Ayanext Industry and Piracy Panel

This is a transcription of the Industry and Piracy panel held on 6th November 1999 at the Ayanext anime convention in Birmingham. The panel was intended for discussion of piracy and other issues to do with anime in the UK.

On the panel were:
Alex McClaren(owner of Otaku Publishing)
Helen McCarthy(author of a number of books on anime)
Steve Kyte(professional artist)
Jim McClennan(the voice of reason)
Chris Jones(a representative of ADV Films)
Jonathan Clements(writer, translator and the current editor of Manga Max)
Rod Shaile(a representative of Manga Entertainment)

Contributing from the audience were:
Nick Bryce
Barry Hitchins(retail manager for Otaku)
Martin Dudman(owner of United publications)
Martin Russ

and various others I can't identify (They all appear as 'Audience' in the text). The panel was chaired by Chris Plaice, the Ayanext chair.

Comments and sound effects are given in square brackets. Unfortunately, some of the dialogue could not be transcribed due to noise, people talking over each other, etc. Where this occurs, it is indicated by [???].

[When I started recording, the panel had not started (only Jim, Jonathan and Helen were present, but the preamble was still interested so I have left it in.]
Helen:So are you here to defend piracy or simply to put the case for it?
Audience:We haven't decided.
Jim:Yes, this is a matter of some debate. Merely to say that there are certain cases in which it is necessary. How's that sound?
Helen:I agree there are certain cases in which it's entirely understandable, however what I can never accept that there are cases in which it is legally justifiable. Legally - that's the distinction. There may be cases in which it is morally justifiable - that's a decision every individual has to make themselves - legally it's always wrong.
[Steve arrives]
[Various inaudible chit-chat]
[Helen talks about her writer's workshop that was held earlier in the day]
Steve:I think we're going to start as soon as [???].
Helen:Rod is being fetched. So is Alex.
Steve:Well let's start anyway.
Helen:OK. Chairman Kyte.
Steve:No, you.
Jonathan:You've done it now, Steve.
Helen:Well he said let's start anyway.
Helen:[to audience] What do you think's happening with the industry at the minute? You tell us something. Anyone want to tell us what...
Audience:Which industry are we talking about?
Helen:The British anime industry, right now. You can compare it with any[???] you want.
Audience:In a state of virtual freefall?
Audience:Too many computer games [???].
Helen:That's not the fault of the British anime industry they can only do what the Japanese industry needs, but...
Audience:Define the British anime industry.
Helen:Anime which is marketed in Britain for a British audience that is on a British format, whether that's in the cinema, on video, on DVD.
Helen:And television, yeah. Obviously it relates in to anime in other countries particularly America, but in Britain we've got a particular market situation and that affects what companies can do.
Helen:Why do you think it's in a state of freefall?
Audience:I don't think there's enough quality product reaching the shops. It's virtually impossible to get hold of now. I mean, I live and work in Chelmsford which is a town of 30,000 people. There isn't one shop in Chelmsford that stocks more than 2 tapes. If you're not getting it to the market, you're not going to sell it. Something has gone wrong there drastically. It's unfair because Rod's not here, but I can remember Manga went back and they said 'we got this new policy. we're going to give you half a dozen top quality tapes a year and it'll be really good stuff'. They gave us Landlock, Psychic Wars, Vampire Wars, Fist of the North Star TV series.
Steve:I think we could get them under the Trade Descriptions Act [1].
Helen:But in fairness, they also gave you Perfect Blue, they gave you Macross Plus...
Audience:I have to agree with that.
Helen:...and I know people who think that Landlock is good - I don't have many intellectual conversations with them [audience laughter], but I know them.
[Chris P arrives]
Audience:That's fair. I mean people are always entitled to their opinion. But it does not strike me that that's what was said when Manga [???].
Jonathan:To be fair, they already had their entire [???] when they changed their marketing policy.
Audience:That's fair, if that's the case.
Jonathan:Rod's not here, so I have to say that.
Audience:I've got no axe to grind with [???] to do.
Helen:It's just that they're the biggest company in the market, so they've got to represent the market.
Audience:As Pioneer seem to have disappeared into a small backwater, not producing...
Helen:Slough. Stoke Poges - worse.
Audience:...wherever it is, they're not exactly chucking the product onto the market with any regularity.
Helen:Yeah. I think that, the thing is that, as Jonathan said, there's TV, and with the Pokemon craze, you will be amazed in how many places anime-related goods are going to pop up.
Audience:Yes, I think that may well be true.
Jim:How many people are aware that Pokemon is really anime? It's not being promoted as anime. There's no reason to watch Pokemon and then think 'Oh yes, let go out and watch Perfect Blue'. There's no cross promotion at all.
Audience:The point about that actually is that the BBC are still very scared of anime. Basically, they will not touch it with a barge pole.
Steve:Except where they don't know it's anime, then they [???].
Audience:Yes exactly, you can sneak it past them and say 'This isn't anime, it's kid's stuff', which they can with Pokemon, they'll take it, but they're still not going to touch anything bigger than that.
Jonathan:Well, in fact the BBC were offered Pokemon on the understanding that it was anime and that's why they turned it down.
Jonathan:That's what [???]
Audience:Can I ask why the BBC are afraid of anime?
Steve:Because of its reputation.
Jonathan:It's all sex and violence. Disgusting.
Helen:Actually, back in the early 80s the BBC didn't want to be bothered with anime because it was low grade kiddie stuff, and then when tentacle porn started out it was 'It's all sex and violence and filth'.
Jonathan:And there's something coming up in the next issue of Manga Max[2] (please buy it), where I was doing a piece about Pokemon going onto ITV, and I pointed out that since we're all licence payers, it's quite a nice thing in a way to know that the BBC weren't just going to jump on any merchandising bandwagon just because Bandai would like them to. I mean, yes they turned down Pokemon, but you know...
Audience:To a certain extent yes, although Pokemon is actually fairly high grade product.
Jonathan:It is fairly high grade, yes.
Steve:The ironic thing about...
[Rod and Chris J enter]
Helen:We haven't started without you, we were just chit-chatting.
Jim:Find a chair.
Helen:Get a drink first.
Steve:The ironic thing of course, is that the first anime most people saw were things in this country were on the BBC like Ulysses 31.
Audience:Absolutely. Battle of the Planets.
Helen:And of course Ulysses 31 was bought in as a French product just as Mysterious Cities of Gold was brought in as a French product. Battle of the Planets was brought in as an American product. In fact, most people in America who are Battle of the Planets fans and who have gone on to Gatchaman still think it's an American made animation.
Nick:Well it is!
Helen:Well, in the later ones, yeah.
Audience:The thing about the Beeb though is that they're very very good at categorising things and once they've categorised it that categorising sticks forever. It's like Star Trek is categorised as being - you put in on at six o'clock on a Wednesday - and it's been like that now for what twenty years and they will not change that categorisation. They've loosened it slightly for things like Voyager, but they still have the same basic categorisation, this is stuff for kids.
Helen:Yes, put it on after tea time and before bed time.
Steve:I think you can't win because originally they thought it was something for kids, now they think it's something for perverts.
Helen:So all perverts are up at 6 o'clock and in bed by half eight are they? Either way, they're [???], they're just not going to buy it.
[Having got their drinks, Rod and Chris J sit down]
Audience:But the BBC have a very strange attitude don't they - we've seen this with Buffy[3]. They buy a product, they decided the marketplace to take it, and they've now had to edit it savagely to fit it into their allotted time slot.
Helen:To be honest, and again this is a matter of taste, but for me, Buffy cannot be edited savagely enough.
[Alex arrives and sits down]
[Helen gets distracted again]
Steve:There's more people up here than in the audience.
Helen:Do you actually want to start the panel Jim, if you're the chair?
Jim:I'm not the chair, Chris is the chair.
ChrisP:I'm the chair.
Helen:You're the chair. Do you want to start the panel Chris?
[Various mutterings]
ChrisP:Ok, I going to be chair then. Welcome to the Ayanext industry and piracy panel. In case you don't know everyone, I think we'll have everyone introduce themselves first.
Alex:I'm Alex McLaren, I run Otaku Publishing. We've got an office in London, an office in Japan, and a web site otaku.com which is one of the main internet anime and manga web sites.
Helen:And Alex of course is the person who's been parting most of you from most of your money for most of today.
Alex:That's true.
Helen:I'm Helen McCarthy, and I write a bit about anime.
Steve:Is that it?
Helen:Yep, that's it.
Steve:In that case, I'm Steve Kyte and I draw, and write a bit.
ChrisP:I'm Chris Plaice and I'm the supposedly neutral chair in this debate.
ChrisJ:I'm Chris Jones and I work for AD Vision.
Jim:I'm Jim McClennan and I'm here because nobody could be found to say anything remotely pleasant about piracy.
Helen:At least not in public
Jonathan:I'm Jonathan Clements. I'm the editor of Manga Max.
