Remember this song from some kids’ show called "Lamb Chops" or whatever?
It just goes on and on my friend.
Some people, started singing it not knowing what it was,
And have continued singing it forever just because
It is the song that never ends… (repeat forever)
It pretty much sums up how I feel towards the recent Odex fiasco, currently in chapter 2351. The whole affair has been a downward spiral of doom, particularly for the anime freeloader. I wouldn’t say "anime fan", because I don’t really consider the people who just download and not do anything as fans. There have been 4-5 articles on this issue in the newspapers, most recently in today’s national tabloid, the New Paper. It must have been a slow news day, for the headlines were screaming, "Online Row Over Illegal Anime Downloads Turn Nasty as Odex Director Gets Threats, ‘We’ll beat you up and burn your house!’". Talk about sensationalism!
Anyway, I shan’t scan the article beacuse it’s basically a repeat of what other local anime bloggers have already covered, namely the local forums flaming Stephen Sing for his careless comments.
I know I haven’t really commented on the whole issue as I promised. There are a few reasons, one of which is school, and the others being a total boredom of this subject. But today I shall.
Remember how I said it was shameful being an anime fan? This is exactly why. Anime fans (ok let’s just use this term to describe those who like anime) are immature, childish, juvenile and spoilt, in this age of free downloads. I read about one page each of the various threads on the local forums pertaining to this topic and I’m disgusted by almost all the responses. Either Singaporeans are all really stupid in general, or just the stupid ones like anime. Oh yeah, the guys over at Odex claim to be anime fans as well, so please infer.
From what has transpired, Odex does not seem to be stopping their letter-machine-gunning. In fact, they have now broken down the barrier that is Starhub, and the previously-safe hubbers will probably start getting the papers of death. Each of these letters result in the receiver having to attend a mediation session, where the Odex gang will attempt to make you settle the matter with a payment of 3-5 thousand dollars. The money, allegedly, goes to the lawyers, tracking company, stamp fees (courts etc) and admin staff used to process the claim against you. That I can believe. There are lots of people saying that Odex is profiteering from this, but I don’t think so. Odex probably gets a huge kick out of this, but not in the monetary sense.
It’s like you’re a famous sportsman, but the spectators hurl abuse at you all the time. One day, you decide to give them the middle finger in full view of the TV cameras, and then the spectators file police reports, complain and all that. If you follow football (not the American type), you’ll see this often. If people blatantly flout the law, copyrights, sling mud at the Odex, it is fair to say that they will harbour hatred at you and one day, find some method to seek vengeance. Odex may be a commercial firm, but that doesn’t mean they can’t piss you off AND take your money. LEGALLY too. The law will always side with the party who doesn’t break it.
The sad thing is that all the masses of anime fans just mouth off and talk big online, spreading vitriol and hate on forums anonymously. Do you think any of these fans will still maintain the air of defiance when faced with the dreaded Odex letter? Will any of them fight the court case? All these fans can do is give the whole community a bad name, through cyberstalking and terrorism. The most ironic thing is, many of these stupid fans constantly pump letters to the newspapers and mass media, demanding that Odex’s insolence and "illegal invasions of privacy" be punished. This causes the newspapers to pick up on the issue, take Odex’s side and proceed to spin their articles such that anime fans are painted as cyberthugs who are too cheapskate to buy their anime. Why would they pick Odex’s side? It is because they, the big O, are officially in the right and downloaders are the ones infringing on their copyrights.
As much as we hate to be persecuted, you can’t deny that. The facts are, Odex have not committed any crime, their methods are 100 percent legal. Singapore just has such an efficient control culture, where if a party in power has the law on its side, it can eradicate what it deems as unlawful behaviour. To all those people who want to migrate just because they can’t get free anime, you need a big FUCK OFF from all of us.
I’m genuinely annoyed by the amount of stupidity on the net these days.
From here on, we’ll have a question and answer session. I shall start with a few common ones.
