Japan: “Piracy Increases Anime Sales”


Japan’s prestigious Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI), a government-affiliated economics think-tank, has published detailed research suggesting anime piracy can boost disc sales.

The official English language abstract of the (lengthy and highly technical) research – the paper itself is only published in Japanese:

Do Illegal Copies of Movies Reduce the Revenue of Legal Products? The case of TV animation in Japan

Whether or not illegal copies circulating on the internet reduce the sales of legal products has been a hot issue in the entertainment industries.

Though much empirical research has been conducted on the music industry, research on the movie industry has been very limited.

This paper examines the effects of the movie sharing site Youtube and file sharing program Winny on DVD sales and rentals of Japanese TV animation programs.

Estimated equations of 105 anime episodes show that (1) Youtube viewing does not negatively affect DVD rentals, and it appears to help raise DVD sales; and (2) although Winny file sharing negatively affects DVD rentals, it does not affect DVD sales.

Youtube’s effect of boosting DVD sales can be seen after the TV’s broadcasting of the series has concluded, which suggests that not just a few people learned about the program via a Youtube viewing. In other words YouTube can be interpreted as a promotion tool for DVD sales.

The research itself provides detailed statistical analysis of each title featured (mostly popular late-night anime), even going so far as to incorporate such factors as the popularity of the seiyuu involved in the titles, what medium the anime was adapted from and which demographic it targets.

Each factor’s estimated impact on the likely effect of online distribution on sales is then extrapolated using regression modelling.

Sankaku Complex provides a translation of the study’s key conclusions:

We compared the DVD sales, DVD rental sales, YouTube viewing numbers  and Winny download numbers of various anime titles.

Our results suggested the following:

1. YouTube viewing did not decrease DVD sales, but actually increased them. For each 1% increase in YouTube viewership a 0.25% increase in DVD sales was observed.

2. The effect of YouTube on sales was particularly pronounced in the case of shows which had finished airing on TV. We can think of this as people who never saw the broadcasts becoming fans by way of YouTube and then going on to buy the DVDs.

3. There is no clear effect on DVD rentals from YouTube. At the very least we can say it seems YouTube has no adverse effect on DVD rentals.

4. Winny file-sharing has no effect on DVD sales, but does appear to decrease DVD rentals. People who download anime via Winny appear to be using it not to replace their purchases, but to replace their rentals.

As YouTube is having no adverse affect on anime sales, but is in fact increasing them, further distribution on YouTube is likely desirable.

Copyright holders who dislike YouTube and persistently request their works to be deleted from YouTube are likely to be harming their own business.

As a result of these findings, we can probably conclude that banning downloads of such material is a mistaken policy.

The usual proviso that correlation does not equate to causation naturally bears mentioning when presented with any study based chiefly on statistical observations. It should also be remembered these results solely concern the Japanese market and have nothing to say about fansubbing or otherwise.

Of course, these results should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of piracy – most anime production is funded primarily through DVD sales, so it is still essential fans at some point buy DVDs themselves, and the fact that TV, YouTube and P2P viewing is usually at much lower quality (whether in terms of image quality or dehumidification) than a disc always provides a strong natural incentive to buy.

Rather, it would seem online distribution has a crucial role to play in promoting anime to as wide an audience as possible and allowing this audience a preview of the full product available to paying customers – a fairly basic realisation to all but the most stubborn and unreasonable of copyright holders.

The research also tends to contradict government policy, which has recently seen unauthorised downloads criminalised, and soon threatens to ban ripping of DVDs and CDs altogether, a move which might have rather serious effects on the DVD rental business as well as on consumer freedom, and which, if this research is to be believed, would only further harm the anime industry.

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    Comment by Anonymous
    20:34 03/02/2011 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    if the anime is satisfactory enough, people overseas might want to buy the dvd. If they could not see it beforehand they would not risk buying it

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:08 03/02/2011 # ! Quality (+1.0)


    anime is simply too expensive to buy if we're not sure that it's worth it

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:06 04/02/2011 # ! Drivel (-0.8)

    Most things are simply too expensive to buy if you're not sure it's worth it. More so if you know it's not worth it.

    I wouldn't buy COD - Black Ops or any of the Evangelion Rebuild Blu-rays even for one dollar.
    Why? Because they aren't worth it IMO.

    One more evidence telling us PIRACY isn't actually killing the business - one more evidence copyright-fags and publishers won't give a shit about.

