produce, as above.

2.41 Why do you call it "fan dub" when you make "fansub" into one word?

Simple. "FAN DUB" is what "fan dub" stands for. There's no point in turning two three-letter words into one six-letter word. ^_^

2.42 <ahem> What about fan parody dubs? Aren't they permissible under parody laws?

Not quite. Fan parody dubs -do- completely replace the audio track with their own, but the video is still the original. One of the "fair use" tests (and this comes up later) deals with the proportion of copied material; the video track entire is too much to get away with.

2.43 Too bad. Fan parodies are hilarious.

No kidding. Fortunately, a lot of people working at the companies think so, too. So long as you don't distribute them, you won't get in trouble for making them. (That is, unless you say that the founder of the company in question sleeps with wild gerbils or something.)

2.5 What about music videos produced with anime images?

Again, not quite. Not only do you have somebody else's images, it's most likely somebody else's song as well. (Maybe if you -really- hacked the hell out of it, used a lot of mixed series, and your own music.)

2.6 What about public showings of anime released in the US?

You are obligated to obtain permission from the releasing company to show their work. This doesn't come up much with fansubs, as you don't have permission to -have- that copy of the work in the first place, much less show it around. Generally, this involves writing a letter to the company, telling them when and where you plan on showing it. Most companies will insist that the showing be without charge, so don't try to set up a home anime theater business. ^_^


3.1 Is it legal for me to use images of (x)?

This depends. There are several legitimate reasons for you to use images without permission under the "fair use" clause of the US Copyright Code; commentary and review are both included. So, if you're adding images to spice up a review site, or a synopsis listing, or some such, you should have no problems.

Posting screen grabs in image galleries is -not- considered fair use, however. That sort of thing is illegal.

3.11 What about images in an art book?

Well, they're not covered under the tape's copyright. They -are- covered under the art book's copyright, though. Same applies; if you're mentioning the art book somehow, and you put an image up, no big deal,
but you can't post the whole thing scanned in.

3.12 I see an awful lot of them scanned in on websites, though. Are you sure it's illegal?

Yes, it's illegal. Enforcement is a completely separate issue.

3.13 No, it's not. Nothing that widespread can be illegal.

You sure? There was an almighty mess in 1997, when Gainax cracked down on websites using images of Neon Genesis Evangelion. (It got to the point where several ISPs were specifically asked by Gainax to remove specific pages containing Evangelion pics, and Gainax -still- has a "legally approved" selection of images that can officially be posted by everybody.) Of course, once the pressure was off, the pics came back up. <shrug>

3.2 What about fan art? Is that legal?

Borderline no. Technically, fan art falls under trademark restrictions rather than copyright restrictions. The company or creator -can- sue you, though how it turns out will vary.

If the company is Japanese, you can likely employ the "doujinshi defense".

3.21 That sounds interesting. "Doujinshi defense"?

Yes, I made the term up.

Basically, trademark law is -not- absolute the way copyright law is. If a company has a trademark, but doesn't enforce it strictly, they lose the ability to enforce the trademark strictly. For example, if a company has a logo, but they let everybody and the proverbial dog put up images of that logo, slightly modified, or used whatever, then the company would have legal trouble if they wanted to stop -you- from using it for something.

So, if a Japanese company were to, for some reason, decide to attempt to enforce trademark restrictions on your fanart, then all you have to do is find some way to demonstrate, convincingly, that the company doesn't enforce that restriction equally. How do you do this?

Personally, if I were faced with such a situation, I'd go out and track down some hentai doujinshi of the series in question. Plop that on the judge's bench as evidence and then let the company's lawyers try to explain how an image of a character with a <deleted> up his <deleted> is less offensive than whatever you did.

Note that nobody has ever tried this! (Mostly because, again, the Japanese companies aren't litigation-happy.) But if somebody does, let me know how it turns out.

3.22 Do you really think that would work?!

Mostly. There -are- exceptions. Nintendo, for example, does try to crack down on things like hentai doujinshi, so you may want to be more careful if you're a Pokemon fan. I'm tempted to say, "Please don't try this at home", but I really want to see if it'd work.

3.23 You keep saying "Japanese" companies. The American ones are different?

In two ways, yes. First, the US companies don't really have ownership of the original trademarks, so to speak, so they don't have legal standing to defend them. (Maybe if you were abusing scans of the box art.) Second, the US companies don't have the same lax enforcement history, so that argument would
probably not fly as well.

3.24 Why do the companies permit fan art?

Well, for one, active fan activity is generally good for the bottom line. No, really... anything that promotes the anime is likely to be taken well by the company, regardless of the specific legality. On the other hand, it would be extremely hard to stamp out, and would require ruthlessly flattening a few poor artists as examples to the rest... which would cost money. In a word, it's not worth it.

3.25 Any legal advice?

If you -do- receive a request to take something down, you should probably accede to it. If somebody went to the trouble to take notice of you, it was not likely for financial reasons... which means that somebody has an ego on the line, and defending yourself could get expensive. It's probably not worth it.

3.3 If I make an anime-style character, is it mine?

Yep. Disney doesn't have the copyrights on big eyes, after all. ^_^ You'll own all the rights to it. Be careful, however... if your character over-resembles somebody from an anime series, you may have a hard time asserting that it is indeed original.

3.31 If another fan creates an anime-style character, can I do fan art of that?

A touchy subject. A lot of this depends on the origin of the character, of course. Ask permission if you intend to post or distribute your stuff. If the character in question is the creation of another artist, you're not likely to get permission; on the other hand, if the character was created as part of a work of fan fiction, you are almost -certain- to get permission.


