Since 2017, I started the shift towards streaming mostly because it’s convenient and it’s probably the cheapest way to support the industry. From the monthly subscription fees, royalties are paid from the shows you watch, which eventually goes back to the studios and the industry.
Given the problem that studios are facing with low pay and poor working conditions, if more switched to legal alternatives, it would help the industry. After all, revenue generated overseas will become more important given the change in demographics in Japan.
While streaming is not the ideal solution mostly because of region restrictions, it’s not a problem if you live in North America. Of course, exclusivity of titles and fragmentation is another issue. Certain titles will only be available on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, Amazon, Netflix or Funimation. In other words, this will require subscribing to multiple services.
If you take these drawbacks from the picture, it’s a better way to watch anime as it’s convenient. One doesn’t have to mess around with Bittorrent, worry about what video players to use, and having enough disk space. You just watch whatever you want.
However, people who live in regions where legal options are readily available and can afford it still choose to pirate. People have to realize that not only this is selfish and immoral given the poor state of the animation industry, you are also putting your information security at risk. Not to mention, piracy or rather the correct term, copyright infringement is illegal. I will explain why you should probably stop pirating anime and consider legal options if available.
(Note: Pardon the lack of images, they are coming in a few days)
1. You are hurting the industry.
Sure, people argue that anime is an advertisement that will drive sales of goods and physical media. Yes, this is true. On the other hand, for licensed merchandise, probably only a small percentage goes back to the studio, unless they have a lot of leverage. Most of the money is made off of DVD and Blu-ray sales, especially the releases in Japan.
As mentioned in an earlier editorial, Japanese releases tend to be expensive and only have 2-3 episodes. They are treated as collector items for those who want to own it and enjoyed the series. In most cases, the average consumer in Japan would just rent the DVDs or Blu-rays, watch them once and return them. However, for licensed releases, they probably only see a certain percentage from sales that come from royalties. The bulk comes from the initial licensing fees.
Sure, there are probably a good number who buy merchandise instead of subscribing to legal options. However, there is probably a vast number who pirate and don’t buy anything. As a result, the studios don’t see the royalties from people who pirate or view illegal streams. They only receive them from viewers who watch a show off a service like Crunchyroll. Of course, there is a misconception that sites like Crunchyroll don’t give any money back to the studios.
Believe it or not, while Crunchyroll started as a user-generated content site with people uploading illegal content, they started to change. While there is resistance to licensed legal streams with professional subtitles, it eventually caught on. Who wouldn’t want to pay $4.99-7.99 for a large library of anime to watch. This holds true with music as with Apple Music or Spotify, one only needs to pay a small monthly fee to listen to a vast number of music. The entry fee of watching a certain series is now cheaper. One doesn’t have to buy DVDs or Blu-rays to watch them.
Of course, there is a misconception that they don’t support the industry. They pay based on what the users watched. Since 2017, they also started giving funds for a number of productions each season.
While people who are against legal streaming say that the contributions from legal services are small and doesn’t matter, don’t let them fool you. Every bit counts as the industry is still receiving royalties from legal streams that eventually go back to the production committees and studios. In comparison, they receive zero from those who view anime through illegal means. This alone shows who is supporting the industry and the works they produce versus people who are not.
It’s understandable that not all regions get treated the same, especially outside of North America. I can understand why those people have to illegally download simply because the service doesn’t exist. But for those who are fortunate, there is really no excuse.
2. Viewing or downloading Illegal anime is a great way to compromise your security.
Since I am knowledgeable in the field of Information Security with my two IT certifications (Comptia Security+ and Cybersecurity Analyst/CySA+) in the field and work professionally in Information Technology for a federal agency, you know that downloading illegal files is an easy way to get infected. Information Security/Cybersecurity is very important as hackers are after your personally identifiable information. In some cases, they may hold up your files for ransom.
The question is, can you really trust the anime you pirated and be sure it’s not infected with malware? It’s just like using pirated software. Can you really trust a download of Adobe Photoshop that is cracked just to save $10 a month on a subscription? Seems tempting, but it’s not worth risking your creative work if the app crashes or worse, stolen or corrupted.
As for illegal online streaming sites, they are very questionable not just from a legal standpoint, but also a security standpoint. It’s obvious that these sites are in it to make the money. It’s not only limited to anime, but anything. Yes, there are people out there that use pirated WordPress themes or software. There is no wonder why he or she end up getting hacked or losing their files.
In other words, these illegal streaming sites will put a ton of ads that can install malware, run scripts that can possibly steal cookies used by other sites or violate your privacy. By using illegal streaming sites, you are essentially inviting criminals to potentially steal your data. Also, illegal downloads might contain files that look like the actual video file, but actually installs a trojan. Is this worth it just to save $4.99-7.99 per month?
With that, you should rethink whether or not your data and personal information is more important compared to having your computer compromised just to watch anime for free. Don’t be a cheapskate if you can afford it.
3. It’s illegal.
Believe it or not, viewing or downloading pirated anime whether it’s through an illegal streaming site or from BitTorrent is illegal. Essentially, it’s copyright infringement and there is a possibility of you getting into legal trouble. While in some jurisdictions, downloading is not necessary illegal, upload is always certainly is.
Since internet service providers are held liable if the user downloads a file illegally and a company that owns it catches them. You might lose your internet access as a result until you agree not to do it. If you continue to do so, the internet service provider might terminate you. In other words, you won’t have any internet. Even with the use of virtual private network services, which encrypts traffic to increase privacy, it’s not always full proof.
