On January 15th at 6 PM in Japan Avex Pictures (owned by Avex Group) decided to halt exporting of their titles under their Avex Pictures label. Avex holds the rights many popular anime series and this export ban appears to point to it having an adverse affect for fans who want to legitimately purchase products. The initial reaction to this news is that they are basically telling overseas consumers this:

Anime Middle Finger

The Selective Hearing staff have gathered to discuss this rather abrupt announcement and the possible fallout from it. As always, the opinions expressed in this roundtable are those of the participants and they do not necessarily reflect those of the other Selective Hearing staff or our partners.

What was your initial reaction to this news? Anger, disappointment or indifference?

Kelly-Mae: I was a bit disappointed. Though I don’t personally buy stuff from Avex (typically, I buy from UMJ or H!P), I already find it difficult enough to get some Avex content anyways, so, for them to do this, I feel like they’re kind of screwing over the dedicated fans.

This is going to hurt the Anime fans especially, though if Avex continue going this way, it could also affect the Idol fans in the long run. It’s unfair really, and it seems to set Japan and exporting rights back a good few years. Anime as a whole is popular around the world, with conventions dedicated to anime / manga, so if we are no longer allowed to obtain anime to enjoy, this is going to become an issue for others. I mean, you can still get it somehow, but, it will be costly.

Greg: For me this news only affects my ability to get concert videos directly from an online retailer for the acts that I enjoy. That is assuming those types of videos fall under the Avex Pictures banner. If not then it is business as usual for me. Since I don’t particularly care too much about anime these days if I can’t get a series direct from Japan I can always wait the eons it takes for an American distributor to pick up a title or bite the bullet for a CrunchyRoll account.

However, I do find it disappointing that Avex has decided to make it more difficult for overseas fans to get a hold of their products. You figure the extra revenue from outside would be seen as a good thing. Perhaps not?

Allen: At first I thought it was music artists that we were getting the ban on. Now that I see it’s mostly focusing on their anime, this may be a way for international fans to buy into more of the popular streaming services such as CrunchyRoll. If fans were looking for hard copies of authentic Japanese DVD or Blu-rays, some of them just got cut off big time. I still do not like the idea of more hoops you have to jump through to obtain the goods that fans and collectors really want.

Hannah: At first I was really confused – why ban all exports? What’s the point of giving up free money from fans overseas, especially fans who are willing to pay upwards of $15 in shipping and handling fees to send it from Japan.

How does this affect your buying habits? Are you going to go through the hoops of signing up for a forwarding service from Japan or will you stop buying titles under the Avex label in protest?

Kelly-Mae: As I don’t really buy from Avex anyway, I’m just gonna do what I usually do. I feel for those who do follow Avex, though, because there is a lot of anime and titles under them people enjoy. I’m not that fanbase, however, but I feel for those who are going to suffer in the long run. If they decided to ban the export of Idol goods later on, however, I would be annoyed. And I probably wouldn’t purchase anything from Avex, cause that would cost way too much in third-party exchanges.

Greg: I rarely buy physical media thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music and digital distribution such as iTunes. The only time I do buy a CD or DVD/Blu-Ray is when I visit Japan. I have been using a mail forwarding service in Japan for a few years so when I absolutely want something in physical format it’s not like I don’t have options to get it shipped to Canada.

With that said I won’t boycott Avex stuff or anything that extreme. I just won’t go out of my way to purchase when I can just wait for my next trip to Japan instead.

Allen: I see a giant list of very popular anime shows that are under Avex. Initial D, One Piece, Yuri on Ice being some of the most popular out are on streaming sites like CrunchyRoll that I can watch anytime for a low month cost. This doesn’t change anything for me but I can see a part of the community who would love to have their hands on physical copies but don’t want to wait for a domestic release. With this ban, it has become more difficult for brand new fans to give Avex their money.

I myself don’t really buy physical products unless they come with extras, video games are the prime example. Idol goods like photobooks or Blu-Rays I will purchase through CDJapan because they have a very English friendly site and obtaining those goods are the easiest it has ever been without having to go to Japan. I stream everything lately, CrunchyRoll, Hulu, Netflix, HBO WWE Network and Apple Music. I seem to have most of my entertainment covered.

Hannah: When it comes down to it, probably not. I don’t use forwarding services and the releases that I do buy are few and far in-between.

That being said, I can definitely see more than a few friends of mine that would very easily pay good money for some of those releases, especially of the anime variety. The extras that come with them are no joke, from the release events to the bonus DVD and Blu-Ray content, as well as the redraws that are quite frankly extremely precious when it comes to some series that have adopted the “mangaka on deadlines” strategy of sketches first, full fleshed out panels only for the final version.

It is believed that this is a move to prevent piracy of Avex titles. Do you believe that to be the case or do you think the reaction will be the opposite?

