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or: How to avoid being ripped off by identifying bootleg anime merchandise
What is this ‘bootleg anime merchandise’? • “Bootleg” is being used as a catch-all for pirated, counterfeit, and unlicensed goods. • This can be used to describe a variety of items including, but not limited to: CDs, DVDs, clothes, wall scrolls, toys, video games, and books.
Why should you care? • Money spent on merchandise goes back into funding new animation projects and paying the staff. • The quality of bootleg goods is typically much lower than that of the original article. • It’s illegal according to the Berne Convention. • Piracy, especially CDs and videos, is frequently organized and conducted by organized crime. • And last, but certainly not least, Gen Fukunaga of Funimation Productions will come to your house and kick your butt.
What should I be looking out for? • Basically, anything that can be duplicated will be. • CDs are the most frequently bootlegged items, as the production cost is the cheapest. • DVDs are more frequently pirated than in years past – knockoffs are also frequently including an English-language audio track ripped directly from US releases. • Toys are sometimes remanufactured in packaging using unlicensed artwork. • Model kits, particularly resin, can be recast. • Apparel, wall scrolls, and posters are also frequently bootlegged.
Tell-tale indicators of a bootleg CD: Son May (SM) Alion (mostly copies of Final Fantasy OSTs) Smile Face/ Smiley Face Ever Anime Yuanding/ Top Circle Archer Records Hi Fashion
Fun facts about bootleg CDs • Many CD manufacturers do not have real contact information on the inserts – how trustworthy is a company that lists a Yahoo or Hotmail e-mail address instead of a properly registered domain address? • Wholesale prices are as little as $1 or less per disc, so even if you’re paying under $10, you’re being wildly ripped off. • Price is very often the first indicator that a CD is a bootleg. CDs are typically significantly more expensive in Japan that in the US, so if a full-length disc is selling for less than $20 new, you’ve probably found an unauthorized product.
DVDs – the darling of the internet Anime Cartoon and Video Animation – do pirates even rip each other off? = Two different logo designs for Anime Studio Manga International, not to be confused with Manga Entertainment FX Company – frequent purveyor of multi-disc collections = Another example of two logos for the same company, MAC, said to be the same bootleggers as Anime Studio Some pirates have even created their own holographic seals to make them look more authentic
A case in point: The ‘Archives of Studio Ghibli’ Front Back • This is a 6 movie set on 3 discs – two movies per disc means high compression and subsequent low quality. • Authentic Ghibli DVDs are all 2 -disc sets for each movie. • The pirates here even included seals to make it look like a legitimate Ghibli product.
Just in case you weren’t impressed:
What else can tip you off to identify a bootleg DVD? • There a number of typical characteristics that can help you identify piracy: o Episode count – any disc or set of discs that contain particularly high numbers of episodes per disc (8 or more) is possibly not legit. o Region 0 (or all region) coding – most legit releases (apart from some adult releases) are typically region coded and will not play on most players in other regions. o Wide selection of subtitle languages, almost always including Chinese – it seems proportionate that the greater the number of subtitle languages present, the lower the chances are that the disc is authentic. o Lack of traceability – pressing plants will leave a serial number on the bottom of the disc, near the hole. If this number has been defaced, it’s because the pirates don’t want to be traced.
What else can tip you off to identify a bootleg DVD? • These previously mentioned characteristics aren’t necessarily hard and fast rules all the time. For example, some legit releases from CPM and Manga are all region discs and some releases from ADV and Pioneer/Geneon are coded for regions 1 and 4. • animeondvd. com maintains a highly accurate and up-to-date list of licensed animation shows, so check it out if you ever have questions about whether something has been licensed or not.
DVD’s brother-in-lead-paint-chips, VCD • Very few VCDs (video CDs) were ever released in the US (or, for that matter anywhere outside of east Asia) • VCDs are very easily copied, which has lead to a near-crippling collapse of the HK film industry due to piracy. • Most VCDs are similar to VHS in terms of quality, so at this point, it’s best to steer clear of them completely.
Posters • Posters bearing this mark are bootlegs. The mark will typically be along the bottom of the image. Some posters only have a part number/order number. • Legit posters will have copyright information for the image and usually a seal of some kind. Bootlegs are often cropped to cut off the copyright information. The images will also sometimes be taken from art books or other printed materials, regardless of size and blown up to disastrous result.
Clothing • Most bootleg clothing seen recently has been of a similar variety – shirts printed with a continuous allover style design. • A great many of these shirts use unlicensed artwork in the designs, sometimes sloppily including text over parts of images. • These shirts are typically made of 100% polyester, which doesn’t breathe well and is flammable. • Bootleg T-shirts also exist, but they are usually easy to identify by the fact that they do not have copyright information for the artwork printed on them.
Wall scrolls • The market for legitimate wall scrolls seems to be growing every year, so the fact that there any licensed ones at all is a major improvement. • Bootleg scrolls and authentic ones use nearly identical construction; the major difference is in the printing quality. Bootleg scrolls are almost always worse looking (color bleeding, incorrect color selection, speckling in the image) than legit ones. • Legit scrolls have cards to display the artwork and contain copyright information for the image.
Toys and model kits • The first key identifier of bootleg toys and models is often HILARIOUSLY BAD ENGLISH. • Another sore-thumb type of problem with bootleg toys and models is sometimes the name of the outfit making them…
Toys and model kits • Bootleg plastic toys and model kits often have problems inherent to low-quality plastics – ‘blobbiness’, deformation, and incorrect color matching. • Bootleg resin model kits are frequently recast from existing models and repackaged in white boxes with photographs of the finished product attached to the front.
Last, but certainly not least – fansubs, digisubs, and scanlations • Fansubs are not legal, despite what people on the internet may tell you. Digisubs (digital video fansubs) and scanlations (translations of comics stored in digital form) are the same. There isn’t any way around this issue. • Translations, like in pirate DVDs, are often hilariously bad in both writing quality and accuracy to the original meaning.
In closing: • The realm of bootleg merchandise in anime is a tricky one to try to navigate if you want to avoid ending up with garbage. • Being the first one on your block to be a fan of a particular show or a poor college student doesn’t entitle you to anything. There isn’t any real justification for deliberately buying pirated goods under any circumstances. You only cheat yourself and others in the long run. • In the end, nobody’s perfect, so if you find that you’ve unwittingly purchased pirated goods, it can end up teaching you more about what to look out for than any panel discussion at a con ever could.
Good resources for reference: • www. digital. anime. org. uk/piratefaq. html • members. austarmetro. com. au/~mwhitley/guide 1. htm • www. animeondvd. com
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