From Academic Kids

Fansub - short for "fan subtitled"; a copy of a foreign movie or television show which has been subtitled by "fans" into their native language. This has been done to provide shows that would otherwise be unavailable in one's native language, but with the growth in the popularity of anime, fansubs' purpose has expanded to include programs that would be commercially unviable (i.e. older or niche appeal market titles) in one's country or simply to reduce the amount of time one would wait to see a particular program. Translations of signage on screen and cultural notes are often added. Also, many anime viewers feel there is too much censorship of anime broadcast on TV, especially in scenes related to nudity, which is common in Japan (even in children's shows) but is typically considered inappropriate in the United States. Portrayal of nudity in the media has long been controversial in the United States.


Methods of Distribution

Originally these videos were recorded either from broadcast television or high quality laserdisc, and subtitled using a video editor to a Super VHS "master" for duplication to VHS. It was also done by connecting a VHS player to a computer through a video card, and having a program process the images through a timed script. The tapes are then distributed through a fansub distributor (often not the subtitlers themselves) who provide the tapes for a fee that usually only covers the costs of tape and delivery. The VHS tapes would often be copied over and over, often degrading the quality of the video.

In recent years, with the advent of widespread high-speed Internet access and desktop video editing and with the prevalence of DVD players, this practice has largely been abandoned in favor of digitally produced fansubs called digisubs. Commonly, fansub groups work via IRC and coordinate the acquisition of the raw (the original, untranslated video capture of the anime), translation, editing, typesetting, video encoding, quality checking, and, finally, distribution of the final product. They are usually distributed through IRC, peer to peer networks, or through BitTorrent. However, some fansubbers argue that the high quality of digital fansubs is unethical, and continue to make and distribute VHS tapes.

Legal and Ethical Issues

Though the unlicensed distribution of movies and television programs is a violation of copyright law, prosecutions almost never occur. Most fansub groups will not distribute a product that becomes "licensed", which is the term used to describe a series or movie that there is evidence that it has a distributor in the fansub groups' country.

It is generally accepted that for Japanese fansubbing, there is an unspoken agreement between the fansubbers and Japanese copyright holders that fansubs help promote a product. Indeed, when commercial versions of a video become available, they are often superior in video and translation quality to fansubs, though there have been exceptions.

In recent years however, there has been a growing discontent amongst Japanese companies against fansubbers. This is because the huge increase in popularity of anime in North America means that many new series no longer need fansubs as a form of promotion. On the other hand, fansubs are damaging sales in the Asia-Pacific region, due to bootleggers selling fansubs in seemingly legitimate packagings. Because of this, several Japanese companies have threatened to bypass an American distributor and take legal actions against North American fansubbers directly. Fansubbers and supporters argue that fansubs are sometimes the only way Western audiences can view some anime. Even when Western versions of anime are released they are often changed to satisfy stricter censorship requirements, supporters of fansubs argue that fansubs, unlike legal versions, remain true to the Japanese original. According to Yu's Behind the Scenes of IRC (, there have been beliefs that "there is a gap between people's opinion and what is written in the law."

In December of 2004, a Tokyo law firm representing Media Factory Inc., a Japanese anime studio, sent letters and e-mails to the anime BitTorrent directory AnimeSuki and fansub groups Lunar Anime and Wannabe Fansubs requesting that they halt fansubbing and/or hosting of all current and future MFI anime productions. AnimeSuki and Lunar Anime honored the request, and other fansub groups subbing MFI series followed suit. Wannabe Fansubs and other fansubbing groups, however, continued to produce digitially subtitled versions of MFI anime series. To date, this has been the only legal action taken by a Japanese anime company against the fansubbing community.

Note that a fandub is the process of anime fans dubbing over the original language track with their own voices. This is done very rarely, and few fandub groups exist. Fandubs are usually done for parody purposes (such as by Seishun Shitemasu), or to continue the tradition of previously dubbed material (such as the fandub of the Sailorstars series of Sailor Moon).

See also


de:Fansub fr:Fansub it:Fansub ja:ファンサブ pl:Fansub


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