1. Oh, holy mother of Buddha, I got the LETTER! What should I do?
You should arrange for an appointment with Odex and head down to their office at International Plaza. It’s beside Tanjong Pagar MRT. There, the staff will brainwash you and scare you into paying the 3-5k settlement. So far, everyone has done that. After you agree to pay, you and them will sign a letter stating that you must not download any more anime, and they will disregard all the evidence they have collected thus far against you. You will then go home a lot poorer and pick up a new hobby like knitting.
2. I want to fight the court case and be a hero! Can I?
I want to see what happens when you do so. As some people, the older anime fans, will point out, Odex’s case is not stonewall. It may be fightable. You could at least die trying I suppose, or be a true hero and win it for us.
3. Are only Singnet users vulnerable to the death?
As of now, only Singnet users have been dealt with. Official reports state the Starhub put up a fight and lost, so expect to see Starhub people getting pwned. But think about it, there are thousands of downloaders here and probably a vast majority are being logged by the tracking company. Odex only has that many admin staff handling the letters, so it’s quite the probability game. Odex claims they can log streaming, IRC, Chinese/Russian/Italian/whatever subs, P2P and all that… allegedly.
4. Odex are just trying to profit. How can they do this??
People who say this are obviously either kids or beggars. The money paid goes to covering their costs, which includes paying for the tracker, court orders, lawyer fees, admin fees and other stuff. Odex claims that the Japanese studios originally wanted the downloaders to pay the full sum, i.e. 10 x the value of each item, which would’ve surely resulted in the downloader being bankrupt. Odex claims they, for the sake of the fans, begged the Japanese Studios to just accept the letters of undertaking as the end result of the hunt. Allegedly of course.
5. What the fuck is AVPAS? Is it not Odex?
Ah, this is an interesting issue. Odex is the creator of AVPAS, but it is not AVPAS. AVPAS consists of many Japanese companies, such as Sunrise, TV Tokyo who have pledged to support Odex in their quest against piracy. Remember in the old days, there were tonnes of Japanese bootleg drama VCDs out in retail stores? Odex asked the Japanese studios to support them in sweeping the bootlegs out and from there AVPAS was born. It was quite the snowball effect as more Japanese studios saw the benefits of joining this alliance and the positive feedback loop just makes AVPAS even more effective. The monopolistic nature of the local legal anime scene just further makes Odex’s anti-piracy mission easier. Look at Taiwan and HK, where there are a few bitter oligopolies out to kill one another, they wouldn’t join forces and fight piracy together, which results in the latter running rampant. In Singapore, due to Odex being a total force, they enjoy much economies of scale when it comes to ridding pirates. In short, AVPAS is like the mecha on which Odex the pilot rides.
6. Can I download the anime not on AVPAS’ list? Will I get caught?
You can download!! In fact, it would be highly likely that Odex would want you to download those because the unlicensed series would belong to their little competitors. Examples are Naruto, Keroro and Deathnote. But the catch is, if Odex ever licenses this series, they do get you on backlogged episodes.
7. But but! This is invasion of privacy!! Odex should go to jail!! Wait, if Odex is tracking torrents, doesn’t that mean they are downloading too? They should give themselves the letter!!
They have a court order, which here in Singapore, means they have the right to do as the court says. This point is so laughable that sometimes I pee in my pants when I see it on forums for the 200th time. Seriously. 12 year olds. Sheesh.
8. Odex products are shit!! I won’t ever buy them. BOYCOTT!!!
People need to stop comparing VCDs to fansubs. Obviously the former is shit in terms of quality. Anyway I think Odex products are quite shitty too but this is due to a variety of factors. Some of the subs need to be tweaked, because incest, homosexuality and all that is totally disallowed here. The censorship board is quite particular and Odex, which rather depends on the CB for a living, does not wish to get into its bad books. Odex thus plays by a "better safe than sorry" strategy, which can be frustrating to anime downloaders used to the cavalier attitude of fansubs. There are stringent rules set by Japanese studios on date of release, product packaging and all that, which is to prevent reverse importing by the Japanese. We all know how bloody expensive Japanese DVDs are. As for why Odex are still dubbing and using VCDs, it is because that is what the market in general wants. Sales figures show that. People online talk loudly about wanting subs, hating dubs, and using DVDs only, but sales figures do not reflect that. It is because they are merely the vocal minority and not the ones with the purchasing power. In a free market economy, everything is powered by the dollar and not by decibels. Btw, if you haven’t bought ANY products from them, you cannot boycott them for obvious reasons.
