Study shows internet piracy actually benefits Anime sales

Do illegal copies of films posted on the internet have a negative financial impact for the creators and producers who made them? The entertainment industry claims that it does, but a new study by Japan’s Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI) shows that internet piracy actually boosts profits for Japanese anime DVD sales.

The study examined 105 anime episodes that were posted on YouTube and Winny, a Japanese peer-to-peer file-sharing program.

In the case of those posted on YouTube, researchers found that the illegal copy had no negative impact on either the subsequent DVD rentals or sales of the program. Winny, however, did negatively impact the program’s DVD rentals, but did not, in fact, cause a decline in sales of the DVD.

“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 researchers state in the abstract of their paper.

This isn’t the first study to refute the claims of billion dollar losses that are often made by trade industry groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). A report released last June by the UK’s Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Policy stated that the data that has been released by music industry leaders was “insufficient in order to make a case for copyright”. Also in June, a Harvard professor warned the public, “Be careful about using information the multinational [companies] provide you. I would imagine they have an incentive to make the losses seem very, very large.”

On an interesting and related note, American anime distributor Funimation filed a lawsuit last week against 1337 BitTorrent users for allegedly sharing copies of the new series “Fractal”. The producers of the program reportedly demanded that Funimation remove the pirated copies on the internet before broadcasts of the show would continue. Since then, however, broadcasts have resumed, prompting TorrentFreak to speculate that the producers realized that they had made a bad move in issuing those demands.

Anime is, of course, a rather niche market, however the popularity has increased significantly over the past few years. Unfortunately, we don’t know whether the results would hold true when compared to American movies, music, or sports broadcasts yet, so I’m sure the government and production company’s witch hunts will live on for some time.