Note that this isn’t saying others must follow the same approach as I do. There are various other approaches that are equally (or even more) morally viable.
I adopted this position at the same time as I started downloading those anime that I watch illegally rather than watching them on those godawful illegal streaming sites. This was during Spring 2013.
Note also that this is a long post, largely thanks to explanations. If you want a quick summary, skip to the bottom.
Policy that applies to all downloaded episodes:
– Upon completing the final episode of a series, or deciding to drop it, all episodes must be deleted and never reacquired.
This is actually the one that started it all, and serves three purposes:
Firstly, it is practical. I don’t want to clog up my computer with tons of videos. And buying storage space for illegally acquired episodes strikes me as just plain stupid.
Secondly, it means that if I want to rewatch a series after I finish it then I must acquire it legally, whilst if I want to check back on something mid-series
Thirdly, it helps ensure that the decision to drop a series is final.
This then fleshed out into a set of policies of what was deemed excusable. Kind of like the Just War theory – taking something that is inherently morally wrong and coming up with situations in which it may be excusable or justified. I call these the “fansub rules”, although they apply equally to raws and rips.
There are two principles that underline these justifications.
The first principle is that, whilst legal availability of anime in the UK is a lot better than it was back when I first started watching, there are still a lot of anime that don’t make it over here. I don’t want to let that rule out watching something, though. After all, rights to a UK simulcast of a series will always exist, and we know that CR will go after every new TV anime series, so if we don’t get access to such a series in recent years it means that someone somewhere is sitting on those rights and refusing to use them for whatever reason. Personally, I don’t think this should prevent me from being able to enjoy a series.
This then creates the following set of rules:
– I must only watch fansubs of something if it is not at the time legally available in the UK or planned to become legally available. This is in any format – streaming, DVD, legal download, etc. Even if the DVD is long out of print and extremely hard to find.
-Furthermore, I must not have any knowledge of the series being intended to become available legally. This means if a UK release is announced, then I must wait for the release before watching the series legally, rather than watching with fansubs.
– If a series becomes legally available or is announced for future release whilst I am in the process of watching it, I must immediately stop, delete all illegal episodes and wait for the legal option before I continue watching it, legally.
Incidentally, these predate my setting out a set of rules to follow, and date back to my first discovery of legal streaming methods. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just common sense.
The second principle is the one that is what I am usually talking about when I refer to the “fansub rule” (singular). Basically, I buy into the argument of one can watch something illegally, with the intention of spending money on legal purchases further down the line. Most people who make that argument don’t actually follow it, and are just trying to excuse their piracy. However, I genuinely stick to it and as such have come up with a set of rules that I follow, which ensure that I do stick to it.
At its core, the “fansub rule” is thus:
– If I watch a TV anime or ONA that airs in a similar manner to a TV anime with fansubs, through to the end, then I must either buy or intend to buy a UK release of said anime or its source material. If I don’t then I must drop the series.*
Obviously this is rather vague, and leaves open the possibility for abuse. So I clarify things further:
– If there is a novel, light novel or manga as source material, then that source material must be purchased, and within 6 months of me finishing the series. An exception is allowed if the series is out of stock at the time, in which case each time I make a purchase after the 6 month period has elapsed I must purchase the series if it has come back in stock.
– If there is no source material, or the source is something other than those things listed above, or if I already own the source material before the anime starts, then I must buy any UK release the anime gets.
Furthermore, it also means that I will sometimes find myself in a situation where I will drop a series which, if the series had been available legally, I would have watched to the end.
– To give the series a fair chance, I must have watched whichever is the lower of at least 5 (this used to be 3) episodes or 50% of the anime’s duration before dropping under this method. Obviously the series can be dropped just because I don’t want to watch it before this point.
– To prevent myself from dropping something a few seconds before the end and then claiming it to be dropped under the fansub rule, I must also drop the anime as soon as the above condition has been met AND I decide that I have no intention of making the purchase described above.
*Incidentally, anyone who genuinely follows a position of watching things illegally and “supporting the industry” through buying other products MUST have a policy along these sorts of lines. Obviously it doesn’t have to be the same – it could include other source material, soundtrack CDs, figures, merchandise etc. and exclude either or both of the things which I include but the point is it must be there. If it is not, then they are merely deceiving themselves in order to ease their feeling of guilt, or deceiving others in order to prevent their defence of illegal viewing from coming under attack.
There is a final rule, to stop things that are fansubbed from gaining some sort of advantage over things that are available legally:
– I must not buy a source material/UK release of a series that I watched through fansubs if I would not have bought this if it were available legally.
Note that the section about the second principle above only applies to TV anime and ONAs that air in a similar manner to TV anime. It does not apply to OVAs, special episodes, ONAs that don’t air like TV anime, or films. In most cases these first two are just extra episodes of a TV anime series, in which case I feel the need to watch them just to finish off what I was watching. And where they aren’t, along with the other ONAs and films, they are usually too short for the fansub rule to take effect. They are also all (other than things that go straight to film, which I would never watch with fansubs anyway) almost never made available legally. It’s a slightly broken area of my policy, which I am aware, and slightly ashamed of. Given that the vast majority of the time I spend watching anime is spent on things that the fansub rules apply to, I don’t feel as though this breaks things too much. Some day I’ll probably come up with a way of dealing with them which satisfies me.
In general, if something is dropped under the fansub rule, then I still won’t pick it back up if it becomes available later through legal methods (eg legal streaming).
List of series which I have completed through illegal means since the rule was introduced:
Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – watched fansubs. Bought LN.
Jinsei – watched raws. Bought LN.
Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku – ONA, watched with fansubs. At the time I didn’t even realise that the fansub rule would apply. Will purchase the manga in my next order.
Isshuukan Friends – watched fansubs. Will buy manga in next order. I meant to buy it last time but forgot.
Tesagure! Bukatsumono – if the non-existant chance of a UK release for this series comes out then I will happily buy it.
Tokyo Ravens – watched fansubs. Bought LN.
Sakura Trick – watched fansubs. Bought manga.
Noragami – watched fansubs. Bought manga in English.
Mikakunin de Shinkoukei – watched fansubs. Bought manga.
Chou Zenmairobo: Patrasche – watched raws. Not going to get a UK release but would buy for lulz if it got one.
Machine-Doll wa Kizutsukanai – watched fansubs. Bought LN.
Outbreak Company – watched fansubs. Bought LN.
Hataraku! Maou-sama – watched fansubs. Bought LN (and anime).
– I will only watch a series by illegal means if it is not available legally in the UK.
– Upon finishing watching downloaded series, these episodes will be deleted immediately.
– If I have no intention of buying a series/its source material then I must drop it, even if it is something which I would have otherwise watched to completion (the “fansub rule”).