4.1 Is fan fiction legal or not?

<deep breath>

I have, after much deep reflection and many hours of research...

...absolutely no blankety-blanking idea. ^_^;;;

4.11 Say what?

The key seems to be the definition of "derivative work", which is cited in copyright law as being the exclusive right of the original author. Translation of the work is one of the things specifically included,
which is why fansubs are clearly copyright violations.

Nothing in the definition of "derivative work" given in the body of the law, however, seems to point at fan fiction. Indeed, the law almost goes out of its way to point out that the basic ideas behind the original
work cannot be copyrighted; only the body of the material itself. Under this analysis, it seems that anime fanfic is not a violation.

This is an instance where a good bit of case law would go a loooong way. Unfortunately, I've never found any ruling on it, one way or the other.

Additionally, it -is- clear that the characters in an anime series can be protected by trademark law; their distinctive likenesses and such are definitely also the property of the author. Fortunately for the fan author, most Japanese companies are incredibly lax in the enforcement of their trademarks (can you say "comiket"?), and thus those trademarks carry precious little weight under US law.

Note that this is -not- supported by case law or precedent, just by one guy's interpretation of the law. Also remember that the result of this is almost counter-intuitive... so any conclusion on how a judge would rule on this is purely theoretical. If I could find some case law dealing with fanfiction, it would be a tremendous help. Of course, most of those types of cases never make it to court, so... <sigh>

4.12 So, all fanfiction is legal?

Nope. You still can't step on the toes of American authors and such. Examples follow.

Larry Niven, a hard SF writer (dang good, too, in my opinion), doesn't permit fan fiction. At all. If he so much as sees a "kzin" (an alien feline race of his own creation) in something, out come the lawyers, giving the author a "cease and desist" notice. The idea -is- his, and he was disturbed by a couple of the first examples of fanfic he saw (mostly because they were poorly written "lemon" fics, but that's another issue), and he's perfectly within his legal rights to say "no".

Anne McCaffery writes the "Pern" series of books, among other things. She takes a middle route; there is actually a fixed set of "rules" that she has issued concerning the content of fics dealing with her world and continuity (if I'm not mistaken, that includes no canon characters, no crossover, and certain restrictions on what can and cannot happen... oh, and no white dragons). So long as authors stay within these bounds, they're okay; otherwise, she takes offense, and out come the lawyers.

Fortunately for anime fans, no Japanese company has ever banned fan fiction. Essentially, it's permitted freely.

4.13 O_o? You give examples of American authors getting offended; why isn't the Japanese situation the same?

Simple; fan fiction is a much larger part of fandom in Japan than in the US. Heck, stroll through Comiket (a -huge- convention held in Japan annually, displaying fan art and stories, among other things) and you'll find hundreds of doujinshi that use characters and ideas from anime series. Attempts to ban -that- would cause the company to become alienated from its fan base, hurting its sales. It's -really- not worth it for the companies, especially since you pretty much have to have seen their product to appreciate a fan-created derivative work.

US (and other international) authors have the added protection of language; few of the creators that -could- take personal offense to anything that gets written will ever encounter a US-created fan
fiction, and even fewer understand English. ^_^

Now, again, the companies still theoretically could come down on youdespite all this; it's just never happened. Yet. </paranoia>

4.14 Anything else that we need to know?

YES. If you live in Canada or Australia, you're essentially screwed in this respect. The "moral rights" code of both countries' copyright laws seem to apply to this sort of situation, meaning that the original
author could object to anything that he finds objectionable about the use of his work. US law has no corresponding clause. (Well, okay, it does, but it only deals with one-time art productions. Can't be applied to anime.)

4.2 What about "novelizations"?

<sigh> Since a novelization is, in essence, a direct transcription of an anime, it technically falls under the strict definition of "derivative work" and is thus illegal.

4.3 Somebody's infringing on my fanfic! What can I do, legally?

Damn little, if it includes any characters or elements that are not original. While it's easily permissible to create fan fiction, you're not going to have any success in copyrighting it. In this situation, good luck.

Of course, infringing on somebody else's fanfiction idea (in this case, we're referring to outright plagiarism, or writing under the aegis of somebody else's series) is considered very dirty pool; check the
"ethics" section.

4.31 My fanfic is one hundred percent original, and somebody's infringing on it. What do I do?

First, register it with the Copyright Bureau. This involves sending them a couple of copies for the US Library of Congress, a form, and a filing fee. You can proceed without registration, but the case will get
stalled until the registration goes through.

Then, take the sucker to court. If you're not a lawyer, you can hire one. Of course, that costs a lot of money... it's really not worth it to pursue legal means.

(If your fanfic is one hundred percent original... why do you call it a fanfic?)

4.4 What about scripts of anime shows?

Hrm... I revised this after taking a closer look at the Berne Convention text. Basically, it says that the original rights-holder does retain all rights to works derived directly from a cinematographic source, in translation or however. That would seem to make script distribution illegal, as well. (However, there's some contention on this point...)

You can always write your own, of course.


5.1 What about CDs?

No, you can't copy a CD full of anime songs either. @_@ Unless you're making a personal copy onto tape for use in your car or such, and even that's touchy from a legal perspective.

5.11 What about Son May?

This has touched off a few flame wars all by itself...

5.111 What -is- Son May?

Son May (SM) is a Taiwanese company that produces anime CDs. Taiwan, unlike Japan or the US, is -not- signatory to the Berne Conventions, meaning that the local government does not respect the copyrights of other countries. SM takes advantage of this to make CDs full of music
without paying for the rights.

