Anime News Network, of which I've been much of my news lately ^^; recently did a report on the current state of downloads in Japan. Some of you might be aware that many people are being arrested in Japan for shared anime via Torrents and other data streams. Thankfully for those who believe in the freedom of the internet (like yours truly) Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that they will set up what they call "special cyber zones" (or cyber tokku) in 2009 that will allow some use of copyrighted material for a select bunch of people. To be quite honest, this is the issue with the anime industry in Japan and the music industry here. As an anime store owner with my own works as well on my to-do list, its understandable where the copyright owners come from, but I believe some execs in both fields need to get their heads out of the 1980's and get into today. The internet is and will continue to be the number one medium for all our information and goods. The power of viral marketing is something the marketing departments of these companies I sure hope don't ignore for their sakes. Keeping the internet a mainly free zone of distribution can only help a company move their product better. I feel as long as the material is both credited to the copyright holders and is all done in good taste to promote the anime, artist, music, etc, it should be fine to download such material and to refer it (distributed in non-commercial means of course.)
I know for a fact there are a plethera of artists, animators, figure companies and music labels that would have never gotten a foothold nor a red cent if they didn't have some of their material floating on the net. Viral marketing creates hype that creates sales on my end which has me turn my $ into yen as I buy the merchandise from these companies for my store and other stores do the same as well. Its the modern marketing arena and if you jail people for being a free advertisor for you than may the gods of shame and lost sales hit your department hard.
Hats up to the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for at least making one step forward in the right direction. It's limited but that's to be in the interest of the copyright holders. Any company that jumps on this will get their payout in the end I feel.
Tell me what you feel about anime downloads on the internet by discussing in the comments below.