    Avatar of Sandalphon
    Comment by Sandalphon
    08:40 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    The problem with that suggestion is that many people will just wait until someone rips the following episodes and upload them.

    Avatar of Crim
    Comment by Crim

    Simplest solution is to give people a taste then take it away


    Out of a 13? episode anime
    Show the first 4-5 episodes on YouTube, then dont show the rest. Especially try to stop before something incredible happens. Like if one of the main characters dies at the end of the episode, or if a massive fight scene will start next episode, etc etc

    Avatar of patamon
    Comment by patamon
    06:09 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Exactly. I want to know my money will be well-spent. If I can't know that in advance, then it's not worth the risk and I'd rather save my money.

    Avatar of Yoshii-kun
    Comment by Yoshii-kun
    20:47 03/02/2011 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    It's simple:

    We like it, we buy it.

    We're not that selfish as to think everything is free (well, kinda), but when we see a good piece of work, we , as fans, would like to procure, own and support that show/series/project/masterpiece for our self satisfaction. I don't speak for all of us, but thats how I contribute to the industry.

    Avatar of Ookami
    Comment by Ookami
    04:25 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    In piracy there are those that who would never buy DVDs and stuffs (I know some people like that) and those who buy the anime to help the titles they like (like most users of SamCon I think ).
    Place everyone in the same boat and say that we destroy the sales and just want everything for free is extremely unpleasant.

    Avatar of Sylar
    Comment by Sylar
    23:31 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Do the people trying to get everything for free and never buy anything really hurt the business though?
    Do you thing that this people who download everything just because it's free would have started buying all the staff they download if they couldn't find it for free?

    Isn't it obvious that this people wouldn't buy shit anyway? So the sales aren't really hurt. The people who think of buying are the people who make the market and this kind of people would by a series that they liked.

    The only difference is that now this people won't become victims of corporate marketing delusions and get fooled by a nice cover or trailer.
    They have the chance to see the product and then decide if it's worth of their support and that is what companies don't like. They hate the idea they can't fool people anymore. Piracy is freedom i say.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:19 03/10/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    You can't prove they wouldn't buy anything, but you can't prove that they would buy something too.
    I think some of them are just too lazy to buy things. Some of them. And to an industry where 5,000 sales per volume is a success, getting 100 or so more people to buy it would surely mean something.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:06 19/03/2014 # ! Neutral (0)

    i already made a post, but gotta reply, i would never ever buy a dvd or bluray of a series i like, but then again, there's lots of other kind of merchandise available, so if i download the bluray, (which by the way i was never gonna buy in the first place so economyfags go fuck yourselves) and i like it, chances are i will buy merchandise related to it.

    real life case: i downloaded the whole full metal alchemist brotherhood bluray, and i ended buying 5 figures costing WAY more than the bluray could have ever costed.JUST BECAUSE I LIKED THE CONTENT .
    now, will you tell me i am hurting the franchise ? the answer is No . maybe the bluray market, but not the franchise as a whole.

    Comment by Anonymous

    Obviously there aren't many people like you.

    There are leechers, and then there are some idiots who'd think "Ahh, there will always be someone else out there who'd pay". What if everyone think the same as those idiots?

    Avatar of Yoshii-kun
    Comment by Yoshii-kun
    02:03 04/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.4)

    Nice deduction there, Sherlock.

    Avatar of nemesis
    Comment by nemesis
    20:26 03/02/2011 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    i wonder what they will do now.....post there eps online cos it will boost sales....lol

    Comment by Wingsoffusion
    20:28 03/02/2011 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    Net sales wouldn't be all that bad of an idea.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:43 03/02/2011 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    Sounds cool, but to be honest if I were to watch anime online I wouldn't pay for it. Its all about having the box-set and physical copies! Usually if I like a show enough I'll pay for it though, same goes for albums.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:32 04/02/2011 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    I always thought that it all comes down to this:

    Don't ask. Don't tell.

    You'd browse for animes you like and give it 2 or 3 episodes. If you like it so much that you need to move on from blurry, highly compressed FLVs, you get the DVDs. If you watched everything and still can't be bothered, consider it ditched. Don't go around and tell everyone about your illegal way of testing the product.

