Piracy has plagued the anime industry for years, but Monkey D. Luffy’s gang cannot be blamed for its rise. According to a study by The Hollywood Reporter, Japan is being hit hard by pirates, and One Piece is a victim if anything.
Not long ago, Japan hosted its annual Tokyo Film Festival, and film industry veterans gathered to talk all things theater. It was there Chris Dobb, the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, held a seminar and gave comment on Japan’s piracy. He noted online piracy is a “serious problem” in the country, and the sentiment was echoed by Takeo Hisamatsu, the festival’s director.
According to THR, the seminar laid out how damaging piracy is to Japan’s industry with some rather shocking numbers. In the first-half of 2017, an average of 15.2 million unique users from Japan used online piracy services. 24% of Internet users in Japan accessed those sites via desktop with the overwhelming majority using streaming services.
Japan’s piracy does seem to be mostly limited to online consumption. The latest studies do show that the Japanese are “low consumers of pirated copies of DVDs and other hard goods.” However, the same cannot be said what happens on the Internet.
The piracy number is lower than other developed countries, but for Japan’s size, the reports call the figures “shockingly high.” Marc Fuoti, a member of the MPA advisory board, confirmed piracy is “increasing” in the country as of right now.
As you might have guessed, Japan’s greatest source of pirated content is anime. Fuoti stressed manga and anime are the most pirated pieces of content. The report estimates 7.7 billion visitors went to unlicensed anime sites globally in 2015 - and that is excluding anyone from China or Japan.
Anime fans are well-aware of how piracy as infiltrated the fandom and become a normal way of life for many. The trend began decades ago when anime series were simply not exported out of Japan, and it worsened as the Internet became a more widely available tool. Anime has an easier time getting shared abroad in a timely manner, but the fandom’s culture has become one that views piracy as an alternative when shows do not get added to licensed streaming services.