Rod:And I'm Rod Shaile from Manga Video.
Jonathan:...and I'm an alcoholic. [audience laughter]
Helen:But it's not a problem, right Rod?
Rod:Nah, it's not. I was [???] at the time.
ChrisP:OK, this panel has come into being from a little thing Rod said last year when he said wouldn't it be a good idea to have an industry panel, and then we had our little vote last year.
Nick:He was drunk at the time, though Chris.
ChrisP:No he wasn't.
Helen:When wasn't he?
ChrisP:I might have been, but he wasn't.
ChrisP:Those of you who pre-registered will know that we had a little questionnaire asking whether we wanted to ban or leave to the conscience the purchase or sale of pirate material. The result of that survey was overwhelmingly in favour of banning the sale. So we thought we'd have a little discussion about it.
Steve:A heated debate.
ChrisP:Alex, you were the one to first put this question to us last year.
ChrisP:Yes, you were the first to bring it up, so what's your stance, why are you [???]?
Alex:First of all I want to say I really support fansubs and that's not what I see as the problem. I have actually worked on some fansubs in the past with my wife, helped translate for some fansubs. So, definitely support that aspect, where it's for personal use or making a copy for a friend, things like that, that's fine. What I don't like is the companies like, for example, SM records who are a Taiwanese company with the sole purpose of selling copies of Japanese music CDs and making money. It's nothing to do with fandom, its all to do with money.
Helen:And of course the originator of the CDs don't get a penny do they?
Alex:That's right, yeah. The people that actually make that music they never see a penny from that so that's really what I got upset about was people selling the copied CDs. Copied CDs is one of the main things I'm against.
Nick:Can I ask a question? I'm just curious - are you against the sale of SM CDs in its country of origin or outside its country?
Alex:I feel it's morally wrong in Taiwan to do that.
Nick:But it's not legally wrong in Taiwan to sell SM CDs.
Alex:Well, apparently they don't have any copyright law within Taiwan, but that still doesn't make it right. I mean it's morally wrong to do that.
Nick:So it's legally OK [???].
Helen:Actually no, Alex is right. If something is legally OK, it doesn't necessarily make it morally right - for example, in Saudi Arabia it is legally OK to beat a woman to death for adultery - does that make it right? It's perfectly legal, but is it right?
Alex:Virtually every single country has signed the Berne Convention which is the international copyright convention to say that those goods is illegal, and in America, for example, it's a federal offence. And so it is illegal in virtual every single country in the world.
Helen:Ten years in Britain ago you couldn't get an anime CD for love or money, unless you knew someone who went to Japan. People didn't just go to Japan in 1990, it wasn't something you did until quite recently. But now, when fans can order CDs from all over the world, including Japan itself, just at the flick of a switch, the only justification for SM CDs is that they're cheaper, and if you're saying what I think you're saying, every time you buy an SM CD, you're saying 'I don't care if the artist who recorded this and the writer who wrote it doesn't get a penny as long as I get it cheap' and that's not something I'm prepared to say, and I hope it's something nobody in this room should be prepared to say either.
Jim:You could say the same thing about buying second hand goods, because the artist doesn't get any money from the sale of second hand goods either.
Helen:No, but the artist has got money from the original sale of the goods, and if you're buying something second hand, I mean, you buy a second hand Chippendale 'cause Chippendale isn't around to make you a new one. Buy a second hand copy of an out-of-issue CD because you can't get that CD anymore.
Jim:But CDs are easily available. I mean, the scrum at the bring and buy sale today showed that people do quite like a bargain.
Helen:Yeah. Not a bargain in which the person who originated it has never been paid, that's not fair.
Jim:Then again [???] like fansubs in some ways. Fansubs are in some ways just a cheap alternative to pirated tapes.
Helen:In the olden days when I was first a fan, fansubbers use to operate like Alex is describing. They use to make their own subs, and they used to copy them for friends for the price of the tape, and if they sent them, postage. And that is 'old-fashioned' fansubbing, if you could call it that. The idea that you're making a fansub when you're actually making a profit on every tape, is contradictory.
Jim:Yeah, but it's not a profit.
Audience:I think everyone understands fansubbing, [???].
Nick:Are we confusing the sale of SM CDs and fansubs? Or are we seeing them as two very separate things indeed.
Helen:We shouldn't be, but there are fan doing fansubbing who are making a profit on fansubbing.
Audience:The way fansubbing works is - you buy one copy of a licensed product, make one subbed copy of that, and give them away for the cost of making a copy. Wouldn't it work better - I understand most people don't have NTSC video players, unless they're dedicated fans who can buy one to watch it.
Helen:Actually, nowadays you can get an NTSC video in the high street for about 180 quid.
Audience:Coming back to the point. Wouldn't it be an idea if you're going to do a fansub - buy an original from Japan, make a fansub copy of that and sell the original with the fansub? So they've then got an English translation and they've got the original, then there's no moral issue there.
Helen:There is, because if you're going to be selling it, then you should have a license from the originators.
Nick:The thing is that fansubbers would pretty soon go out of business if [???]. They couldn't afford to do it. Nobody would want to buy it. [???]
Audience:Cost isn't an issue. It's a moral [???]
Nick:Cost isn't an issue? I'm sorry, I have to disagree very strongly actually.
Audience:Chris, can I ask a question? If somebody translates a piece of work, where does copyright stand in regards to the translation?
Helen:Jonathan's the best [???] to answer that, as a professional translator.
Nick:Too quiet, Jonathan.
Audience:Sorry, didn't see you there.
Jonathan:If you are translating a work then you own your translation. It belongs to you.
Audience:But do you need to obtain rights to even do a translation?
Jonathan:There's nothing to stop me watching a video in Japanese and telling you what's going on, but if I want to sell that translation then it's a dodgy legal area. When I did Iron Fist Chinmi - I still own my script for Iron Fist Chinmi but I don't own the pictures, they belong to the original artist, so I could sell my translation, if I were mad enough, as a pile of typed sheets, but without the comic to go with it that would be [???].
Helen:Actually, there are some people who don't fansub, but do scripts, and they circulate their scripts, and in that instance, if I understand Jonathan correctly, they're circulating something they own if they've made the translation[4].
Jonathan:If you wanted to cause a fuss about it and take it to court and argue it out you can make a lot of trouble, but I don't think that something to help you understand something in the form of a printed script would be a problem for most companies. Don't quote me on that. ([???] 'phone call from Bandai tomorrow).
Audience:I find that worrying because [???] a James Herbert book, does that mean I could translate it and then sell the translation in France?
Jonathan:That's different, because a James Herbert book doesn't have pictures.
Helen:The form of the book is the copyrighted object.
Nick:There's a copyright warning at the start of the book that states...
Audience:There's a copyright warming at the start of a video saying that you can't copy any part of it.
Nick:It doesn't say you can't translate it and sell the translation.
Helen:You're not copying it when you make a translation. You're merely translating the verbal track.
Nick:And the verbal your producing is in a different medium to the actual [???].
Jim:How many pictures does it need then?
Nick:When we're taking about pirate videos in relation to SM CDs. I just want to separate the issue again, because I think it needs to be separated, or we can talk about this as two separate issues - Son May CDs or fansub publishing.
Helen:I think we've got to say even though there not part of this panel that strictly speaking any duplication of a copyrighted object for any purpose is piracy. There are very specific exceptions under the copyright act, but they're very specific and most fansubbers infringe them when they make a second copy.
Nick:I think it's safe to say that the whole anime fan scene is a bit of a grey area. A pretty dark area sometimes.
Helen:A very dirty area in some places.
Audience:So are we saying that if somebody buys an anime item from the country of origin - Japan - and then obtains a fansub script from somewhere else then no one on this panel would have a problem with that?
Helen:I can't see anyone having a major problem with that.
Audience:So if I go and buy something Rod's released from Japan, Rod wouldn't have any problem with me doing that?
Helen:If you were buying something from Japan, and you were prepared to translate it yourself or get someone to translate it for your own pleasure, I think Rod's main problem would be doubting your sanity for going to that level of expense.
Nick:It comes down to availability doesn't it? If something's released subtitled then you don't want a fansub because there's no point.
Audience:Even if it's only been available as a dub? [audience laughter]
ChrisP:We'll leave fansubs for the moment and move back to Son May CDs
Nick:I'm very curious, I wonder if we can actually ask everybody in this room - who knows what Son May CDs are, who has seen them, who has actually heard of them?
ChrisP:OK we'll try that.
Helen:I don't think we should ask them who's bought them, [???], just who's seen them.
Nick:Who knows what the hell we're talking about?
ChrisP:Who would recognise a Son May CD if they saw it?
Helen:Well the numbers SM at the beginning of the catalogue number are a dead give-away. [audience laughter]
Audience:When I first bought a Son May CD I saw it in China town, this was before Japanese CDs were widely available, I didn't realise until a long time afterwards what they were.