    Obviously, corporations don't like the fact that we can actually see the contents of their products thoroughly before we buy them. That shit they say about lost sales due to piracy? It'd be bullshit to think that's the main reason. I think it had more to do with them no longer being capable of selling media by pure advertisement anymore, because everyone who knows his way around enough can already judge if a product fits his taste or quality level.

    Of course, leechers exist. However, it's difficult to believe that those fuckers would pay for anything if they can get away with not paying. Meanwhile, Platinum Games, a very new game studio can still take off and make cash until now, even though Bayonetta's perfect version is on a console most heavily hounded by pirates this generation. Why? Because they did their jobs and made a high quality game anyone would gladly pay for it, that's why.

    Back in the day, I'd feel like killing myself for buying an album from some band, thinking I'd like all their songs when it turned out that all but one track is a stinky pile of excrement.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:39 03/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.8)

    That's always been my policy, support the good shows (fullmetal alchemist, cowboy bebop, etc) when they come out on dvd, forget about the bad show (too many to name, plus I've forgotten them). Quality begets purchases.

    Avatar of CowExtract
    Comment by CowExtract
    03:42 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Long truthful statement is long

    Avatar of Van-d-all
    Comment by Van-d-all
    04:06 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    P2P lower quality? Tell that to those 1080p floating around...

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:23 10/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    What will they do now?

    They will continue criminalizing.

    They can put up study after study, but it will be to no avail.

    This is not about free advertising or lower DVD-sales.

    This is about censorship & control over the internet.

    Comment by Naoli
    23:02 03/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    same here

    Avatar of King Tiger
    Comment by King Tiger
    01:50 04/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.4)


    my kind of economics ^_^

    Avatar of Vu Le Khoa
    Comment by Vu Le Khoa
    22:07 03/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    "post there eps online cos it will boost sales....lol"
    You are mostly correct, but... I will correct it: "post there eps online with censoreship" WILL DEFINATELY increase the sale rate...
    You know how mad i am when watching censored anime?

    Avatar of Hawke
    Comment by Hawke
    21:27 05/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    I HATE censorship in any anime! This is an excellent point! LOL!

    Avatar of nemesis
    Comment by nemesis
    20:31 03/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    or ishihara will walk in and says its bullshit cos it has no this has no substance

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:17 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    In all honesty, this study shows that yes, if they post their episodes online it will boost sales, and that YouTube is an effective tool for increasing exposure of a product. Although the question is whether an official stream is more effective at increasing awareness and DVD sales than an unofficial one. Also, what's the sweet spot for picture quality? if they put it out in BD quality then that might have an effect for example.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:10 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    @Wingsoffusion - Crunchyroll already does something like that. However, I think it's still somewhat ineffective since there are still pirated versions of the subs not long after Crunchyroll releases their videos to exclusive members. They show the episodes for free after a week of the release but at that point most people would have already watched the pirated versions of it on youtube the week before.

    Avatar of BlaqCat
    Comment by BlaqCat
    23:39 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm curious about the response 2ch will give now that they know the "filthy foreign pirates" are actually helping their industry...

    Avatar of Shippoyasha
    Comment by Shippoyasha
    20:53 03/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    At least post sub-DVD quality rips so that you at least have a moral standing to stand on with this issue. lol

    I think it starts getting problematic if online streams has just the same quality or better than DVDs..

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:01 03/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.8)

    Let never forget that, because of fansubs, japan anime has been introduced faster to others country than it would without. Without fansubs, today, I would know not much anime like bleach, naruto, one piece and somes others. Considering the time it takes for corporate to bring back anime, without fansubs, the japan anime wouldn't be that popular world wide.

    Avatar of PirosThe3rd
    Comment by PirosThe3rd
    00:03 04/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.4)

    Fansubs are heroes.

    Avatar of Yoshii-kun
    Comment by Yoshii-kun
    22:06 03/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    All of the above: So true

    Avatar of CowExtract
    Comment by CowExtract
    03:51 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (-0.2)

    Especially the ones that
    use this---> "ksjehipqnefipqwpirngpwiregng" as their translation (a certain Xenosaga fansub comes to mind...), or how about the one that said "I don't understand those complicated Japanese words." lol Good times, good times.

    Avatar of henwy
    Comment by henwy
    21:03 03/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.4)

    Bingo! And this is really the takehome point. I have no doubt Youtube increases dvd sales. I will also bet every last dime I have that it increases piracy at a greater rate than it increases dvd sales. Youtube might spark your interest in a series but no one wants to watch it in shitty quality all shrunk down with badly formatted subs. At that point, you will either move on to pirate the anime from a good subbing group or buy the DVDs. Seeing as the former provides as much quality as the later with the bonus of not costing anything...I think it's pretty obvious what happens the majority of the time.

