Anyway, it seems that we finally have a US conviction for the illegal downloading and sharing of copyright material. An Arizona student (whom I won't name...anyone can read the articles and I'm sure he'd rather not be named everywhere) has been sentenced for having been caught with more than 50 million USD worth of pirated material, mostly in the form of movies and music, the former mostly gathered when they were first released in theatres (or so it would appear). Due to him being a minor at the time of the offense, he was sentenced to "a three-month deferred jail sentence, three years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $US5400 fine."
The case actually involved the FBI - the student was caught by a federal task force which monitors the internet. I guess his internet traffic would have been amazingly high...but the figure of $50 million doesn't really tell us much, come to think of it. How do they decide what it's all worth? The cost of DVDs, CDs etc? Or the cost of a movie ticket? How then do they take the fact that he'd been "copying and selling the pirated material" into calculation? (Though I still believe he must have had a large number of HDDs!!)
It's about time someone was convicted for such an offense. I cannot condone piracy of Western movies etc, even if I admit I have seen a few in my day - I have never kept any copies, but I still watched several that I procured through back door means...it was just annoying that I'd have to hire them out at the video store and make time within a week to watch them, not to mention the fact that my family at home had been hiring them and I normally would have seen all the movies I wanted with them.
I don't do it anymore, but I am a hypocrite. I still obtain anime currently screened in Japan (and manga) before it's available where I am, and some music too, most of which I don't actually know where to buy though...(and let's face it, most of the Japanese music cds I've seen are actually 'pirated' copies that are legal only in Taiwan because of their lax copyright laws. Retailers in other countries still sometimes buy and resell those because they're so much cheaper than the geniune articles produced in Japan!)
If I were in Japan, I wouldn't resort to piracy, since I'd be watching the shows when they screen - to have to wait until they are released in the West, and have to buy them (in most cases) without knowing whether they are worth the price is just stupid. Any tv show or film should be available somehow for sampling before we have to buy them - even books can be browsed through to a certain extent before we have to fork out our money, and libraries are wonderful resources! Unfortunately, for the area of anime/manga, such sampling facilities are few and far between. I haven't seen many DVDs except in clubs which try to chare one copy amongst up to 50 students - it makes for a rather impossible situation, and isn't working very well at all. And even if the shows are broadcast on television, it's usually pay-tv, and in English. I have always preferred to watch something, be it a film or a show, in it's original language, and cannot stand the American dubs of most of the shows I like. In fact, they are more likely to convince me NOT to buy the material when it is released. Hence, I will keep relying on piracy to sample and choose what I want (currently, at least 5 anime series are on my list of must-buys, along with most of Miyazaki Hayao's movies). Unfortunately, one of them - Fullmetal Alchemist - has the Japanese track encoded only in mono in the US release, from what I've heard. I am so disappointed...I really hope the R4 release will do something about it!
Final point, don't expect me to buy most manga translated by American companies. After sampling, I buy the Japanese tankoubon if I liked it enough (sound effects are so much nicer in Japanese! Even Chinese ones are far from the ideal!). The closest I've come to getting English-translated manga is Neon Genesis...and I just might buy that anyway, if and when it is complete. I hate having an incomplete series sitting on my shelf! One of the other reasons I don't support the US companies (besides the shoddy translations...I'm glad they changed the way they approach Naruto - from what I've heard - but the horror of that first chapter will never leave me. ..."Art of the Doppelganger"...'nuff said...) is because of something Viz did a few years back when I was considering how much I'd have to save to buy NGE...their strange copyright stipulations meant that most if not all overseas retailers were not allowed to stock their manga. Even if Viz has changed their approach by now, I've already lost respect for them.
I'm going to have to read a bit more into international copyright laws though (the Berne convention - which even Taiwan has now signed (in 2002 actually))...