Friday, June 13, 2008

In My View: The myth of supporting the industry

(Please note: I'm arguing from a Libertarian ethical standpoint. Your mileage may vary.)

So there's been something that's been bothering me for the last couple of months, but I haven't really been able to put a finger on it. It wasn't until I watched the special features on the Haruhi DVDs that it struck me.

Tucked in amid all of the rest of the credits on the ASOS Brigade special feature was a fairly innocuous line:

A special thanks to

All of the fansub lovers who buy the official DVDs and help support more creative works.

No special thanks to

Downloaders/bootleggers who never buy the official DVDs

Now in all fairness this little piece of propaganda has gotten fairly common in these circles in the past couple of years, and has spread like a cold in an elevator ever since the Geneon collapse. Now even past the self-congratulatory smugness of this statement, there's something else that's been bugging me: the idea that buying is ethically good. So let me set my opinion straight on this, the act of exchanging money for entertainment can be either a good or bad thing depending on the quality of the entertainment. But the simple act of "buying" is not necessarily an ethical thing.

That is unless you watched the fansubs. And then buying isn't really an ethical act, but a form of penance, a way to pay back people who you took the entertainment from in the first place.

See what bugs me about this entire argument is that the focus is on the wrong thing. People seem to be confusing the cause with the effect. Anime is a product. DVDs are products. The anime industry, the studios, the directors, the distributors, they aren't products. You aren't and shouldn't be spending your money to "support the industry," you should be spending your money to buy a product. Now, I don't blame the anime industry, I mean they got to sell DVDs, so they're going to use whatever methods they can to convince people to buy. And I don't really blame the fans; I mean everyone wants to believe that they're the hero of their own story.

But, Jiminey Christmas, this idea that I need to buy to support the industry seems like it should come complete with children living in poverty stricken countries, while Sally Struthers tells us how, "You too can help the anime industry for low cost of $ .99 a day" And that's my problem with it. If the product is worth buying, then I'll buy it. If it wasn't worth buying, then I won't buy it. It's that simple. I don't need some sort of guilt trip to make me purchase a DVD. And I definitely don't need some sort of pat on the back to tell me what my ethics should be.

But if the industry is compelled to say something, and evidently they are, a simple thank you would suffice. Because being thanked for correcting an action that was wrong in the first place feels a bit slimy to me.


peter burd said...

I don't see how appealing to fans to buy the licensed DVDs is an appeal to support "the industry."

Fansubs aren't an offering for free by the creators and the companies that produced it to entice you to buy in.
It's not a fund drive like you get on PBS ("If you liked our little offering please pledge money"). Oh, and Sally Struthers was working with a charity. It doesn't fit here.

nunka said...

If you haven't yet read Justin Sevakis's open letter to the industry, I'd recommend it. I don't necessarily agree with all of his arguments---back in November when the editorial was new, a few bloggers joked that he was acting as the herald of an "anime apocalypse," and that's not entirely inaccurate---but he makes the point that fansubbing won't stop unless there's a cheap, legal way to watch subtitled anime no more than a few days after it airs in Japan.

That may or may not be true, but I certainly wouldn't mind if that were the reality of things, because there's a chance it would get people to shut the hell up about buying DVDs to "support the industry."

Cameron Probert said...

@peter burd - If it were only an appeal to buy licensed DVDs I'd agree with you. But the appeal is to buy licensed DVDs so that people can "support the industry" or thank the creators or so the industry can continue to make the product. What I'm saying is that people should buy the product because the product is worthwhile.

In fact, I believe I said that people have an ethical obligation to buy if they think the product is worth buying.

@nunka - Actually I did read it. And I agree with it, 100 percent. Really he said everything I would say and everything that I have said. :)

Honestly I think the market has changed and stealing for better or worse has become a consumer choice. And the industries have to adapt to it, especially in the case of niche industries such as the US anime industry.