Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Seviakis vs. Smith : My opinion

(Okay, this is the hardest part, which is why I've been putting it off.)

Introduction

I know calling Mr. Smith wrong is a harsh way to put it. In all honesty, I feel for the guy. He's putting out a product that he thinks is worth selling and people are just coming along and taking it, putting it on the Internet and thumbing their nose at the whole capitalist ideal.

And in a large part, I do want people to buy anime. I do want people to support the industry. But on the other hand, the capatialist paradigm is changing or rather has changed. Gone are the halycon days when a few brick and mortars controlled a very local market and you had to go to them to get your stuff. That was obilitarated when Amazon and eBay proved to be workable business models. Long past is the times when you had to have a physical medium to enjoy copyrighted material. That disappeared with mp3s and the rise of Napster. And quickly disappearing are the days when even ISPs can control the flow of intellectual property through their lines. That vanished when Comcast couldn't close down BitTorrent. (Granted from the sound of it, it might have been more of a case of truth in advertising then anything else.)

So while I feel bad for Mr. Smith on a personal level, I have to say that he needs to wake up and smell the 21st century and the new brand of capitalism. A capitalism that isn't controlled by a few brick and mortars in a very local area. A capitalism that is controlled by the consumer.

And downloading intellectual property without paying for it has become a consumer choice.

Why I think Seviakis's argument is right.

To be honest, perhaps tj_han is correct, and I'm merely mimicing someone else's opinion, but I have worked in retail a long time. And if there is any one rule in retail it's: The customer might not always be right, but they're still the customer.

And in the end, the job of the retailer and the businessman is to meet the customers need. Never has this become more important than in the world of intellectual property, which unlike furniture or shoes or drugs, is not an actual physical item. You can't force customers to come buy from you. You have to offer them either exceptional customer service or a really cheap price.

Seviakis's argument acknowledges this. That it doesn't matter why people are downloading. And while he does indulge into proving that it is hurting the industry, he also points out that trying to guilt people into buying isn't going to work. Essentially the industry has to wake up and deal with the fact that they're not meeting their consumers needs.

And the consumers are taking it for themselves.

(Again, I could spend and entire post talking about whether this is good or bad, but hopefully I've argued that it's a non-point.)

So if the industry wants to compete with fansubs, it has to do exactely that. Compete with fansubs. It has to offer the same service that fansubs do. If they don't then they'll continue to lose money to them.

To be fair, I'm not entirely sure I did his argument justice, but that's what I took away from it. And it's Mr. Smith's argument that scares me far more.

Why I think Arthur Smith's argument is wrong.

Like I've said before, I feel bad for the guy. I will give the man credit. He did start off by saying that the industry is evaluating different options to provide anime quicker to the market. But... and this is a big but... I have a serious problem with the tone of his response. His first two points were much like the beginning of Seviakis's letter. He's simply trying to prove that fansubs are indeed hurting the industry. Now I could spend all day poking holes in his numbers, but I don't think it's necessary. What is necessary is to point out why he's doing it.

He wants us, 'the fans' , to be concerned about the industry. My initial opinion about his tone hasn't changed. The first section of his letter is a plea for people to worry, to give money, it's a pity party told in four part harmony. It's a call to give and give and give some more because you're local neighborhood anime company needs your support. It's not the words of a business man, it's the words of a beggar. Essentially he's turned the anime industry from a business into a charity. Where we "should" give money, rather than "want" to give money.

What disturbs me the most is his third point, where he says why they can't do what Seviakis suggested. Now I do have to give him credit, he does say that he's going to "work to shorten this length of time" but the problem is that he has to make it much quicker than six months. Granted, I've gotten less angry about this as I've read it, but it still seems, like a question of , "Oh we'll try." rather than "Yes, I'm going to do that."

And that's what I want to hear from Smith. I want to know that he's doing everything he can to save his business. I want to know that I'm not wasting my support on an industry that isn't working to support itself.

Because otherwise, why should I waste my time.

4 comments:

DrmChsr0 said...

Seviakis is right on some things, but both are wrong on the fundamental level.

You see, the Japanese don't want to market their goods outside of Japan, because they fear that if the 'dirty' foreign companies make a better, cheaper product, they will lose revenue due to reverse-importing (nevermind the fact that it would still be just as expensive when you factor in shipping costs...). That's why everyone complains about the R1 stuff being inferior to the R2s. Well, it's not ADV's fault, but the Japanese, for demanding things like dubbing and lousy boxart and lack of extras.

You think the Japanese would actually listen to Seviakis or any 'dirty' gaijin? Even though I believe that a simultaneous release of shows is possible, it won't work out because the Japanese would rather care for their own market than the overseas market.

LytHka said...

@drmchsr0

These guys aren't just a bunch of dirty little kids, they're businessmen trying to find a working business model. I think AD Vision's chairman stood up for Japanese distributors not so long ago in an ANN interview, saying they're considering all options to take their business into the future.
The thing is though, we are blaming Arthur Smith for doing what's in his legal right under current international copyright laws. Broken laws, but laws nonetheless.

Onesided discussions won't bring us closer to any solutions.

drmchsr0 said...

You have a point, and I seem to have strayed out of it. Forgive me, for I'm still reeling under the effects of what the local distributor is doing here. They had the gall to extort and blackmail people who downloaded fansubs. To make matters worse, the courts, until recently, ruled in their favor without blinking so much as an eyelid (Our country does not recognize the right to privacy as a human right, I live in Singapore).

A C&D by Funimation is nothing, it's just a 'kind' reminder for the groups to not touch this piece of bacon. You haven't seen the worst of it.

I've always respected the American companies for not fucking with the fans until absolutely necessary. And I wish them all the best. But this Arthur Smith guy is pretty ignorant of the facts and out of touch with reality. Perhaps we should tie him to a chair and make him watch Afro Samurai.

But you can't ignore the Japanese mindset, either. Even though I may be wrong about it. I'd still like to hear it straight from a Japanese executive's point of view. No cultural hypocrisy, no nothing. Just the raw truth.

Cameron Probert said...

@drmchsr0 - To be honest, I do think that the Japanese companies are trying. But I do think there needs to be a paradigm adjustment. Up until now, there has been a large group of people who've been pretty grateful in America that someone, anyone brought this stuff over. I think that group is shrinking.

And I think he needs to find a way to appeal to the people who are downloading without paying. In a way that he can make a profit off of them. In all honesty, I think there needs to be a paradigm shift.

To be fair, I think it's coming. But I think it's coming too slow.

And honestly, I think the American distributors are trying everything they can. But they're getting hamstrung at the source. And getting product that's already old by the time they get it.

Oh yeah... Odex sucks. A lot. Granted they did get anime on TV.

@lythka

I agree that they aren't dirty little kids. And it is their property. Personally I want people to buy the stuff and support the industry.

But I do think that they're talking about trying, but I haven't seen a lot of doing from the source side of things.

As I said above I don't think this is a problem from the distibutors side of things.