Steve:That's the thing, I mean a lot people would I think, because the packaging's exactly the same...
Helen:Actually, we can widen it from Son May CDs, it's also Elfin kits. How many people know Elfin, the kit manufacturer in Korea? Elfin have ripped off just about every major Japanese kit manufacturer, both mainstream and garage, and at one point a certain well know shop who I won't name but who's initials are FP was stacked to the ceiling with Elfin kits at 25 quid a throw with not a penny going back to the Japanese company.
Nick:At the end of the day it comes to the separation of the moral and legal...
Helen:It does, and the problem with the separation of moral and legal is that you can make this separation as individuals in your own mind, but the law doesn't, and the law doesn't allow for your separation and one thing that does worry me is the number of people who e-mail me and who write to me and who say 'I know this is perfectly OK because I can't get a sub I would like', or 'I know this is perfectly OK because I can't get a sub at all' or 'I can't get a sub that I like' and I go back and say 'well, terrible sorry, it isn't'. There are companies on the net who say 'It's ok for me to release Japanese videos in America because if they haven't already been released in America they're not protected by American copyright. This is not actually true, but people say it and believe it. All I would say is that are unfortunately a growing number of incidences who have believed that their own moral choice was supported by law and have had video collections seized, parcels interfered with, address books seized and various other action taken for copyright protection.
Steve:That's one of the downsides of the net isn't it? Because once you've got this sort of misinformation going out, it's a problem, whereas in the past it would only go to a fairly small number of people, now it's anyone who's on the net can read things like that and say 'it's OK', go and do it.
Helen:[???], but Son May CDs everyone seems to know.
ChrisP:Let's move back to how it affects this con and the dealers room and why we banned it.
[long pause]
Nick:No use asking us.
ChrisP:I want to know your opinion. First thing, how many people in this room, when they sent back the form to me, voted for us to ban pirate material from our dealer's room?
[long pause, some puzzlement]
ChrisP:All right, this was only if you filled it in or if you would have... That looks like more than the majority of people here. I can tell you now that the vote I got in the end was somewhere in the region of 70% ban, 20% don't ban, 10% couldn't be bothered to answer the question or [???]
Nick:That's not bad. 10%.
Alex:Pretty good.
ChrisP:I reduced it down to 'prohibit/conscience', and we still had someone who managed to ring both.
Helen:Prohibit it, but let me buy them if my conscience says it's OK.
ChrisP:Right. Is there anyone here who feels that we shouldn't have banned, that we should have left it to your own conscience - to decide whether you wanted to buy that item from the dealers room.
Jim:[???] have to say.
Nick:It's a free choice. [audience laughter]
Audience:I wouldn't vote for [???] if you're really desperate for something, you really want it [???].
Steve:I don't think it's fair, though, to expect a con committee to do that.
Nick:[???] just because you want it.
Alex:Try it in Tesco's[5] next time, see how they like it.
Audience:If you try it in Tesco's, you'll get arrested for it, but if you really want something, you can't get it legally, you'll get it illegally.
Jim:Even if you're not prepared to pay the extremely expensive prices for import CDs.
Keith:I'd just like to say, that if you buy a pirated object, even if you buy it in ignorance, you're not going to get the same kind of quality as buying the original item from an unauthorised seller. The other thing is if you get back home and you find that your CD doesn't work right, or whatever it is, you can 'phone somebody up, or email them and they'll say 'Yeah, send us it back and we'll replace it for you', but if you have that kind of problem with your low quality pirated version, how do you know you're going to have the right to do that? They could just brush you off and you're out of pocket, so it's a bit of a gamble really.
Nick:It's down to two things really. At the end of the day it's availability and cost. A quick question. How many people in this room know how much a Son May CD actually costs? Roughly. Let's have a ball park figure. What's the cheapest, What's the highest.
Helen:I've seen then going at 13.99.
Alex:We were offered them. Son May contacted us and said would we buy them, and they said they were $3 each. They don't have to pay anybody.
Nick:Let's say an average of about ten pound each, just as a ballpark figure, generally, that's ten pounds a CD. It's a copy of an original. What's the original CD going to cost you? Anything between 20 and 30.
Barry:No, that's going to cost about 15 to 30.
Alex:We've got some at 15.
Nick:Some? let's be honest, the majority of Japanese CDs are around 20 to 30 quid.
Jonathan:I think Alex was being offered them at wholesale prices. Son May CDs in Taiwan cost about 300 kwai which is 6 quid.
Nick:If you deal direct with them in bulk, yes they do cost silly money. At the end of the day, people will buy them because they are cheap, and the thing is, let's be honest, nobody's being fooled here, they know they're buying a copy. They know that.
Barry:No they don't.
Nick:Oh, come on. You're slightly biased - shut up.
ChrisP:Excuse me, there's not going to be arguments in the audience.
Nick:[sarcastic] There's no arguments between me and Barry. [gives Barry a hug]
Steve:The thing is, it's a lot more difficult to tell with something like that.
Nick:If they've made the effort to purchase it from Son May themselves.
Steve:Oh, from Son May. But if they bought if from a dealer...
Helen:A lot of people bought them in Chinatown thinking they were licensed Chinese product, because they didn't know - in the early days.
Steve:There is, in theory no reason why it couldn't be the case that they had got a licence to do...
Helen:And they've just done crap copies of the booklet and...
Steve:We know that they didn't, but the average punter off the street going into...
Nick:Ah, but are we talking about the average punter off the street, or are we talking about the people who attend anime conventions, buy CDs on a regular basis, keep in touch with other...
Helen:We can only talk about us, ourselves, but as Steve says, anyone who didn't know Son May and didn't know the background, even a new fan or newish fan might well thing they were regular...
Steve:It's not like you're talking about photocopied sleeves and all this sort of thing. If you compare the printing to the Japanese one, yes you see it's inferior, but if you don't, and if you're not the sort of person who looks at things like printing quality, you're not to notice. In fact, one of the problems with CDs is that it's one of the things, as opposed to things like video, where if you make a copy of something, you loose relatively little in quality. A copied CD is nowhere near as degraded as a copied video tape. So, whereas a lot of people would say, even if that morally they thought it was wrong to get a copied video tape, a lot of people say 'Well, I want the best quality picture, so I wouldn't bother with [???] crap anyway'. But when it comes to a CD a lot of people say you can't really tell much difference.
Audience:You can go a bit further than a CD with MP3 on a computer. That's better than Son May because they're free.
ChrisP:Leave MP3 out of this. Mark, do you want to say something?
Audience:It was back before it changed to SM, there was this thing about the availability of things, that if you want something then this was held as some sort of moral justification for actually acquiring it regardless of whether it was pirate copy.
Nick:I don't know if that's a widely held opinion.
Audience:Right, OK. But I was going to give an interesting example...
Nick:More likely, you want something badly enough you don't care if it's...
Audience:Right, so I'll give you an interesting example of this. Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange[6]. Stanley Kubrick said he that did not want anyone in this country to see A Clockwork Orange, which means that that isn't a legal thing, it is actually the wishes of the director of the film that you don't see it. In which case, there is really very little justification...
Nick:Do you why he actually did that?
NIck:Right, OK.
Helen:He believed that all the British were weak minded perverts who would go out and beat people up as some people did after the film was released.
Nick:I think it was quite sensible really at the time, actually.
Helen:No, Kubrick believed it as well.
Jonathan:There were several copycat cases at the time it originally came out.
Audience:Because of the copycat cases etc., etc. So, it's an interesting point though, that it means that if you've seen A Clockwork Orange in this country, then you can only see a pirate copy. If you do see a pirate copy it's completely against the expressed wishes of even the director of the film.
Steve:You wouldn't care about that because you wanted to see it.
Nick:Incidently, for most people in the room, it's not actually a very good film, it's pretty dated and I wouldn't bother [???]. [audience laughter] That's just my opinion!
Helen:However, on the other hand it is perfectly possible to cross the channel and see A Clockwork Orange one afternoon in Paris and be back here in time for tea.
Nick:You can buy it at the Paris Virgin Megastore and bring it back.
Jim:In PAL, funnily enough.
Steve:Well, that's enough advertising for Clockwork Orange.
Audience:My main impression of that actually is that you're making a public film, you put a film [???] to the public, and requesting that certain people don't...
Helen:The distributors decided which countries and which formats they'll release it. Kubrick had enough clout with the distributors to ask them not to release it here.
Audience:So even if he didn't do that, wouldn't it be [???].
Helen:No, it would be illegal because the distributors have decided that it wasn't going to be distributed [???]. So, it would be like bringing over and privately releasing the American version of a movie over here, if that didn't have cuts, that [???] it's illegal to distribute [???].
Audience:Oh, right, yeah.
Helen:And the BBFC[7] of course. But Rod can tell us more about the BBFC and their ways, I'm sure.