5.112 So, is that why SM CDs are so cheap?

Yup. They can sell a CD for physical duplication cots plus advertising plus a healthy markup and still undercut their competition by a lot of money.

5.12 Aren't SM CDs legal?

If you live in Taiwan, yeah.

5.121 I don't live in Taiwan. Are they still legal?

Nope. The moment that CD leaves Taiwan, it becomes subject to local regulations about such things, and the Berne Conventions doesn't allow for copies made in a country outside the Berne Convention. Basically, the moment it enters the US or Japan, it becomes an illegal copy.

5.13 I see SM CDs for sale. Aren't they illegal?

Yes, they are. Most conventions ban the sale of Son May CDs for that very fact. Many reputable stores don't carry them, either.

5.131 So, why does the store sell them?

They're cheap. You can get the same songs for a lot less money. A few stores take the SM product and sell it at the normal price, making an obscene profit.

5.14 Why don't the Japanese companies close SM?

Son May operates in Taiwan, and what they do is legal there.

5.141 Why don't the Japanese companies crack down on the sale of SM CDs in countries that -aren't- Taiwan?

Too expensive, really. The legal costs would exceed the cost of lost sales.

5.2 What about bootleg products, like models and toys?

Well, duh, they're not legal either.

5.21 How can you -tell-?

Usually, a legal product will have some kind of copyright information on it somewhere. If it doesn't, it's likely a bootleg.

Also, the price can be a good indicator. If most wall scrolls sell for twenty bucks and the one you're looking at is only three, it might be a bootleg.

This can be difficult; I've snagged a couple of items myself only to realize that they were bootleg (mostly posters and the like).

5.3 What about Hook-ups?

What they do is -barely- legal, and several companies could probably win in court if they bothered to complain.

5.31 What -is- Hook-ups?

They make skateboard apparel. In particular, we refer to their T-shirts, which contain barely modified images of anime characters.

5.4 What about anime music MP3 files?

No, they aren't legal, except for demonstration files found on the company's page.


6.1 So, if I break the law, am in trouble?

Well, this highly depends on whose toes you step on. If you violate the copyright of an American anime company (specifically by copying their tapes or fansubs of their titles), you are much more likely to be caught, since the American companies are smaller and can work with the US legal system with ease. By contrast, doing the same to a Japanese company will likely get no response at all.

Incidentally, what -could- happen to you isn't pleasant at all. If you get caught with illegal copies of tapes, the law can confiscate and destroy them. If you get caught -making- copies of tapes, the law can confiscate and destroy the tapes, your VCR, your genlock, your computer, and anything else involved in the production. Fansubbing isn't the safest hobby, neh?

You can't get thrown in jail for making illegal copies. The fines can get large, though. The company has a choice of (a) recovering all of your profits plus actual damages, or (b) going the lump-sum route.

6.11 What does (a) mean?

Basically, the company can say, "He was paid (x) dollar amount to make these copies; we want (x) dollars." The unlucky pirate then has to prove that he had expenses, like purchasing tapes and such, and he has burden of proof. (Moral of this story; don't do it for profit, for God's sake, and save your receipts. ;p)

6.12 What does (b) mean?

Proving actual damages against a fansubber that ostensibly doesn't work for profit can be tricky; usually said fansubber won't have records of how much he's raked in over time available to the court anyway. ^_^ So, the court has the option of levying a fine, based on "what it considers a just amount" of at least five hundred dollars and as far up as the judge feels like, up to twenty thousand dollars or so. (This information comes from a quick shufty through Cornell's online law library.)

6.2 So, if I restrict my bootlegging to Japanese-only stuff, I'm safe?

Not entirely. The companies are free to enforce what they want to enforce, as Gainax demonstrated with their policy on Web page pictures and Sony's recent focus on Rurouni Kenshin fansubbing. It's just that
the vast majority of these companies choose not to enforce their copyrights in the US.

6.3 What's this Berne Convention that you refer to?

The Berne Convention is basically an international treaty on artistic copyright. It extends copyright protection to works produced in any member country of the Convention. The US and Japan are both members. A full text can be found at

6.31 What's that -mean-?

Essentially, it mandates that the government provide the same level of protection for foreign-produced works as for domestic ones.

This is -important-, folks. What it means is that the US government is obligated to include the Japanese creator of your anime in local protections, and thus violating their copyright in the US is a violation of US law.

This does make things a bit simpler to understand... when you're in the US, it doesn't matter whether something's permissible under Japanese law, since only US law is in force. But that law is in force equally for foreign and domestic works.

6.4 So, if I break the law, am I a bad person?

That's a highly subjective question, and the topic of the next few sections.

6.5 Why isn't any of this considered "fair use"?

For those who don't know, "fair use" is an exception to the copyright laws. Basically, there are certain situations where you can use part or all of a work, copying it as necessary, without permission from
the original rights-holder.

Fansubs are in no way covered by fair use. They are purely intended for entertainment purposes and thus fall outside of this clause. (Maybe if you were enrolled in a Japanese culture class and made one for the university?)

Images and the occasional clip, however, -can- fall under fair use. Basically, if you use part of a work for informative, commentary, or educational purposes, you're probably covered. So it's okay to scan box art for a review page, or to post the occasional Kenshin pic if you're running a Kenshin information page.

6.6 Any other considerations?

One point was raised by KJ Karvonen, and it bears repeating here; you can get sued for anything. Really.