    The real funny thing is that Anime doesn't seem to follow the US DVD/BluRay selling paradigm. Add in bonus features. Director commentary, actor/seiyu commentary, other special features. Sure, some pirates will take the time to also rip those out but many won't and that creates an incentive to actually buy the dvd's.

    Avatar of alidan
    Comment by alidan
    11:24 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    through youtube and youtube like services like blip, you can take at most 10$ per 1000 views of ads. you can put a pre, post and mis add into a video on blip witch equals 1 view pre, 1-2 views mid, and 2 views post, and also the mid show lower add that pops up and barely distracts, all in all its the equivilant of 5 views minimum per watch, 200 views nets 10$ and lets go with a 100,000 people watch minimum.

    that would be an extra 5 grand per 100k.

    cartoon network can push some at up to 3 million views, i believe ant bleach and narutos peak, so an extra 150000$ off people who werent even going to buy it... not bad.

    now for REAL profit, allow sub groups to post their subs to the stream, and let those subs display any why the group wants, and let them edit the opening and ending video to add whatever they want to it, and there you go, for one piece, let them edit the episodes, due to how those shows and handled.

    also dont go after people who like to download, because some of us despise online viewers, some due to how shittly browsers handle the majority of imbeded video

    Avatar of ToadnoChikara
    Comment by ToadnoChikara
    21:51 03/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    When you look at the Japanese market where most the sales are from DVDs and BDs, the people that pirate can be likened to the people that'd watch it through TV anyway, where you gain significantly less revenue. Subsequently, the more viewers you get overall (including pirates) the more likely you'll get a increase in sales with DVD/BD because the more fans you'll have that'll buy them.

    In European countries, it seems the main point of revenue are box office sales, which is why piracy seems so harmful - you pirate, and they literally miss out on a chance to earn money on the film. Well, provided you don't like it so much you go see it again. Unfortunately, this is too often used as an excuse for Hollywood to make a crap movie, and being a catch-22 situation noone's gonna give a fuck about it.

    tl;dr support the pirates, and you'll support the industry. Funny how that works.

    Avatar of Lonesnipa
    Comment by Lonesnipa
    00:31 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Stuff being released on the internet for free for people to watch is a good thing. Especially for ones that don't air on TV. Why the hell would anyone buy an anime they MIGHT like but have never seen?

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:27 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I only buy stuff that I have watched entirely (read: Pirated) first. Also, all the merchandise filling my shelves (mostly figure imports) are from series I technically 'pirated'.

    Altogether, I spent a mid-four-digits amount of money (Euros, mind) on my stuff. Not a large collection, but most definately not a small one, either.

    Now, much of these are imports, so I'm admittedly hurting my local anime industry to some degree (boo on your dubs, Germany). Though I did get a friend into anime/manga this way, and he now has a 400+ volume collection of german and english manga (another four-digit number right there).

    As result, I don't buy that fansubs are entirely hurtful. Sure, some people watch em for the free ride, but a significant fraction of the people I meet at anime conventions, -primarily the big spenders- that carry home 500 bucks of doujinshi from hendane, or whatever, got into the hobby through fansubs, not the German dubs.

    Sure, not all of that may be good for the local anime industry (boo on your dubs once more, Germany), but in general, there is a fair amount of money going into Japan due to this, due to imports or whatever else, and that's where the money, in my opinion, matters most.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:05 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    00:27 anon here, an addendum:

    Lots of people also speak about DVD sales.

    A problem I see mostly pertains to series that get a TV Broadcast in HD. While BDs, due to some reworking, usually look better, DVDs tend to be horrid fail by comparison, image quality wise.

    However, I have, if at all, only seen -movies- on BD over here.

    Seeing series I know full well got a HD-release in Japan (Ergo Proxy is one that springs to mind), only on DVD over here is a major "DO NOT WANT" for me.

    It's less of a problem when fansubs look 'as good' as what you can buy (given they sometimes are DVD/BD/whatever rips, anyway), but when the fansubs look -several times- better than anything you can easily get on the market over here, then the situation quickly turns absurd. I bought a few out of good conscience, then went "What the fuck am I doing with my money", when I just shelved the packaged DVDs to never look at them again. Because if I wanted to watch the series again, I'd want to see the HD-rip, not the darn things on my shelf. Which'd make me either keep or re-pirate something I already bought.