In some countries, they are now passing laws against illegal downloading. While I don’t necessarily agree with the mythology as it can put innocent people at risk if someone gains access to a wireless hotspot and download illegal files, this is becoming a sad reality. Even without laws, there is the possibility of you getting sued over it, especially if you use Bittorrent. Is this worth it to save $5-8 a month for the legal option if it’s available and possibly getting sued for thousands of dollars or lose internet access?
Now that I cover the three main reasons you shouldn’t pirate anime, it’s time to bust some myths.
1. The legal option is too expensive.
No, the legal option is not expensive. Back in the early 2000s, excluding illegal downloads, DVD and sometimes VHS releases were the only way to watch most series. They usually cost a lot of money especially the separate volumes which only have 3-6 episodes each. Eventually, companies like Aniplex, Funimation and Sentai Filmworks switched to full releases, which are a lot cheaper. Still, it costs around $30-50 to buy these releases and, in some cases, they might go out of print.
With legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hidive, you have full access to old and new titles for a monthly or yearly fee. While Crunchyroll raised the yearly fee, it’s still cheaper opposed to buying a few complete DVD/Blu-ray collections.
In most cases, you can save money by using iTunes gift cards if you own an iPhone or an iPad. Sometimes, places like Amazon and Best Buy will discount them, thus saving you some money towards paying for the streaming services. Membership wholesale clubs like Costco also have small discounts on iTunes gift cards and sometimes have a sale on them. Crunchyroll, Funimation and Hidive allows you to subscribe yearly through their app. Also, using certain credit cards with 2%-3% cash back also helps as well.
Moreover, if you subscribe monthly and a service don’t have any shows that you are interested in for a given season, you can pause or cancel the subscription. Most people do this to save money. You can always resubscribe if the service has a simulcast that you are interested in.
2. The player legal streaming sites use are crappy flash-based player.
This is no longer the case as Crunchyroll finally rolled out its HTML5 video player and have improved ever since. Funimation Now and Hidive do not use flash-based players. Also, you don’t need to use the mobile app either as the video players on the web version works on most devices.
3. There is no offline viewing.
This is false. Funimation supports offline viewing as do Crunchyroll through VRV. For Hidive, there is currently no offline option, unless you subscribe to VRV instead. Note that offline viewing is usually available only through the mobile apps.
4. I can’t use these services or view all the content since I am not located in North America.
It’s possible to view all the content from these service through the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A Virtual Private Network will encrypt your internet traffic to and from a server. Most importantly, it will make your connection appear that you are in a different location. If you live in America, you should use a VPN since the FCC changed the rules allowing your ISP to sell your browsing data. If you want to protect your privacy, you should be using one, especially if you use public WiFi.
These services are usually paid services. However, they can be worthwhile if you want to watch shows legally while protecting your privacy and security. Make sure you find a VPN that streaming services do not block, if you are using Netflix. ExpressVPN are known to work with Netflix.
If you are planning to use Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Funimation, you are better off rolling your own VPN. You do this by buying a virtual private server from Digital Ocean or Linode and running a setup script. This is cheaper than a VPN service costing little as $5 a month. From my experience, they are not blocking access from VPNs hosted on virtual private servers. Some services have templates that allows you create a VPN server with one click. There is also a script called Streisand that sets up the VPN without the manually configurations it. Even Linus Tech Tips has a video on how to set one up.
5. Finding where to watch the shows legally is too difficult.
It’s not surprising that illegal streaming sites appear on top of the search results. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you use an anime discovery site such as Kitsu or AniList, the show’s title information page will have links to where to watch the show.
Another useful site you can use is because.moe, which is a search engine for legal anime streams. You just select the region and type the name of the show you want to watch. Afterwards, you can find out where to see a given show legally. Also, LiveChart have a streaming site list, which shows where you can watch a show for a given season.
6. Downloading anime/viewing illegal streams is easier than watching legal streams.
Since I commute to Washington DC, which takes about 45-50 minutes each way, one needs to do something to pass the time. Since it’s usually impossible to BitTorrent anime as one needs to manually download it first, this is where streaming has a huge advantage. All I just need to do is open the app or load the website on my iPhone and start watching. In comparison, you don’t have to configure any BitTorrent client, download the show, and open in the player.
It’s a sad fact that while the illegal option appears as the first search result, it’s not the easiest. You are usually bombarded with ads and popups on illegal streams compared to the legal option. There are apps for these illegal services, but they require rooting the device, making it vulnerable to malware.
Some streaming services like Vrv and Funimation allows you to download an episode to your phone or tablet for offline viewing. That way, you don’t have to burn through your data plan if you don’t have an unlimited one. As for me, I don’t really need offline viewing since I already have an unlimited data plan. One episode is usually enough to get through the train ride home.
In short, pirating anime in general not only hurts the industry, but it hurts the viewer as well. While it is understandable why people choose to use illegal means and I don’t want to shame people that do. Still, one needs to understand the risks.
I understand that people are tempted by free stuff. Putting the industry impacts aside, is it worth putting your information security at risk? Remember, nothing in life is free. By using illegal streams and downloads, you are essentially asking to become compromised or possibly get into legal issues.
With that, what are your thoughts on anime piracy and legal streaming in general? Have I open your eyes in regards to piracy and cybersecurity? Also, do you think the legal anime streaming scene is a bit too, fragmented? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments about that too.