ChrisP:Right, thinking of that. Rod, quick question for you, bringing it back to this convention. What would you do if you found a pirate copy of one of your licensed tapes on another dealer's table here.
Audience:No violence please.
Rod:I'd ask him to remove it. The sale of...
Jonathan:Happened last year.
Nick:Do people in the room know about that?
ChrisP:We had a certain dealer here last year where MVM are at the moment. You'll notice they're not here this year because we refused to invite them and we circulated their address to several other conventions because we discovered copies of tapes you can buy elsewhere in the room and a few more which you can buy in very dodgy places. They were obvious copies because they had hand-written video covers [???] photocopied covers on the inside, and they were selling them at twenty quid a shot in our dealer's room without having said a word to us they were doing it. We only discovered this when somebody mentioned it to us and we did a three-in-the-morning sweep on the Saturday night and the items were removed and that dealer is no longer welcome here. That's what happened last year.
Nick:Would anybody [???]
Rod:I'd ask them to just remove it, and that's it, but if they persisted then we would have to take action.
Jonathan:Which Manga do in the States, don't they?
Rod:Yeah, Marvin Gleicher, the MD in the States will actually, I think, physically assault somebody [audience laughter].
Jonathan:And in fact CPM do actually have a lawyer who's job it is to go 'round and sue people if they find them selling pirates. They actually found, 'round the corner from CPM's office in New York there was a Chinese store that was selling tapes - had five thousand copies of CPM titles on sale, and CPM took them to court, and it cost them a lot of money but they ended up winning thirty thousand dollars damages and having all the stock destroyed.
Helen:You also might not be aware that if someone you know, or if you see somebody, selling pirate stuff at a convention - if, unlike Rod, a video company which would choose not to go and have a private word, but to go 'round to the local cop shop and bring the police back, that person would be immediately arrested, immediately, on the convention floor.
Rod:Also, if we did take action, we would also let the Japanese company that made the tapes know and they would definitely take action.
Helen:And I would imagine that word would go 'round the Japanese companies pretty quickly, and should that convention aspire to getting a Japanese guest, they might find they were not the sort of people the Japanese wanted to talk to.
Jim:I've got another question for the industry people, based slightly on that? What if, rather than it being a pirate copy specifically of your version that's being sold, it was an imported but perfectly legitimate copy that was being sold? How would you feel about that?
Nick:I.e. an NTSC copy of something.
Jim:An NTSC copy of a PAL title which may or not be the same format (sub/dub), released legally in America, just imported with one of those little 'not for sale outside North America' stickers on it. Is that different?
Rod:No, it's...
Audience:[???] something like [???] which is cut in the country and the American version which isn't?
Jim:Even if it's the same or even if it's just sub/dub. How does that...
Rod:No, because you're selling something which hasn't been classified in the UK.
Nick:But surely Manga have already made their money.
Steve:That's not the point though is it? You've got to actually pay to get something classified in this country.
Jonathan:Wasn't there a case in Germany of somebody producing quite legally releasing English language versions of Manga video titles (but with subtitles), but they were cheaper than Manga Videos own titles in this country, and actually importing them back into the UK and undercutting...
Rod:Yes. [audience laughter]
Jonathan:And you did stop them doing it.
Jonathan:They didn't have subtitles did they, because they were legally allowed to release them in English in Germany for no apparent reason, and then sell them back to the UK.
Nick:Just to make it clear, so it's sale of those items that are available in this country already, you're against that, but sale of other items which aren't available in this country you're reasonably OK about. Conventional commercial tapes for instance.
Rod:Any import tape, you're not allowed to sell.
Nick:We're not, here, but how would you personally handle this as part of Manga Video [???] persons on the industry panel, how would you feel about that officially.
Rod:We know that import tapes are sold, and things like that, and we haven't had too much of an issue, but if it's say, Legend of the Overfiend or something from Central Park Media, then we are going to have a problem with that.
Nick:I know what you mean. Adult material, basically.
Jim:As long as they're buying your copies of the tape rather than somebody else's.
Helen:You've got to appreciate as well that industry people have got to follow the industry line 'cause that goes with the turf.
Nick:Absolutely, you have to be seen to doing it.
Steve:You're not supposed to sell any video tape commercially that hasn't been certificated by the BBFC.
Nick:And DVD and laserdisc, or any material.
Helen:I think there is another issue [???] Chris, that it's not just anime stuff, although we're talking about anime, it's not just Son May CDs, it's not just tapes. As Jim said, we all like to get a bargain, we all love jumble sales and we all love second hand stuff, we all like to get the lowest possible price, but somebody along the line has got to pay for that, and a lot of what we're talking about here is stuff that's produced in countries with a different economic structure than ours, not necessarily of anime. For example, Marks[8] have just stopped sourcing in Britain, and 1700 people are going to loose their jobs, and I bet every single person who's tut-tutted over their paper and said "oh, I prefer to buy British", when they come to buy their underwear, doesn't go to Mark's for it, they go down the market and buy it cheap. That's what happens if you don't support...
Nick:Helen, sorry to interrupt, but surely they do that for similar reasons that people at anime conventions will occasionally buy Son May CDs, as opposed to Japanese [???].
Helen:Because they want the lowest possible price, yes.
Nick:Availablility and price.
Helen:But the lowest possible price isn't just the money. You've gotta start thinking in global terms, it's a spin-off from environmental stuff. The lowest possible price can have hidden costs which in the end we're all going to pay.
Nick:That's pretty heavy though, let's be honest.
Helen:Yeah, but life is heavy. Live it!
Jim:I think that's particularly true, but this is were we can go back to the import copies and I think that, particularly with smaller scale titles, particularly with subtitled ones as well I think, the number of imports that are coming into the country now, particularly over the internet, and things like that, they're a lot easier to get hold of than they used to be, and I think it is possible that import sales are damaging the British anime industry and reducing the chances of subtitles...
Nick:But the thing is, I've heard that point of view bandied about for several years. Unfortunately, it is absolutely impossible to prove in any way, shape or form, yet people are still saying it.
Jim:People are buying an imported copy rather than a British copy, that is hurting the British anime industry. They're not buying both of them.
Audience:Can I just get something straight here. People are buying these import copies, because they're not available?...
Audience:...or is it because they're available, but cheaper.
Helen:Sometimes it's because they're not available, sometimes it's because they're cheaper, sometimes it's because they're available but cheaper. Although, I've got to make a little point here, you can buy this stuff through the mail, but if Customs and Excise[9] slap duty on it, (you might be lucky, you might not get caught), but if they slap duty on it, it's not going to work out cheaper.
Steve:A lot of people buy it as well because very often in the States you'll be able to get a sub and a dub, whereas over here you'll probably only get a dub.
Helen:Or you might get a boxed set with a nice box, whereas over here you'll only get individual tapes, or something like that.
Audience:Wouldn't it be in the interest of these companies to get these copies over in this country.
Helen:They can't actually do that without paying for a BBFC certificate again.
Audience:People are buying that, so people obviously want it.
Steve:Yeah, but it all comes down to numbers doesn't it? It's how many people, if you add it up, are buying the sub.
Helen:And as Nick said, you can't prove that.
Nick:We know what the hard core anime fan would like...
ChrisJ:May I say something about this?
Nick:Yes! Say something, please! Who are you anyway? [audience laughs] You've been quiet all night.
ChrisJ:When AD Vision first started they release both dub and subs of everything they released and the sales of the subs were just... there was no interest in them, so...
Jim:Give us a rough figure for how many the dubs outsold the subs.
Nick:Do you mean in comparison to each other, or generally across the board.
ChrisJ:To each other.
Nick:You mean, for instance if you sold 1000 dubs, you'd only sell 100 subs.
ChrisJ:Yeah, that sort of thing.
Nick:Well there's only so many hundred people in the country that would want to buy the subtitle.
ChrisJ:No, what I'm saying is...
Nick:Dubs will outsell subs.
ChrisJ:Every time, yeah.
Nick:Oh, absolutely, we agree, even in America they do.
Helen:Can I clarify Rod, am I right in thinking you that have to BBFC certificate dubs and subs separately?
Nick:Pay for them twice over.
Helen:So a hundred sales of subs have to support the same costs as a thousand sales of dubs.
Jim:It is actually slightly cheaper for the BBFC. A dub is about twelve quid a minute, whereas a sub is about eight quid a minute, so it is definitely cheaper...
Helen:It's still big on costs. So every time a company does a sub, it is paying tribute to you, in terms that it's willing to spend money for you.
Audience:Can I ask a [???] question?
Nick:Oh, alright then.
Audience:You say that say dubs outsell subs. Is that because of the choice between them, if you've just released a sub, would it make any difference between the two, would we all be buying the [???].
ChrisJ:Before we released Shutendoji subbed, there was a lot of interest in that, and we came out with a subtitle and it didn't sell well at all.
Jonathan:I think one of the problems is as well, with Britain is that a lot of retailers won't take subs because they say they don't sell.