Basically, all this means is that you should avoid getting people at the related companies ticked at you. If you do something that annoys them, and itís barely legal (or even completely legal), they can STILL sue you. Sure, they might lose the suit, but in the meantime youíre out a lot of money for your lawyer, not to mention time and stress involved.

This is probably the most important rule to keep in mind while indulging yourself in anime. A lot of the companies involved are very tolerant about the occasional infringement in the pursuit of the glorification of their products, such as the existence of image galleries and the like. When theyíre not, however, remember that they donít have any particular reason to -be- tolerant. If you receive a
cease-and-desist letter, then itís definitely in your best interests to cease and desist!


I've restructured this part; the question/answer format tends to get disjointed, especially concerning fansubs and the like. Tell me if you have trouble making sense of the threads of argument here, please.

7.01 Some Ground Values

It strikes me as odd that I should offer ethical advice without stating the values that these ethical analyses stem from. So, in short, I'd like to summarize what anime fans should want. If you think of anything sufficently universal, e-mail me and I'll toss it in.

-More anime released by US companies (i.e. easier to get anime)
-Higher-budget anime (prettier graphics, better sound, higher production values)
-Cheaper anime (duh)
-Better translations (more faithful, less editing, what have you)
-Better dubbing... especially if you hate dubs!
-More of -your favorite- anime genres

This makes it easy to answer the question, "Why is it good if more sales of a domestic release happen?"

First, that gives the company involved more capital to spend. And spend they will! If it goes into salaries, that's more pay for voice talent (and more chance of attracting good VAs and, more importantly, retaining them), not to mention skilled translators. If it goes into licenses, then it will result in more anime coming out in the US, and your purchase means that the companies will conclude that bringing out more of that kind of anime would be a good thing; thus, you get more of your favorite kinds of anime. Even if the money doesn't go into these things, the increase in sales alone will lower per-tape profit pressures on the company. (In other words, if they sell enough, you get a price drop!)

Also, these arguments will be based off of the supposition that there is an inherent moral problem with using somebody else's work without compensating them. If you don't believe this, then you may disagree with some of the following points. However, I do ask that you take a few minutes to ask yourself the inevitable consequences of your particular moral situation. ^_^ The FAQ will be here if/when you change your mind.

7.1 On the copying and ownership of material commercially available in the US

Well, it's cheap. Anime costs a lot. ^_^;;

Some people inherently object to the concept of copyright law, period.

Yes, I know these arguments are lame. Gimme a break! This isn't exactly a morally defensible activity we're talking about here.

If you copy a commercially available tape, you can't claim any reason for doing it other than  plain old cheapness. The companies are free to charge whatever price the market will bear, and if that price is out of your budget, you can always adjust your budget. (Get a job!)

In addition, if you have a bootleg copy of a tape, you're probably not going to buy the thing when you get enough money to afford it. This means less money goes to the commercial companies and thus less money goes -back- into making more anime series, better translations, better dubbing, or paying the people that make it available now.

Some Q/A responses:

"Well, I wasn't going to buy it anyway! I don't like it that much."

If you really don't enjoy the anime, you probably don't need to have a bootlegged copy, right? Seriously, it's obvious that you're hardly dying to see it.

"I'm just a kid. How do I get that kind of money?"

I can offer a few suggestions, though private e-mail is more appropriate for that. More to the point, there are plenty of ways to enjoy anime without buying or bootlegging it. Rental is an option. So is joining a local anime club (or starting one!). Unfortunately, if you live way out in the middle of nowhere, you might have difficulties with this. Not a whole lot that can be done, really; lack of funds is not really an excuse for copying a commercial tape.

"Eww, I don't like that company."

<shrug> That's more of an excuse than a justification. If you have a moral problem with how they do business, you should refrain from obtaining the series that they license; if you own bootlegs of their products, you -automatically- cede the moral ground in your abstinence from purchasing from them. (In other words, if you want to boycott them, actually -boycott- them, don't steal from them instead.)

"But they hacked the <expletive> out of my favorite show!"

Well, we're still talking about copying the US commercial version. I take it that you don't want copies of the hacked version, so without further ado I'll segue into...

7.2 On the copying and ownership of material -not- commercially available in the US (fansubs)


The availability of the fansub gives a title exposure... people hear about it, they see it, they rave about it and want more. This makes it more likely that a US company will license it, making it available to many more people.

There is no direct loss of sales due to the fansub, because there is no English version for it to displace. Thus, no harm done.

Even when the series -is- released commercially, any market losses will be small, because the fansub only reaches a fraction of the target market.


The creators don't receive any compensation from the fansubs... in essence, the fansub watcher is enjoying their hard work without any benefit to them.

People that get fansubs are less likely to get the commercial release. I mean, they already have a translation of it, right? What do they need another one for?

The presence of fansubs creates a "bootlegger mentality" among anime fans, making it harder for every commercial company to sell their products.


-All- of these arguments are simplistic; all require more explanation to be sensible; all are at least partially flawed. We are entering a grey area, folks... go ahead and finish reading the section, -then- think about how it all fits together for a second.

Here we go...

7.21 Availability gives a title exposure

One may ask, "Is this not a contradiction in terms? I mean, if there are so few people that actually get fansubs, how can it promote the anime effectively?"

The answer is fairly straightforward. The market segment most likely to get fansubs... that is, the otaku, or those people that are -really- heavily into anime... is also the segment that communicates most often with the companies responsible for bringing that anime out commercially in the US. It's not enough by itself (probably... where's Kodomo no Omocha if it was?), but if five thousand otaku are raving about it, it's probably worth at least looking into.

