Article: The ethics of fansubbing
The ethics of fansubbing
If there is one most controversial topic in all of anime it is the idea of fansubbing and bootleging. For those of you completely in the dark, fansubbing is the practice of watching anime other than that which is legally available through dvd, tape or television broadcast. The issue is far more explosive than the sub/dub war, partially since the advent of dvds has slightly cooled it down and partially since it involves issues of legality as opposed to mere preference. It somewhat mirrors the battle between the RIAA and such websites as the defunct Napster. While the argument isn't as hot as that one yet it very well could be since It affects the way we all watch anime.
While the simple argument would be to say that fansubs are bad and you shouldn't watch may sound nice and moral there are two things to remember, one is the lure of cheap or very possibly free (if you have a good Internet connection) anime. In a world of thirty dollar dvds it is very tempting. There is also the prickly issue of availability. Unlike the music industry there is often anime that isn't available to the consumer in order for them to purchase legally. In order for an anime show to be available for the consumer outside of Japan a distribution company must come to a legal agreement with the makers o said anime show. This creates a legal loophole that is the basis of fansubbing.
Indeed there is a lighter side to the fansubbing world. Often times fansubbers are simply trying to make anime available to those who can't get a hold of it because it is unlicensed. Also the fansubbers do this with completely free of charge. When an anime series does get licensed most of the time the fansubbers will stop providing the anime in question (some don't but most do).
Currently unless you plan to make money off of anime by bootlegging you probably won't get into legal trouble with the law. This may change in the future and is changing as we speak. In the past it was doubtful that any given anime series would be licensed With the growth of the anime market almost any series comes to America eventually. So It could be said that the necessity for fansubbing is past.
In the end it is a matter of what each individual believes is proper. Everyone will have their own personal level of comfort with the issue. Personally I only watch unlicensed fansubs often with the purpose of reviewing them. Perhaps that is just a personal excuse to absolve myself of guilt. Do keep this in mind though, watching fansubs shouldn't be a substitute for buying anime. When you buy anime you allow distributing companies to have the money to license more titles and the money used to license anime goes into the pockets of those that produce anime giving them the capital needed to produce more anime. So in the end when you buy anime you help fund the hobby that all otaku love.