Nick:Special interest market.
Helen:People in this country won't read films. They want to hear them and see them.
Nick:So, we've got several hundred people here this weekend, and there's a majority heavily into subtitled animation. Those several hundred people at this convention is a fraction of the anime tapes that sell in this country, so we don't really have much of a voice. We accept that. We know that. There's nothing we can do about it. We don't expect any more from companies. I know Rod at Manga you tried an experiment with releasing some subtitled tapes, you had them in stock for a while and [???].
Rod:We got about eight titles that our American branch had released subtitled, we had the prints, we had the masters, so we thought we'd put some money up and get them classified. But firstly, the people like HMV, Virgin, Our Price, they weren't going to take 'em. They already had these titles dubbed, they just weren't interested. So then we thought we'll put them on the internet, make them available through mail order, and to be honest with you they haven't really sold that well.
Audience:I would say to that - I'm probably one of the many people here who had already got them dubbed, and I'm not going to buy them.
Audience:I'd prefer them if I had the choice. If the subs came out at the same time, I'd buy the sub every time. I got them when they came out [???].
Rod:Sure, that was an example of us listening to you lot.
Nick:And that's the thing, when you do that, you almost shoot yourself in the foot, 'cause as I said, we're a small voice. We can all buy subtitled tapes, but if Virgin Megastore don't...
Rod:We thought, because we had so many responses and feedback from people saying 'why don't you do subtitled?', so OK, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and let's give it a go.
Nick:You're never going to listen to us again.
Barry:Another problem is that you're releasing subtitled tapes of stuff that's been out in America for the best part of a couple of years now. So, all the hardcore fans that want it have already got it.
Nick:That's immoral, Barry! [audience laughter]
ChrisP:Ok, we're getting near the end of this session, can I just...
Helen:I think you should run it a bit longer, it's going really well
[murmurs of agreement]
ChrisP:I have to leave.
Nick:The bar's open, Chris. [audience laughter]
ChrisP:[???] ask each member of the panel in turn - do you think the convention was right to ban the sale of pirate material?
Alex:Yeah, absolutely, I think it's making our image as fans much higher. If a Japanese person was to come here, I think they'd feel that we were an OK bunch of people. We could go to them and say...
Nick:Are you saying pirating doesn't go on in Japan?
Helen:That doesn't make it right.
Audience:It is basically [???].
Nick:If you think about it, it does though, It's personal opinion.
Alex:I live in Japan, and I haven't seen any pirate copies on sale.
Helen:Nick, to be absolutely honest, my personal opinion is that if I saw a pirate copy of one of my books here, I would personally kick the shit out of whoever was selling it. [audience laughter]
Alex:[???] is to think about, 'if I did something creative, how would I feel', how would you feel if somebody did that. I know Martin, he does computer stuff - how would you feel if someone ripped you off?
Martin R:One of the first things that happened when I put my web site up with all the pictures in it, was that an American free artwork site put links into it. All the stuff is copyrighted, it says quite clearly this is all copyright, you can't use it, and yet all the people who do free clip art instantly pointed straight to it.
Helen:I've had people write to me and say 'if it's a picture and it's been scanned on the net, it's no longer copyright, because the stuff on the net is...'
Jonathan:You got that Christmas card didn't you?
Steve:Yeah. We got a Christmas card with my artwork on it. [audience laughter]
Helen:This was someone who meant really well, wasn't ripping off, thought it was a sincere compliment. And that's evidence of how easy it is for people to make a mistake.
Nick:They're off your Christmas card list.
Helen:Oh, no - we still know this person very well and like them a lot and get on really well with them. Somebody wrote to me and said, 'someone's told me that if you borrow a Shirow picture around it, that makes it yours'. To which my reply was 'if you nick somebody's bike and put a new bell on it, that doesn't make it yours'. People have such idiotic misconceptions. For everyone here who does creative work, it's a serious issue, because if we want other people to defend our rights, if I don't want people to rip off Steve's pictures or my writing, or Jonathan's translation, I cannot in all conscience defend them ripping off anyone else's rights. So for us, it's a simple economic imperative, it's not moral. We've got to defend other people's rights, or our own [???].
ChrisP:So were we right?
Helen:I think you were 100% right and I think the image of the convention has been very much enhanced, and I would say that the image of the convention has been enhanced in the eye of fans, because even those fans who feel that they might sometimes want to make the choice to buy something bootleg, appreciate the fact that the con takes a stand on it. They know what you're doing. In other words, they know not to waste their time looking under the tables for bootlegs here, they'll just go off to a shop somewhere in Birmingham.
Steve:Yes, absolutely.
Jim:Where exactly is this shop in Birmingham? [audience laughter]
Helen:Yours for a tenner, Jim.
Steve:We'll talk about the big box of bootlegs later on.
ChrisJ:Yeah, I support the decision.
Jim:I have some qualms given the number of sticky labelled video tapes that are actually lying in the video program at the moment, but on balance, yeah I'd probably support it.
Nick:You mean if you ban one, you've gotta ban all?
Jim:Well, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy...
Nick:Tricky to run an anime con [???].
ChrisP:[???] our ban was specific, it was stated it was the auction, the bring and buy and the dealers room, that's it - nothing else was touched.
Audience:So we're talking about degrees of illegality...
Helen:Yeah. But in life, most people are talking about degrees of illegality, it's just that nobody wants to acknowledge it. I mean, whenever you run a red light, you're doing something illegal, but most people say 'no, I'm a great driver, no, no, no. Well maybe, but only if it was necessary.' Life is about degrees of illegality, but you've got to acknowledge what you're doing.
Steve:How many people would come to a con where all you saw were videos you could buy in Smiths?
Nick:Anybody who's bought any tape or DVD in the dealers room this weekend has supported the sale of uncertificated material which is not only morally wrong, but quite illegal when you really come down to it.
Jim:Oh, very [???].
Alex:I don't think it's morally wrong.
Helen:But it is illegal.
Nick:[???] Son May CDs.
Helen:I think there is a difference, because the money is going back to the originators. But it is illegal, [???] what you like. It is illegal. And you've all got to decide how you feel.
Audience:[???] is illegal.
Helen:You wouldn't get very far if you [???]
Nick:You could, but unfortunately [???]
ChrisP:[???]. Jonathan. Were we right?
Jonathan:[???] I think so, but I saw a copy of Manga Max going second hand for a fiver, [sharp intakes of breath from the audience, then laughter] and I thought that was...
Nick:Yeah, but do you get a cut from that?
Jonathan:I don't get a cut from it when it's new!
ChrisP:OK. Rod?
Rod:Yeah, definitely the right decision.
ChrisP:That makes us feel better about doing it then.
ChrisP:Right, at this point as I have to leave, I think I'm going to do something I should have done a long time ago which is - Nick, you need this chair. [audience laughter and applause]
ChrisP:Exactly, [???] I just have to leave.
[Nick takes Chris' place on the panel]
Nick:What are we talking about anyway?
Helen:We could go on to other industry topics if you like, 'cause there's lots of people here.
Nick:So is this an industry panel, or piracy panel?
Helen:It's both. We've done piracy, though.
ChrisP:I'll just say that make sure you finished by the masquerade.
Nick:What time is it now?
Helen:7:30 the masquerade, 6:00 now.
Nick:Don't worry.
[pause as everyone settles down again]
Nick:Is anybody unhappy with some of the points, or maybe have any other points they'd like to make on this subject of pirate material, either for sale at conventions or general existence of it.
Audience:I'd like to know whether people make a moral distinction between distributing fansubs and stuff that's not available anywhere in the west, and selling fansubs for profit?
Helen:Some people do, some people don't.
Nick:Do you separate between making them and selling them?
Audience:I just wondered how everyone on the panel felt.
Helen:I know many, many people who have made fansubs for many, many years. Some of them are good people, some of them are not good people. Some of them are nice people, some of them are not nice people. Some of them sell for profit, and they tend not to be people I'm close to. But, it's such an individual thing. I mean, there are people who if they've got something that other people want, they'll always make money off it. There are people who if they've got something that other people want, will give it away even down to paying for the tapes, if they know somebody who's too skint to pay for them. So it's a personal moral decision. I know people who do both.
Jonathan:We interviewed most of the companies in America about piracy for issue four, and they said that a lot of them came up through fandom anyway, especially in the States, and would turn a blind eye to it as a charitable endeavour, but if they found someone charging for it, they would come down on them like a ton of bricks. We interviewed one of the people who was in Manga in Chicago, the head office, up in the observation pod, and she said they actually had 'phone calls from Iran, someone had said 'I've just bought this really shitty pirate of a Manga video title, and I'd like to buy the original because I can't watch this one'. So she said it actually did help in a way to have [???] because it was never...
Helen:How do people here feel? If you knew someone who was selling fansubs for profit, would you want to deal with them? Or would it depend on the fansub?