I call this the "Fushigi Yuugi" effect. While it's impossible to -prove- that this series would have never come out in the US without the extensive fansubbing efforts of Karen Duffy, I don't know anybody that believes otherwise.

7.22 No direct losses of sales

Here's a good objection. "There -is- a theoretical loss of sales; those that would have bought an import LD but do not, because they can get a fansub instead. That qualifies as a loss of sales, yes?"

Well, yes. However, the loss of sales is a -lot- smaller than the number of fansubs distributed; most anime fans just aren't going to get untranslated anime. I'm one of these; with very minimal Japanese skills, trying to watch stuff unsubtitled is more aggravating than entertaining. A fraction of the remainder - those fansub-obtainers that will watch unsubbed material - will STILL get the LDs, for picture and sound quality. So what we have left is the group of fans that will get fansubs, are willing to watch unsubtitled material when they can't, and don't care much about picture or sound quality. Niche of a niche of a niche of a niche, and probably small enough to ignore.

7.23 Small penetration, small potential losses

Let's use the obvious objection here. "Just because the potential losses are small doesn't mean that it's okay! It's still taking money from the creators!"

This is a pretty good counter-argument here. On the individual level, it really is irrelevant whether the damage is small or large; if you're contributing to it, you should take some responsibility for it. However, if you -are- taking responsibility for it (and I'll say how shortly), then the converse applies, and you personally aren't taking money from the creators.

7.24 Creators don't get compensated

Here's one I've heard. "Without the fansub, I'm not going to compensate the creators -anyway-. I just can't live with unsubtitled anime."

This is a hard argument to counter. If you're not in the market for unsubtitled anime, no matter what, then there is no -extra- harm being done by your obtaining of the fansub, no 'loss of sale'.

Still, though, if you enjoy the creator's efforts enough that you want to obtain a copy of their work, then you still incur an obligation to compensate them. This has a salutary affect; the act of compensating the creators not only rewards them for their efforts, but also makes them more likely to create more and better anime. Call it future reinvestment.

7.25 Cheap people won't replace fansubs with commercial releases

My personal response to this one is, "I'm not cheap! I -always- replace my fansubs!"

Doesn't matter, in the long run. The number of responsible people is bound to be smaller than the number of irresponsible ones, and the damage is done regardless. So, unless you can come up with a solution to cheap people -everywhere-...

7.26 "Bootlegger mentality"

Before I point/counterpoint this one, I think it needs a little explanation.

Theoretically, the anime fan has a limited budget for anime. The budget for anime does not grow with the desire for anime. (Don't we all know this!) Also, theoretically there is an upper limit to how much anime a given fan will strive to acquire; after a certain point he has been saturated, he will buy no more.

The existence of fansubs in the market stacks things heavily against the commercial companies, in the following manner. Take anime fan A, who enjoys fighting and action anime. He has twenty bucks. That will get him a single tape of Fist of the North Star... or three tapes of Flame of Recca. One can obviously see that he will get better value from the fansubs... while the picture quality, sound quality, and translation may be inferior, he would have to prefer FotNS THREE TIMES as much for that to be the more sensible option.

But what if he only wants one tape? Well, then, he can obtain one tape of FotNS for twenty... or the Recca tape for six bucks. The latter option leaves him fourteen to go spend on other things. Again, he would -really- have to prefer the North Star in order to purchase it.

Two objections to this one, as it's really a two-prong argument. First one goes like this: "What if I can get fansubs without paying (copying from friends, SASE, whatever)? Then I'm not frittering my budget away on fansubs and I still have it for other tapes."

This is indeed true. However, the person above still has the skewed market mentality. In some ways, it is even worse. If you have a larger supply of cheap or free anime, you become a -lot- less likely to spend your money on the commercial titles that are available. Your total demand for anime is reduced, making what would have been potential purchases seem unattractive.

The second objection is rather humorous, but true... "I don't -have- a limited demand for anime! Gimme! Gimme!" We've all felt this one before.

If this person obtains a lot of fansubs, ostensibly the cost of those fansubs keeps adding up, up, up... draining more and more budget away from what could have gone towards commercial products. Remember, money spent there gets reinvested in more anime and better-produced anime. ;p

Ideally, a person that could obtain many fansubs cheaply yet had such an insatiable thirst for anime that the total expenditure on commercial anime would not suffer is not subject to this argument at all. However, we aren't -all- that hard-core otaku. ;p

7.27 On the term "loss of sales"

I have had a lot of arguments along the lines of the following... "Loss of sales itself can't be a bad thing. Rentals cause loss of sales, and so do used-tape sales, and those are okay, right?" This usually precedes an assertion that fansubs are okay as well.

US copyright law (though not the laws in other countries) is based off of the principle that creator's rights vis-a-vis copyright are -not- absolute, NOR are they inherently valuable for their own purposes. However, it does recognize the fact that the protection of creator's rights does result in the desirable benefit of the creator profiting from the act of creation... and thus promotes more creation. In other words, copyright is good because authors making money  means more authors making more stuff to make more money. Capitalistic, granted, but that's to be expected.

However, when one considers fansubs, rentals, and used-item sales, one isn't dealing purely with creator's rights... one deals with the junction between creator's rights and the right to personal property. More or less, one of the base principles of our government and society is that people should be able to do what they want with those things that they possess.

Think about that point for a second. Basically, what it's saying here is that your right to do what you will with your book is more important than the author's right to make more money.

This is important! If I buy a tape, it becomes mine to dispose of as I see fit... I can watch it, I can loan it out to friends, I can wipe my rear with it, anything that doesn't result in me making a copy of the tape or beating somebody to death with it. All of these things are ceded to me because -I bought the tape-, and in exchange for that money the creator gives me total control over the fate of that copy.