9. Henry Jenkins said that fansubs are promotion, not piracy!!
Only for a certain small group of anime, which solely are not enough to sustain the economy. Once again, I attribute this to the rapid paradigm shift. Japanese studios are holding back progress in the anime world because of their out-dated business models. The board of directors on these companies are old men who have more grey hairs than you have penises, and they do not comprehend the power of the net and how it has changed the face of commerce. There is however, a strong distinction that has to be made, between the internet and fansubs. I agree that the internet has to be used in the promotion and distribution of anime. But I do not agree that fansubbers should be the ones doing it and returning no benefit to the studios. Thanks to BT, the amount of downloaders at the moment has been increasing exponentially and this has now gone beyond the buffering capabilities of the anime market. This has directly affected DVD sales in a negative way, which worries studios, licensors alike. Anime, in the end, is a rather labour and capital intensive good, which requires a large company to produce. If there are no monetary benefits to making it, it will die.
10. If Odex people claim to like anime, what series do they like?
Apparently, the head honcho, Peter, likes Honey and Clover, Yamato Nadesico and Basilisk, at the moment.
11. How are the letter targets chosen?
Randomly. It does not depend on the volume of download at all. This is because Odex wants us to realise that ALL forms of downloading is bad and ALL should be stopped, so even if you’re just downloading one a week, you’re still at risk. But if you are a chronic downloader, it just means your chances of winning any case are slim obviously.
12. Oh Shit, I got the letter. But I’m quite poor and my family cannot afford the money.
If you submit proper documentation of your financial status, Odex actually does provide some leeway, either lowering the fees or something else. You must submit proper evidence though, not a down-on-your-knees-sobbing tale of poverty. There was apparently some kid who got his fee lowered through this.
13. Come, let us all quit anime together and do better, more glorious hobbies like chasing girls and boys.
Sure! I think we should all just stop watching anime. It’s not essential, it’s not a necessity. You will not DIE if you don’t watch it. Anime is a hobby which can be dropped easily because the series released don’t disappear. In fact, you can then marathon them, for better enjoyment!
14. But without the latest anime, the local merchandise stores will suffer too!
They will, but Odex obviously does not care. Btw, Odex actually holds merchandising rights for many anime, such as Dgray Man. So logically, Odex themselves could paint giant Dgrayman figures and sell them here. Though nobody would buy of course. The local merch stores are just too small in scale for the AVPAS dudes to care about. In theory, Odex and Chuangyi, for that matter, can actually persecute the local stores which sell counterfeit merchandise, such as Comics Connection and Tenchi. But they just don’t care because the management feels authentic Japanese merchandise does not yet have any market in the main stream, especially at their original prices. CC can sell stuff because their counterfeit ones are so cheap.
15. Odex sure has shitty PR and a bad website!
Very much so. I hear a new website is in the works though. The leadership at Odex have a top-down, "We smart and you masses are dumb" mindset. They have a tendency to withhold information rather than release it. They also do not like revealing plans before they come to fruition. It’s all shroulded in secrecy CIA style. Let’s say they were doing a secret project trying to bring a certain anime series via Video on Demand. Would you prefer they tell us they are trying to do it, or would you prefer they keep it under wraps until it actually goes through? Odex believes in hiding it because they don’t want to raise expectations and then get panned for failure. I find this rather strange and against the common norms of PR. Generally when it comes to information, no news is equals to bad news and this mindset is exactly why they have so much bad word-of-mouth publicity, from people who just spread rumours and deceit.
16. Are you Odex?
No I’m Riuva.
Any more questions?
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