MartinD:Nine times out of ten I can see as you said that they do in fact purchase the original afterwards. If they're a good translation, that you have a professional translator and a professional duplicator, then you buy an original tape. It's very straight forward.
Jonathan:[sarcastic] This is Western Connection is it?
Martin:Western Connection had their reasons, but they still sell.
Audience:AD Vision released Slayers in America [???] translation [???] to understand. I would like to get a fansub and see what the original actually said.
Helen:Bear in mind that unless you get a really good fansub, you're not going to be sure you're seeing what the original actually said.
Audience:Yeah, but [???] to compare, and as you said...
MartinD:AD Vision's translations are not as straight, anyway.
Steve:Not as straight?
MartinD:Their not a straight translation. They're basically... I won't say vague...
ChrisJ:But if it's a straight translation then you end up with something lost. It's not as...
MartinD:Yeah, but there's a difference between actually changing the context of the conversation and actually translating what's [???] said.
Audience:[???] in Fushigi Yugi which disappeared totally.
ChrisJ:I don't know anything about that.
Audience:Yeah, I know. [???] this is my opinion on it. I mean I would get the fansub, [???] what I consider a more accurate translation than the commercial release.
Jonathan:I think it's always a judgement call [???] translation.
MartinD:It is. It's down to the individual.
Jonathan:There are quite a few translators who work without editors, work without other Japanese speakers. If you want a laugh, go a look at the backs of two Kiseki videos - Overfiend 3 part 3 and Overfiend 3 part 4. Before I started, they sent me the Japanese sleeves and they said, 'could you just do the sleeve notes for us', and I thought it was a test to see how much of the original I was actually understanding. So I wrote on the back of my translation for 3 was exactly what it said in Japanese - it was bollocks. A friend of mine, I bumped into him on the Friday in the street, and he said "oh, you're working in anime now, did you see the back of Overfiend 3, it says 'she compels her to have sex' what's that mean?" That's exactly what it says in the Japanese version. And when I found out that it wasn't a test, and they were actually putting it on the boxes, I did what I termed to be a proper translation, rewriting for the English audience - it's on the back of the fourth tape in the series. I know that Trish Ledoux comes up with a lot of stick for some of the translations she does for Viz, she's actually very, very good translator, but the problems that people have with her is that sometimes she will rewrite a joke completely, and there's no safety net, there's nobody else there to say 'hang on here, that's taking it a bit far'. I know what really winds Helen up is some of the new titles that are put on Ramna videos and Tenchi...
Helen:The thing that most winds me up about Trish, actually is Trish is a very good translator, and she's not a bad writer. But Trish did not write Ramna Nibonichi, Trish did not write Maison Ikkoku, so when I see something on the back 'written and screenplay by Trish Ledoux', I think, hang on a minute, is this actually Rumiko Takahashi under another name?
Jonathan:But there is a reason for that though.
Helen:There is, yes. Aside from the inflation of egos.
[sharp intakes of breath and other noises from the audience]
Jonathan:Yes, well let's not go there.
Helen:When someone is very good at what they do, it always annoys me that they feel the need to pretend to be very good at other things as well. And I think no one could take (and I know in fandom she takes a lot of stick) anything away from Trish as a translator, especially when she's working with Toshifume Yoshida. She's probably only second to Fred Schodt. Jonathan might think I'm going a bit far there, but I'd say that Fred is the only person I'd put consistently ahead of Trish. But I don't know... possibly...
Jonathan:Trish is very good. Trish's Gunbuster script...
Helen:Trish is very good. She doesn't actually need to pretend that she's doing something she isn't.
Jonathan:When I taught anime translation at Stirling, we used her Gunbuster tape as the example of the perfect translation.
Helen:But Fred Schodt is translator god.
Jim:[???] to the panel.
Nick:Oh, must we? We were having such fun.
Nick:What was the issue?
Jim:Fansubs. A couple of feelings about problems with fansubs is a) the horrific speed with which they have a tendency to come out in some cases, doesn't seem to me to give enough time for the commercial companies to look at the titles and pick them up and release them.
Nick:I think that's changing.
Jim:It's great if it is changing. The other thing, if I can finish off, is doing an entire show, rather than doing say, a sampler of the first four or eight episodes. Because, if you really trying to encourage people to watch a show, four or eight episodes will be enough to get the word of mouth going on it, which will then hopefully filter back to the video companies, probably less here than in America because...
Steve:Although it's fairly unlikely that, unless it was an absolute guaranteed success that a video company would want to buy an entire series. Because it is a big gamble.
Nick:Hang on, someone has a question.
Audience:It seems to me that the whole issue is relatively puerile because the number of copies that we're talking about in the fansub circle is so small that it's going to have no impact at all.
Helen:I refer us back to a certain well known fansub site which was advertising on the net, until it was asked to cease and desist, that it was shifting a thousand copies a month. A thousand copies a month in the British market is big stuff.
Audience:That's big stuff and it was closed down, right?
Nick:Can I just say, I think I know which British subber you mean, and if I'm not [???], that was bollocks really.
Audience:That was obviously not a fansubber in the true sense of the word.
Helen:They were. They were very serious committed people.
Audience:But if you're shifting a thousand a month then that's not what most people here would consider to be fansubbing.
Audience:A thousand tapes made of a hundred different titles?
Helen:Well, a thousand tapes - Rod would be very happy if people were buying a hundred of one of your tapes every month, wouldn't you?
Nick:It's a bit of a proud boast to be honest. I don't think there's any fansubber, even in the States who could shift a thousand tapes a month. But, the fact that they felt the need to say that... I know what you mean.
Audience:So why are we talking about that?
Jim:Particularly because, in this country, the market, especially for subtitles as we've seen, is very, very fragile. Very, very limited. And even something like a couple of hundred copies is a significant number.
Audience:So if you can't sell enough subtitled films to make it worth while, why worry about people who aren't doing that?
Jim:Because if 300 people have got fansubs or whatever, that could well be 300 people who aren't going to buy your tape because it's a lot cheaper to get the fansub.
Audience:[???] it's not economic to produce this 200 tapes.
Jim:It's economic for the fansubbers.
Audience:No, it's not economic for the fansubbers.
Audience:Do you think if, say, fansubbing ceased entirely in this country you'd see exactly that number more tapes bought?
Nick:Surely, isn't that assuming that people who bought these fansubs will not then purchase the commercial tape? Let's be honest, the commercial tape will probably be of better quality and [???] at the end of the day, generally.
Helen:Actually, there is another issue about fansubs that's always interested me. When Steve and I were first active in fandom, which is about 15 years before most of you were born, back in the days when we hand-cranked our videos...
Jim:Camera copies. Those were the days.
Helen:...there were an awful lot of fansub libraries that contained the great classics of ten years earlier like Rose of Versailles, like Future Boy Conan, like the first Gundam series. What amazes me is that many of those classics will never be brought out by Manga or ADV, or any other company because they're just too old - they creak too much. The first three Gundam Movies maybe, but nobody's going to do the first three series.
Nick:Then again, that's anime as nostalgia.
Audience:Apparently, Bandai have got plans to do the first Gundam series.
Helen:I'll be very interested to see how that goes then.
Nick:I think they have plans, but many companies have plans.
Audience:They have announced the TV series. It's coming out allegedly after they do Wing and Mobile Zeta.
Nick:That's a good word. We like that word. Allegedly.
Helen:I'll never believe anything until I've got the review copy in my hand.
Nick:That's a pretty safe bet.
Helen:The thing that interested me was someone saying that fansubbers could perhaps just bring out the first four or eight of a series and give a sample. What seems to be happening now, is that the series that are being subbed are the new, hot, fashionable ones. It's no longer a case of 'we're doing series that will not have commercial viability, for a small market', it's 'we are doing shit hot stuff that will have strong commercial viability'.
Steve:And as quickly as possible after it comes out in Japan.
Jonathan:When Macross Plus came out, there were four fansub houses rushing to get a translation out, even though Manga Video had already picked up the rights.
Nick:But the thing is, by the time that it had been released in Japan, and by the time Manga actually released it translated, what kind of time period was that?
Jonathan:You bought it before it came out didn't you?
Nick:You bought it, but when did you actually produce the copies for sale?
Rod:It wasn't long...
Nick:Six months? Twelve months?
Rod:It was probably about ten months.
Nick:OK, just one thing. Let's ask ourselves why do fansubbers do it, is another thing I'm curious about. Whether people actually know why? Do they do it for other people, do they do it for money (very unlikely). What is usually, I think, (purely personal opinion) a lot of the time they do it for themselves. They do it because they want to see a show, or a series or an anime or a movie, whatever, translated and subtitled, usually for them. And they'll show it to their mates and maybe show it to a few people on the east coast and west coast of America.
Audience:How many times has actually a fansub actually sparked off a commercial version?
Nick:I think you could probably argue that, but it's one of those things that's impossible to prove - you could never really know.