Kelly-Mae: Piracy will always exist, whether Avex like it or not. To think they are stopping piracy is a bit stupid of them, if anything. This export ban only encourages it, though die-hard collectors will go the distance for something they really do enjoy. The casual fans, however, won’t really have any qualms about watching anime online, and torrenting their favourites.

I think the only ones who will buy the authentic releases, are those who want bonuses, collector’s editions, and more. Not everyone wants to collect, however; they just want to enjoy their anime.

Greg: Nothing says “bootleg me” like restricting people from legally buying your products. As Kelly-Mae said, piracy will always happen whether the product is readily available or not. In regards to Avex specifically, this decision could probably just accelerate the piracy of their stuff depending on the demand for it. People who don’t want to find other methods to get their products legally will probably turn to the dark side to feed their need.

Allen: The easiest way to fight piracy is to offer an easy and high quality way for people to consume your content. My list of subscriptions all have those things in common and since it’s easy, I’m more than willing to pay for it. If you take away the ability for consumers to enter their credit card so you can take their money, they will find ways to take your content. Piracy is just becoming the easy excuse for taking access away for consumers.

Hannah: Given that Japan is one of the few countries out there that fought digital piracy in its infancy not through banning file sharing but through the establishment of Recochoku (one of the largest music download e-retailers in Japan) – of which Avex is a 20% shareholder – this rumor is a huge pile of manure.

Speaking of piracy, will you resort to such measures if you have no other financially viable option to get their products legally?

Kelly-Mae: I’ll let you decide my answer for this one.

Greg: As they say in America, I plead the 5th.

Allen: We all started somewhere…

Hannah: I started with VHS ripping. Get off my lawn.

It is also believed that Avex does not want your dirty gaijin money. Do you agree?

Kelly-Mae: I’m sorry the GBP is so filthy right now. I knew Brexit would make the world worse.

In all seriousness though, I 100% do not get why they are doing this. If it’s because they’re not earning as much as they want from exporting goods, then why not just up the price a little more? Tax it. Just don’t take the option away. That’s basically cutting out an entire fanbase, simply because you’re throwing a tantrum, of some form. Or, they think we are not as worthwhile as the core Japanese fanbase.

Right now, I’m just speculating, but money is money at the end of the day, and the Western fans spend as much money on music and anime as any other fan does. If they don’t want my money, though, then aye, I’ll keep it!

Greg: I don’t know if they don’t want my dirty Canadian money or not. Much like many others out there I don’t quite have a grasp on why an export ban is needed other than protecting their own interests in Japan for whatever reason.

Whether this leads to some sort of international distribution deal for their Avex Pictures products (wishful thinking there) or maybe something else down the line is unknown. I guess a lot of folks are gonna be saving some cash now or diverting those funds to something else.

Allen: My first reaction was, “I guess they don’t want my dirty American money. How can I support the artists that make the stuff I like?” I just don’t understand why you would turn down income from around the world even if doesn’t make up the bulk of your sales.

Hannah: Not really? Of all the possible answers out there this just sounds more like butthurt anime/J-pop fan rage than anything else.

Will other Japanese labels will follow Avex’s export ban? If so, do you see this as the start of the apocalypse for overseas J-Pop fans?

Kelly-Mae: Oh good lord, I hope not. If other companies follow suit, though, then I think everyone will just go back to pirating, and they will just lose the filthy gaijin money we send their way. I would like to think that other companies won’t go this route, especially a company like UFA who know they have foreign fans that they can make a quick buck off of, but, given Avex – who have wa-suta (now nicknamed The Avex Standard) – are doing this, despite trying to ‘branch out’… I have no hope for the others, right now. Urgh.

Greg: Please no. It just seems counterproductive to exclude a paying fanbase outside of Japan from supporting what they love.

Allen: I really hope not. I don’t want this to be another thing that certain Japanese companies do to hinder our support.

I really don’t understand how Japan just doesn’t get it when Korea does. K-Pop has exploded in the last few years and they make everything super accessible for American and international fans. They have no bans on streaming videos, they put tons of music on digital stores and streaming services, they market new and fresh bands all the time, they are more popular.

If us as J-Pop fans can’t get the music we want, it may be time for us to focus on other countries that will not have a problem with our support, both emotionally and financially.

Hannah: While I really hope not, the time for international fans to realize that IP law does not, unfortunately, cross international borders is long overdue.

Of all the possible answers that have been swirling around the internets as of the past couple days, the one that seems most likely to me is a reinforcement of Japanese copyright law, international copyright law, and ensuring that it is followed by all distributors. This doesn’t affect music as much as one might think – Avex Trax CDs are still available for import as of this article writing – but I can definitely see other anime distributors enforcing similar types of agreements. Given that these are the ones most likely to have their overseas rights sold off to third party distributors overseas, anime distributors will likely follow suit.