While this argument defends tape rentals, it does -not- defend fansubs. In the case of the fansub, nobody has purchased that copy from the creator in the first place. This is also the reason that it is considered acceptable to own a fansub and a commercial version... in essence, you -have- paid the creator for the rights to view that copy, and thus virtually all of the anti-fansub arguments are moot.

7.28 Okay, so what can I do?

I'd say that this is easy, but it's not. To enjoy fansubs -without- incurring an ethical hit, you can modify the above arguments... don't engage in the negative behavior and do more of the positive bits. If, to borrow a phrase, "it's all good...", then it's all good.

How can you do this, you ask? Simple.

- If you buy a fansub, recognize that you have a choice. There are three possible outcomes. In the first, the commercial release comes out and you pay for it. In the second, you get rid of the fansub because you didn't like it that much. In the third, you keep the fansub, don't buy the commercial version, and -flunk lunch-.

This means that you shouldn't get more fansubs than you can afford commercial series, or else be prepared to forego keeping your subs when somebody shells out for a license on that series no matter how much you like it. It helps if you get fansubs in moderation; no fan has enough to cover several commercial releases at once that they're -obligated- to buy, plus the other stuff.

- Talk about it! If you enjoy a series that you have fansubbed, talk it up to other people that might like it. Write the various anime companies and tell them how fun that series is and how much you'd enjoy it if they brought it out. (Be sincere.) The more "buzz" about a show, the more likely that a company will decide to dump several thousand dollars into the creator's laps for a license. Now -that's- not too shabby.

- Don't ever overpay for a fansub. I don't care if the other fansubber has a turnaround time that you can use as a crop schedule... giving some bootlegger ten bucks for a tape (or more) is doing more harm than good. You're spending money, but the industry doesn't get the benefit of any of it. And you're a -lot- less likely to feel good about dumping the thing or replacing it when that time comes around.

- On this note, pay the least possible price for your fansubs. On the one hand, it's nice to get a tape straight from a subber and get good titles... but on the other, it's a lot cheaper to find your buddy and get a second gen tape from him; it'll only cost you the buck for the blank Sony V. Come on, folks... if you're interested in perfect clarity of picture and sound, go ahead and get the LD.

- Don't provide fansubs to somebody that you know will not pick up the commercial series. Note that I didn't say "or get rid of them later". If somebody needs to watch for a bit to sample, loan 'em yours! If you don't add to the problem of cheap people with fansubs, then it helps to keep that population down.

- Buying ancillary merchandise is okay, but don't kid yourself... -that- money rarely goes back to the original creators. Save it for a commercial version unless it's something that you actually want.

7.3 Help! The moral relativism is getting to me!!

Okay, if this is a grey area, we might as well define the white and black borders... in other words, what behaviors are so close to perfectly okay that they might as well be, and the stuff that's so despicable that the offender had better just hide his face in public.

Owning a fansub and a commercial version at the same time is okay. Morally, your butt is covered; you've compensated the creators, your money is happily flowing through the industry and hopefully back into more titles, lah dee dah. It doesn't much matter if the commercial version is the US release or the Japanese release; it's all good. Heck, if you're extremely price-conscious and just buying a commercial version so that you can say you did, go ahead and get a dub; it'll cost less. ;p

Fansubbing a -really- obscure series is generally okay. There is a percieved moral difference between the guy that rushes to complete an End of Evangelion fansub before the movie comes out commercially, and the guy that digs out a load of LDs for Oniisama E. If the series involved is one of those that just won't -ever- come out in the US, some of the pressure is off.

On the down side, one should -never- sell fansubs for a profit. This is much, MUCH worse than conventional fansubbing, because you're drawing even more money out of the industry and away from new titles; what's worse, you're drawing it to yourself under false pretenses. The people who do this are called "bootleggers".

Even worse is auctioning a fansub. Keerist, but exactly what did you do to the tape that you paid six bucks for that makes it worth thirty?! (If not more!) Again, this is making money off of other people's work, making it morally wrong, -and- practically it's the most damaging thing you can do to the industry. Don't do it yourself, don't let your friends do it, and report any bastards that you see doing it to the proper authorities. ;p

7.4 Okay, that's the ethics of fansub watching... what about the ethics of fansubbing?

This is trickier. If you just watch fansubs, then it's fairly easy to reduce the harm being done to the industry on an individual basis; just don't do any of the bad stuff. On the other hand, if you make fansubs, people will abuse them in your name and you -do- have some culpability in it.

What can you do? Unfortunately, not a whole fragging lot. I'll try to hit the high points here.

First, look at the reasons that you're going into fansubbing. "Want to spread awareness of a  cool title" is good. Still good, but not quite as, is "I saw this and can't wait for a pro translation... I'll do my own!" Not so good would be "I can do this better than (x) company". If "I can make a good buck" crosses your mind, -change it-. Fast.

You're choosing to go into fansubbing. This means that you're going to put a lot of work into making the sub, timing the sub, getting the translation, tweaking the masters, mailing off tapes, and what have you. For all of your hard work and effort, you will be lauded by the people that get material from you (usually) and derided as a parasite on fandom by others. Be prepared. Realize, also, that for your hard work, time, and effort, you are still not entitled to one red cent. Set your pricing accordingly.

If you don't plan to do much copying of tapes, at least consider using the SASE method of distribution. If no money changes hands, then you've knocked out half of your ethical problems right off the bat. Sure, it's a comparative pain in the ass, but what hey.