Helen:I believe that there are cases where the fansub has actually blocked a commercial version.
Nick:Do you think so?
Helen:What this particular company said was that because so many of the fanbase had a fansub it would not be economic for them to try and bring it out, because without the fansub's base sales...
Audience:All 200 of us.
Helen:Not in Britain, this was in America.
Helen:...the sales that they make in the general market will not support the [???].
Nick:If I remember, if we're talking about KOR[10], they then started taking pre-orders, they 'OK, we'll do this if we can get enough orders or it', and they did quite handily I seem to remember. So there was the market there. Perhaps they assumed that it wasn't, because there was a fansub.
Helen:What they did was they took steps to ensure that the market was there, rather than spending the money and hoping.
Jonathan:There are cases where fansubs have damaged sales of stuff that has been picked up. Iria, for example, in America, did very poorly compared to [???] CPM did it because it was so heavily fansubbed.
MartinD:At the other extreme, Captain Tyler, they had a trade in for fansubs, and they did extremely well. They traded in their fansubs tapes and got a discount on the originals.
Audience:I'd have thought the fansubber would be only too happy to pay out money for the DVD version.
Steve:That's a very good...
MartinD:I think it was two or three dollars per volume. And basically, they were offering just if people replaced their tapes and I think it was two thirds of the price. One original, one copy.
MartinD:That was Right Stuff in the States. I believe Animeigo tried it as well. But Right Stuff certainly did it with several of their titles.
Nick:Do you think Manga would ever want to try something like that?
Nick:Fair enough.
Steve:It's a bit of a administrative nightmare.
Nick:It is a bit, yeah.
MartinD:Would be an absolute nightmare.
Nick:In America they [???].
MartinD:No. Same with Animeigo. Most of the people from there have been in it a long time. They know what they're doing. They know where their loyalties lie.
Helen:You have to remember as well that Animeigo doesn't have to make money, although Animeigo does make money, and has made money every year. Animeigo was started out as a hobby, it doesn't have to make money.
Jonathan:Also, in this country, where MVM is distributing Animeigo, their idea of a decent return on their sales is nothing near what the other companies... If you say the average dub, given time, will do - still four and a half thousand now?
Rod:Yeah. About that.
Helen:Over two years.
Jonathan:If you've got time, obviously things will be more than that. But if you can say anything you release will eventually do four and a half thousand copies, MVM's profit margin is actually way below that. If they hit a thousand copies on something they're selling, they are actually making a profit, because they sell direct, and because they [???].
Jonathan:I think Bubblegum Crisis did about 800 copies for them, which for Western Connection with Slow Step was terrible, the worst selling anime they ever did, but...
Nick:Everyone's going - 'Slow step?'.
Jonathan:Do you remember that?
Audience:Yeah, I've got a full set.
Audience:I bought all three.
Audience:So did I.
Jonathan:All eight hundred copies are owned by people in this room.
MartinD:I took back the only copy of a Western Connection title I bought.
Jim:It's something which I think you rightly said earlier on about how the distribution of anime these days seems a lot, lot harder.
Audience:It's dreadful. You cannot get it in the marketplace. I live in Chelmsford. It's not a small town, it's a big town. You can't get it in HMV, you can't get it in WH Smiths, there is no specialist video outlet, you can't get it.
Nick:Oh come on, that's not Manga's fault.
Audience:I'm not blaming you, per se, because I know there are a lot of forces involved in it. HMV made a stand and they made an effort - two years ago? - to wipe their shelves of anime. Our Price did the same thing, it all went in their Christmas bargain bins one year in the January sales, and it never went back on the shelves, because it wasn't selling, presumably (I don't know). But you can't have a marketplace where you can't buy the stuff.
Nick:Maybe the marketplace is so small compared to what it use to be, then they don't care.
Audience:That may well be, but there are people...
Nick:At the end of the day, as people were saying, anime is a very small interest market.
Audience:I have spoken to people where I work (I work in an office of 100 people), and they say 'Oh yeah, I use to buy that stuff, but you can't get it anymore. I'd still buy it, but I can't find it'.
Audience:[???] Forbidden Planet.
Audience:I'm talking about people who don't know about Forbidden Planet.
Helen:It's more the problems with why [???] market, I mean something breaks when you can get it in the dump bins at Woollies, not when you go to a specialist comic shop to buy it, and one of my contentions has always been that it's more difficult for young girls to buy anime and manga because a lot of young girls don't like going into comic shops 'cause they're full of sweaty, nasty, smelly young boys. Present company of course is too old to fall into this category!
Audience:So much for our country then.
Helen:It is true, if you don't put it where people can get it, people won't get it.
Audience:There is a balance, yeah.
Rod:If you went to your HMV, you could still buy our entire catalogue, it's just a case of...
Audience:You've got to order it, but the British public doesn't do that.
Helen:Also, they don't know. You tell your friends what you've got, but if you didn't tell them would they know that such-and-such [???].
Audience:They haven't got a clue.
Steve:Presumably, though, that's just on an area by area basis. I mean, like in London, you know...
Audience:Well yeah, but you're talking about a bigger marketplace.
Steve:So it's up to individual managers in different areas, presumably as to whether they want to...
Audience:I'm not sure it was, I think what happened, certainly in Argos and HMV, was this concerted effort to clear it off the shelves.
Nick:You mean the giant anti-anime conspiracy that we're all [???]...
Audience:No, I'm not talking about an anti-anime conspiracy. It just went, and they haven't reordered it, and it certainly smacked of being something that was centralised.
MartinD:They do an anime convention in Southampton, and the local Southampton Forbidden Planet[11] apparently didn't stock any anime titles. They do now!
Audience:But FP have done the same thing. FP London has collapsed its anime section. It's now hidden away in the basement.
MartinD:You know why? Because the girl responsible for it is no longer there.
Helen:And also because at the minute, FP London is only interested in Pokemon and the tail end of Star Wars.
Audience:So there's two things here. We've got availability and awareness. Availability isn't there, and that's affecting awareness - is that what you're telling us? That's a thing for marketing, right?
Jonathan:I wouldn't say it's affecting awareness. 16,000 people a month buy my magazine. If they don't go out and buy anime...
Audience:Which is obviously helping [???].
Jonathan:In this country.
Audience:That's a genuine figure, is it?
Jonathan:[sarcastic] No, I just made it up.
Audience:But Jonathan, you're in publishing, you know that the figures people circulate to the advertisers are not necessarily the figures, actually.
Jonathan:[???]. Our sales in the UK, which are roughly 50% of our total sales because we go to Australia and the US as well, are 16,000.
Nick:Shit, that's pretty good.
Audience:I find that quite interesting. 16,000 people buying your magazine, that indicates that there's 16,000 people out there that are interested in buying the product, so where the hell are the sales?
Jonathan:I imagine that [???] advertisers.
Audience:I've got a question here - in the light of the recent Dope Sheet programme [groans all round], does the panel think that anime fandom is a help or hindrance to the anime as an industry.
Steve:Well, if you're looking at that programme...[laughter]
Audience:Bearing in mind that that programme does actually represent fandom pretty well, we are like that.
Helen:Well, actually I dunno because...
[on cue, Mr Oliver Barder enters the room]
Audience:Hey, there he is! [audience cheers]
Audience:Big robots!
Helen:On that programme, for instance, I only saw two women. One was, I'm sure she's a nice person...
Audience:How many women do you see here then?
Helen:Hold on a minute - on that programme she was presented as the stereotype fat American broad, and I notice that on the one shot where she was with a man, she held up hand when she wanted to make a point. One other woman was introduced as the girlfriend of a fan, and it considered spectacular by the fans in the room that one of them had a girlfriend [laughter]. As if she was a DVD player, for God's sake [laughter]. Speaking as a woman...
Steve:[sarcastic] Not a valuable as a DVD player.
Helen:Speaking as a woman, and as a woman who's got a niece who's interested in anime, and a god-daughter who is a Miyazaki addict, and has to have Laputa on every time she comes to visit. If I'd seen that programme cold, I would say, there's nothing here for me, there's nothing here for Amy. I would not let Stephie near any of these people.
Audience:So you would agree with the premise the anime fandom is hindering this industry.
Nick:Oh, come on. Is that the fault of fandom or the fault of the program?
Helen:I agree that the vocal section of anime fandom, which agreed to do that programme - I know most of them and I'm sure Dragon feels the same - the noose was held up for them and they walked willingly into it with broad smiles on their faces.
Nick:Oh, come on. That's unfair.
Audience:That's accurate for 90% of TV programming.
Helen:Yeah, we've all seen anime fans or any kind of fans on TV. We know...
Audience:I disagree. Jake wasn't misrepresented - he's like that, unfortunately.
Helen:Noone was misrepresented.
Steve:It's Groucho Marks isn't it? 'I wouldn't be a member of any club that would have me as a member'.