    I mean, what the fuck. In the end I did import some BDs from Japan, but the pricing, with shipping included, is so ridiculous that it's not really an alternative, either. Japanese disk releases are exorbitantly pricy to begin with, adding 30-40% shipping on top is not good.

    I think it'd be better if there were simple venues to give the studios our money, then not have to worry about whatever we're doing with the material.

    Crunchyroll is a good start, but I hate internet-stream-quality video, so I'm hesitant to give them my money.

    I know I'd pay SHAFT silly money for a "Here, go download our newest episodes in HD, then feel free to slap sub-files onto it" monthly subscription or something.

    I'd at least know the money'd go straight where I want it to be.

    Avatar of Shippoyasha
    Comment by Shippoyasha
    23:00 03/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    I suppose the big next step in all this is to make sure people buy the anime they love. I love how some fansubbers openly plead in fansubbed anime themselves at times, to buy them if you like them.

    I think they should ALWAYS put that message in the inbetween freeze-frame-artwork most anime have in the midway point of a show.

    It's one thing to love anime and fansub, but it's another to know that buying legit anime = supporting the industry. It's been even implored by actual seiyuu and industry insiders that even foreign sales do ultimately matter and it's important we support them.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:21 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    I can't wait to see 2chan's reaction.

    Avatar of konakona
    Comment by konakona
    02:34 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    They'll probably find something else to whine about.

    Avatar of Yourtime
    Comment by Yourtime
    01:55 04/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    finally they got it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:36 03/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.8)

    I hate to tell you "i told you so..."
    but... I TOLD YOU SO!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:37 03/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Damn i got TOLD.

    Avatar of Sukunai
    Comment by Sukunai
    21:15 03/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.7)

    Chances of my buying anime BEFORE having watched a free fansub, zero.

    I also won't buy a movie till I have watched it once somehow.

    Chances of my buying a dvd as opposed to downloading it. Well if it isn't on sale locally, the chances are also almost zero.

    Chances of my buying an anime straight from Japan via Amazon.jp is fucking less than zero when you consider the rip off price, even worse shipping costs and the outrageous surprise duty costs.

    Sorry but in Canada a dvd box set is considered a 50 dollar item commonly.

    When I went to get the Hatsune Miku concert on blueray and discovered my end price was about 125 bucks including price shipping and duty, I sent it back and settled for the most acceptable blueray rip.

    In Canada a blueray item is routinely 25 bucks.

    End result comment, if you want me to buy it, don't expect a fucking idiotic price tag.

    Avatar of Ryan Saotome
    Comment by Ryan Saotome
    21:32 03/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Hate to say it, but those are common prices in Japan. Maybe not common over here, but their economy is better, and people have been paying those prices for years, so if anything our prices are dirt cheap.

    Comment by Anonymous

    it isn't that much cheaper in Japan, a typical anime bluray costs around 7000 yen. In fact, the Haruhi BD box set is considered cheap as f***, and its around 38000 yen.

    Yet I still bought several copies of Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu for the different promo items from each retailer. Also, including the BD box set and Nyoron Churuya-san + Haruhi-chan bd, total damage was around 1000 usd.

    But its ok, because I love it.

    How did I come to love it? I watched it first from afk, all the way back in 2006.

    Avatar of Martin Findlay
    Comment by Martin Findlay
    21:15 03/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.6)

    I think this article makes sense, if it wasn't for me being able to download anime, I would NOT have bought a solid state copy of it. Amongst other things, soundtracks have been a keen interest for me.

    Because I got to watch K-ON!(!) I now want to buy all the CD's, brilliant music, same goes for Angel Beats, I'm getting the 2 Disc OST for my birthday this month. on top of the Thousand Enemies and Crow Song album I currently own.

    Yes, Piracy does have flaws for the producers, but how much of a fanbase do you think there would be if there was no piracy? I think it's safe to assume that it certainly wouldn't be as big as it is today.

    Avatar of Elle Lowel
    Comment by Elle Lowel
    20:35 03/02/2011 # ! Good (+0.4)

    Mayhaps now they might lay off us pirates that actually buy their goods after we had our way with them..

    ..doubtful though.

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