Assuming that you are going to use a pay-for-tapes model, don't go cheap on the tapes. Get online and go find a tape company that will ship you Fuji UH-611 or similar quality in bulk. Even after shipping, it should work out to a bit less than five bucks for tape, assuming you live in the continental US. If not, find a local supplier. Don't use Sony V or even Maxell Gold, unless you're planning to offer three tapes for eight bucks or so.

VCR issues are tricky. Can you "expense" your VCR maintenance, or the costs of buying new ones? Easy answer is "no". If you're using the equipment for -anything- else, even watching other tapes in your spare time, then definitely no. Even if it's exclusively for fansubbing use, it's hard to justify making other people pay for it. (And, before you ask, anime LDs are NOT justifiable expenses either. Neither is your electricity bill or your gasoline to and from the post office!)

Ship however you like. Just don't charge for UPS shipping and then use USPS.

The fansubber that does this will be mostly ethical and rapidly broke. Solution? Solicit donations. If somebody likes how you do things and wants to kick in a twenty to help keep things running, there's nothing wrong with that. (There's nothing wrong with adding your "fan sponsors" to the credits, either.)

Be transparent with your finances! If you're being aboveboard and not making any profits, then people will see this and think well of you, perhaps reducing the amount of flames leveled in your direction.

Don't overwork yourself. It's your hobby, -not- your business. If you're getting 300 requests a week, do something to filter them out. Trying to fill them all just burns you out faster.

Okay, that last one devolved from ethics to good sense. Sorry, and we'll move on. ^_^

7.5 Okay, I've got the commercial version. What do I do with these fansubs?

Well, go ahead and keep 'em. You're covered. Or dispose of them as you wish, recycle the tape, put other stuff on top of them.

Resist the temptation to bestow them as gifts on friends. That'll just make them less likely to buy the commercial version.

7.51 The commercial version's coming out, but I don't have enough money to buy it! ;_;

Whoops. Somebody spent too much on fansubs. ;p

Best solution: Blank the tapes. Easy, absolutely unimpeachable on ethical grounds. Painful, though.

If you just can't bear to destroy them, give them to somebody -that already bought the commercial release-. Safest place to keep them, doesn't damage the industry at all. And once you've repaired your finances, you can even ask for them back. <g>

7.6 You were going to say something about Sailor Moon fansubs, right?

Um, right, slipped my mind. ^_^;;

Generally, it should be obvious by now that getting fansubbed tapes of commercially released series is not a kosher activity. However... every so often a company releases something that is so different from the original that it can hardly be called the same product. Dragon Ball is one example; Sailor Moon is another. Both of these series have no subtitled release, and both have been heavily edited for television.

So, if you're a Moonie that just can't stand the thought of hearing "Serena!" one more time, what can you do? I list the alternatives in descending order of ethical status.

- Buy the Japanese LD, learn Japanese, enjoy it raw. "Stuff the fansubbers!" Squeaky clean, but only for people with way too much time and money on their hands.

- Buy the Japanese LD, get some fansubs, and watch the fansubs. You don't have to learn another language with this method, but it's still pricey as all hell.

- Buy the US version, get some fansubs, and laugh at the differences in editing.

- Buy the US version, get some fansubs, and feel good about having made a contribution.

- Don't get any version. Suffer in agony. Petition DIC or Pioneer for a good subtitled version.

- Jaywalk.

- Buy the US version of episodes that don't suffer from poor editing (there must be some), and get fansubs for the rest.

- Don't bathe for days. (Too many anime fans take this advice.)

- Get fansubs of the whole series, loudly proclaiming that you won't settle for the mangled version.

- Steal from the local mall.

- Copy your friend's commercial tapes, loudly proclaiming that you wouldn't be caught dead spending -your- money on a mangled version.

- Murder dozens of innocent people.

Notice the trend?

Getting a fansub of Sailor Moon -is- on a different level with getting a fansub of another anime series that has been released commercially. For one, the market-promoting effect actually works backwards here; if you pay for a commercial version of a hacked tape, then you're indirectly promoting the production of more hacked tapes! <shudder> For another, the changes and editing are more than "picky" people would appreciate; I won't touch SM with a ten-foot pole, but I can still understand that changing the sex of a main character just to avoid references to homosexuality is one hell of a change. DBZ has a good chunk of this as well.

Remember, people who get these are still incurring the same moral obligation that any consumer of fansubs occurs... in other words, if a subbed version does come out, you -do- have to buy it. Really. ^_^

7.7 What about fandubs?

Fandubs have their own gradation. Most acceptable are pure parody dubs; these are ones in which the dialogue, editing, and what have you are swapped around for comic purposes. Most of these don't see wide distribution, and many -domestic- anime companies give the ol' wink and nod to the productions. Hell, they're funny. The trick, though, is not to insult anybody who owns intellectual property rights to what you're using, at least not enough to tick them off. (I seem to remember a scene with Robert Woodhead in "Roadbusted"...)

Less acceptable, but still on a par with fansubs, are straight fandub projects. Basically, it's a fansub with a new audio track instead of subs. They're -hard- to produce, tho. For the curious, NO, you can't expense audio production equipment either.

Definitely unacceptable are fandubs produced because of percieved lack of quality of the commercial version. Look, guys, you're kidding yourselves; even a brilliantly done fandub is going to pale next to a mediocre commercial dub. ^_^ Dubbing is -hard-.