Helen:I'm sure that there was a lot that was said on that tape that was interesting ('cause they always shoot ten times what they need for TV), but what they're going to do is they're going to edit the bits that fit the editor's brief. That's what they do.
Nick:They had an agenda. They wanted something specific.
Steve:It's like, if they did something on Star Trek, they'd want to find someone wearing funny ears.
Helen:Or someone with a Klingon forehead.
Steve:Yeah, exactly.
Nick:We're moving away from one of the interesting questions, which was availability of commercial anime at the moment. I don't know if anyone had any questions or comments they'd like to make on that?
Audience:I actually live in Portsmouth, which is...
Nick:Well, congratulations. [laughter]
Helen:It's a good place.
Nick:Yes, it's very nice. I've been there a few times.
Audience:Anyway, I've actually seen over the last couple of years, the anime shelves in Virgin go from being an entire stand up thing, to being two shelves. Virgin's actually got the best selection in Portsmouth at the moment, everywhere else you get one shelf and you get about five copies of MD Geist, and that's about it.
Nick:And you're curious as to why, or do you think you know why?
Audience:I just thought it was worth mentioning. So, Virgin especially, all the space they used to anime, is now taken up by Bevis and Butthead, and all the Eastern Heros martial arts...
Steve:For a while it was going to be the next big thing, wasn't it? Big buzz thing, and then it went. It's like South Park...
Helen:The thing with fashion-lead retailers like Virgin is that they're always going to support the fashion, so if...
Nick:[???] support subs.
Helen:...so if the only place you are is a fashion-lead retailer, you're in trouble.
Jonathan:I think you'll find Pokemon in Virgin.
Nick:The thing is, fans - people who buy tapes - moved on. The thing is, people who attend anime conventions are not the majority of people who buy anime tapes. They're not.
Helen:The thing which would turn around anime distribution in this country is the production at peek times of good quality series, good quality dubs, on television.
Nick:And pigs may well, one day, fly.
Helen:I've seen a pig fly.
Nick:We'll keep watching out the windows.
Helen:Miyazaki does it. And of course there is the Miyazaki factor. Nobody knows what Disney is going to do with them in the rest of the world. But if Disney decides to put muscle behind them, there will not be a corner of the developed universe that does not have a cuddly Totoro.
Steve:The thing is, though, will companies make the leap? If all the Miyazaki stuff comes out and everyone wants Miyazaki, are commercial companies and TV companies, going to make the leap and say 'let's go after any other Japanese stuff we can get'? I don't think they are.
Helen:No, but I think they're going to say 'let's see what else is there that's like this'.
Steve:I don't think they will. I think they'll obviously, the moment the thing becomes available for the first television screenings, they'll be queuing up to buy the rights, but I don't think that they'll go out and say 'this stuff is doing great guns, let's see if...'
Audience:But the original reason that Disney went there in the first place was that they'd spotted something on the marketplace that was actively challenging them, and they were forced to take action.
Steve:Yeah, but then you've got to make the leap from seeing something like a Miyazaki feature film and then seeing the sort of stuff, TV series and stuff that are being punted by Japanese animation companies at MIP or whatever TV festival things are. I honestly don't think the TV companies are gonna to make that leap of logic.
Jonathan:They're already buying in Digimon and Monster Rancher...
Steve:Yeah, they buy things that look almost exactly the same, but what can you buy in the way of a TV series that looks like a Miyazaki production.
Helen:Mysterious Cities of Gold? Future Boy Conan?...
Nick:Why should they, when [???]
Steve:Very few commercial companies, and I know this from [???] can make that leap.
Audience:You, yes. TV producers, err, no sorry.
Helen:I'm happily awaiting the day when they say 'where the fuck can we find someone who knows about this [???].
Audience:Yes, go for it!
Nick:[???]. We're moving across a wide range of topics, and I think we'd better wind it down before we run out of alcohol. I want to hear if anyone has any points to make on what we've discussed tonight, or has any interesting facts, or even a funny story.
Steve:Does anyone have anything interesting to say at all?
[Jim raises his hand]
Nick:Jim has something interesting to say, thank God! Thank God for Jim!
Jim:It was interesting what you were mentioning at the back there about Eastern Heroes, because Hong Kong cinema has survived now in this country for about ten years or so, there's a mix of subtitles and dubbed animation out there, despite being burdened with one of the same problems as anime - being stereotyped as chop-socky, gets buried a lot at the bottom of Channel Four[12], and it's done all that without conventions, without fansubs, without imports, and I find that very interesting.
Helen:It does have a fair sized indigenous Chinese population in at least six major cities.
Jim:That helps, yeah. Maybe not in Portsmouth or Plymouth perhaps.
Nick:The first anime movie I ever saw in this country was the Akira movie, and it was shown as a double bill in a small London cinema with Chinese Ghost Story. I was really heavily influenced.
Jim:The Scala [sigh].
Nick:The long lost Scala. What goes around comes around basically. Maybe anime has had it's day. You might want to think about that.
Steve:I certainly don't thing the big explosion is going to happen.
Nick:It had it's moment. We waited for the bang, but it never came.
Helen:I've got the pessimists on the left, but I'm an optimist. I think as long as people can see an opportunity to make money, there will always be a second chance. The point is though, they'll be a series of hiccuping second chances, unless something finally breaks anime beyond the fashion mould. Miyazaki may give us a better than hiccuping - Miyazaki may give us a burping second chance to make some money. But I do think that...
Steve:You're just an optimist. It's not going to happen.
Nick:Nothing wrong with being an optimist.
Steve:Doom! Gloom! [Helen makes as if to whack Steve in the face]
Nick:You had one last point to make? Because we've got to wind it down very shortly.
Audience:Correct me if I'm wrong, but Pokemon is actually [???] in the dealers room at the moment.
Nick:Just a bit, yeah.
Audience:OK. I used to be a big fan of Battle of the Planets, and I didn't know it was Japanese. So, ten years later I finally find out that it was Japanese, I found out that there was something else out there that was also Japanese animation. That got me interested, so I wondering if Pokemon might have the same effect. In five years time...
Martin:Actually, to be perfectly honest, I don't know how many people at this convention, but most of then would not touch Pokemon with a ten foot barge pole.
Nick:It's a completely different audience than it's being aimed at.
Helen:Remember, the little kids that buy Pokemon may in a years time go to Miyazaki movies, and they may know someone, who knows one of you, who says...
Audience:[???] If Pokemon doesn't lead to anime, Miyazaki may not lead to anime, we're stuffed!
Helen:Not necessarily. Sometimes luck leads to anime.
Audience:[sarcastic] Oh, yeah. Great.
MartinD:I can quite happily say that anime in the UK is alive and well and very likely to stay that way. I wouldn't be here otherwise.
Nick:And on that point...
Helen:There is one other point.
Nick:Oh, Helen has one more point.
Helen:There is one other point that we should all bear in mind, 'cause every now and then you read this in fanzines, in prozines, on newsgroups and so on, and that is - if you thought anime could be, not the next Spice Girls, not the next Beatles, if you though anime could be that big, that universal, that long lasting, then in fifty years time, your kids will be buying copies of your favourite series for their kids, do you really want it to be? There's an awful lot of debate in fandom, in America, and in Europe and here, about how fans may want fandom to stay in the ghetto, and I think we've all got to think about that.
Nick:We all like our little clubs.
Audience:I think people would be happy with the Beatles' level of success.
Nick:They were bigger than God, you know.
Audience:Well, apparently.
Nick:And on that final point, I'd like to thank the members of the panel for not only showing up, but staying around, amazingly enough [applause], and thank you everybody and good night.
Jim:To the bar!


1. The trade descriptions act is the part of UK law that requires that goods or services be accurately described by the supplier.
2. Manga Max is the UK's one and only specialist anime and manga magazine.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the UK, Buffy is broadcast by the BBC in an early evening weekday timeslot.
4. Article 8 of The Berne Convention states "Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall enjoy the exclusive right of making and of authorising the translation of their works throughout the term of protection of their rights in the original works." and Article 5 of The Universal Copyright Convention states "The rights referred to in Article I shall include the exclusive right of the author to make, publish and authorise the making and publication of translations of works protected under this Convention."
5. Tesco is a major UK supermarket chain.
6. For more information on the issues surrounding A Clockwork Orange in the UK, see the UK A Clockwork Orange website at http://www.aclockworkorange.co.uk. It has since been announced that A Clockwork Orange will be re-released in the UK in 2000.
7. The BBFC is the organisation responsible for film and video censorship in the UK.
8. Marks and Spencers. A well known chain of UK department stores.
9. Customs and Excise are the government department responsible for levying the appropriate dutys and taxes on imported goods when they enter the UK.
10. Kimagure Orange Road. For more information on Animeigo's release of this series, see their web site at http://www.animeigo.com
11. Forbidden Planet is a chain of UK science fiction shops.
12. Channel Four is one of the UK's five terrestrial TV channels.