7.71 What about "radio play" fandubs, with no video?

I'm seeing more and more of these on the 'net. A bunch of people get together and VO something, slap MP3s of the finished product on a website, and there you have it. I suppose you could watch a tape and turn the TV volume down, with Winamp all the way up with one. Not opposed to them morally, as the only thing that you're borrowing is the script, but I don't see the appeal m'self.


8.1 Is it ethical to use pictures from an anime series for your own purposes?

Assuming that the purposes from themselves aren't nefarious evil plans for world domination or something similar, yeah. There -are- a couple of exceptions.

- Image galleries of screen caps are okay. Nobody's going to forego a series just because they can find a bunch of pictures of it. However, image galleries of art books are not nearly as ethical. If I can get every image from Intron Depot on the web (and I did, mind), then why go out and buy the book at all?

- Make sure that you're not presenting art that somebody else drew as your own art. I shouldn't have to tell people that plagarism is bad, but you never know. ^_^;;

8.2 Is fan art ethical?

Um... mostly.

Many artists have no problem whatsoever with fan art. It's a nice ego stroke, lets them know that people are enjoying their work, and every so often gives the artist a chance to appreciate his or her own characters without having to do the work on them personally.

On the other hand, not everybody likes fan art. Part of it is proprietary feeling... if the artist went to the creative effort to make a character, that character is the artist's. Another part is the danger of imperfect emulation. A lot of fan art is, sorry to say, just not that good, and somebody that does produce good art might not find shoddy drawings of his hard labor to be all that flattering.

That being said, it's almost impossible to cause actual market harms with fan art. Go nuts. Fanart of another fan's creation should be preceded by a request for permission, however.

8.3 What about using other people's fanart?

This should be done with permission only. After all, it's a lot more personal for the fan artist; in exchange for their hard work, you should at least ask them before posting their image. (You're likely to get it, although you'll probably have to put the artist's name somewhere.)

8.4 What about hentai (sexually explicit) pictures of characters?

This generally coincides with your views on pornography in general. I say, if you don't like it, don't look at it, but there's nothing particularly wrong with creating it.

8.41 Even depicting children?

Given the choice between a pedophile seeking pictures of immature anime characters or seeking pictures of immature real people, which would you pick?

8.42 Even depicting misogynistic acts?

<shrug> Some people -like- that stuff.

8.43 That's disgusting.



9.1 Is it ethical to write fan fiction?

Um, yes. It just promotes interest in the series.

9.2 What about fics with different characterization than normal?

So long as you -realize- this, yes. Heck, I wrote a chapter of Magical Girl Hunters, where the protagonists going around killing magical girls willy-nilly, and wouldn't Naoko Takeuchi or CLAMP faint dead away at that?

Honestly, views differ on this, but it's no more wrong to write a happy Evangelion story or a dark Irresponsible Captain Tylor story than it is to put your feet up on the table in your own home. Sure, a few people find it distasteful, but the majority couldn't care less.

9.3 What about hentai (sexually explicit) fics?

Oddly enough, these are more popular than conventional fics. <grin>

9.31 You know, you're awfully permissive of that kind of thing.

Yeah, I've got a libertarian bent when it comes to free speech. Seriously, if you object to pornography, you've got many worse things to worry about than hentai fan fiction.

9.4 Another author wrote a good story and I want to (use one of the characters/write another chapter/write a lemon side-story).

You should always ask first. Usually, if the author agrees, he or she will help you with the fic.

9.41 What if they say no?

Then you shouldn't use their idea. Write your own stuff... well, write your own fanfiction, anyway. ^_^

9.5 Somebody is stealing my idea/character/plot device/story!

Well, you should probably post to rec.arts.anime.fandom and inform people about it, although you'd better have a good justification that it was yours.

9.51 Like what?

Ideally, a neutral third party has already seen your fic and can compare the two, backing up your claim. If you posted the fic to rec.arts.anime.creative, it will already be in the archive and thus easy to prove yours.

9.52 Well, I hadn't shown mine to anybody yet.

How can you claim it was stolen, then? Hurry up next time.

9.53 What can I do then?

Wait as public ridicule is heaped upon the offender... unless the copy is better than the original, in which case you might be in for it yourself. Be warned. <g>

9.6 What about MSTs?

These get tricky. An MST is a deliberate parody of a fic, and it's usually pretty harsh for the author. If you have no respect for the author already, go ahead and post it; he'll be more ticked off by the abrasive content than the fact that you didn't ask, first. Be careful, though; if other people disagree with your view of the author's ability, then you'll look pretty crass.

If you do respect the author in question, ask. If you ask and they say no, -don't- post it anyway. That's just downright rude.


10.1 Is it ethical to buy SM CDs?

Not unless you live in Taiwan. (Not really if you -do- live in Taiwan, for that matter, but you have to have some kind of compensating perk for living there, I figure.)

10.11 What if I can't afford the actual CD?

Go make more money. Lack of funds does not justify piracy, or what amounts to piracy.

10.12 What if I can't -find- the actual CD?

There are a lot of mail-order companies that are more than willing to help you. IF all efforts fail, THEN you can probably purchase the SM CD, but don't stop looking for the regular version, and purchase it
when you find it.

10.2 What about other bootlegs?

<sigh> This depends heavily on what we're talking about. I personally wouldn't pick up anything I knew to be bootleg, but then again I have several high-quality sources for anime-related products; some things,
like wall scrolls and posters, just don't work well through mail order. In those cases, it's probably all right to buy a bootleg. Look for the real stuff, though!

10.3 What about MP3s?

If you like the music from a particular anime, hunt down the CD. It won't take up space on your hard drive and is a lot easier to run in the background on your computer. ^_^