Should Anime Remain a Club Good or Become a Public Good?
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Posted 9/12/14 , edited 9/12/14
Created by BlueOni


Topic Prompt

Let's imagine a performance hall which charges for admission and hosts some of the most delightful musicians, dancers, and stage actors the world has to offer. Provided everyone is politely quiet the introduction of an additional audience member in no way detracts from any other audience member's enjoyment of the performance. That is to say, things such as theatrical performances are non-rivalrous. What's more, were the performance hall's walls not soundproofed and opaque, or were entry to the hall not restricted, no one could be kept from listening and watching. Finally, were recording devices not expressly forbidden from being used in the hall any number of copies of the performance in question could conceivably be produced. It may therefore be reasonably stated that the scarcity of things like theatrical performances is wholly artificial.

We call a good which is non-rivalrous and non-scarce a public good. Fireworks performances are public goods since they cannot be reasonably kept from any audience and may be consumed by any number of people without detracting from any individual's enjoyment. Air is a public good for the same reasons. In reality, however, a theatrical performance held in a performance hall which restricts entry for any not bearing a ticket is actually part of a subset of public goods called club goods. What makes a club good such is that it is a public good which has been made artificially scarce. We've enclosed and soundproofed the performance hall so people can't see or hear the performances without first going inside, we don't let them inside until they pay for a ticket, and we don't let them make copies of the performance which they could then distribute or consume outside the theater.

Anime is a club good in the same way that theatrical performances are. The existence of technology which allows easy and inexpensive reproduction and distribution of anime series (in part or in whole) to a group of consumers of absolutely any size, and even in the absence of that technology the mere ability of groups of people of any size to gather and view a screening of anime in the same way they might gather and view a theatrical performance, means that anime is not a naturally scarce good. The scarcity of anime is a wholly artificial construction, only instead of putting up walls around a performance hall there has been established an exclusive right to make and/or distribute copies of anime series. Finally, the fact that people are able to view copies of anime or sit and view a screening together without negatively impacting the enjoyment of any other consumer or audience member means that anime is non-rivalrous.

There you have it, what a club good is and why anime is one. But we're left with a question, aren't we? We're left to ask ourselves if anime ought to be a club good or whether it ought to be treated as a pure public good. What say you, CR? Should anime be a public good, or remain a club good? Please share your rationale after you answer.

My Opinion

The reason for inducing scarcity on goods like anime, which are neither naturally scarce nor rivalrous, has classically been that doing so is necessary in order to ensure that a motivation to continue production of these goods in the future is maintained. That is to say, the reasoning has been that people need to be able to cover their costs and be allowed the opportunity to profit from their work or they won't continue working. The first part of this argument is absolutely true. Any enterprise, whether for profit or not, commercial or otherwise, must be able to cover the costs of its continued operation and the costs incurred by distributing the products of these operations in order to remain solvent.

The remainder of the argument, the claim that an enterprise in producing intellectual property must be profitable in order to be considered a worthwhile undertaking (and thus to occur), is absolutely not true. Research, performance, film, music, writing, these and more have all been taken up by actors which never have sought, nor do they presently seek, a profit. Countless others have produced derivative works without ever seeking profits. The notion that innovation and/or production of intellectual property cannot or will not occur in the absence of the profit motive is fundamental to the thinking informing copyright law, and it is a claim which is just not true. Anime and manga would continue to be produced and distributed even in the absence of the prospect that producing them would be a profitable enterprise. This is not to say that the profit motive is necessarily hostile to the production of intellectual property, but rather that it can be by serving as a driving factor for unnecessarily establishing and maintaining anime's status as a club good.

It is at this point that one might wonder how anime production and distribution could be kept sustainable if the product became a public good in earnest. One option is already in place to a limited degree: generate revenue by compulsory taxation which could then be invested in the form of grants to enterprising artists (to include anime production teams). Another is to generate revenue by having people make voluntary contributions to private, not-for-profit actors which would then bestow private grants upon ambitious anime production teams. Yet a third way is to simply have people contribute directly to the production teams themselves on a not-for-profit basis. In all cases the products would be treated as public property and be freely distributable and reproducible.
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Posted 9/13/14
Such a great Thread from My best Friend!

Personally, I wish it could remain kind of a "Club good" but, if it draws more People into it, than I would be just fine with that particular Option as well.
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Posted 9/13/14 , edited 9/13/14
I don't know if I can modify the OP without resetting the poll, so I'll post it here: I've accidentally mixed the concepts of exclusion and scarcity, which I really ought not have done. The OP more or less works for the examples I've given and the object to be discussed (anime) since they're all non-scarce goods, but it's important to note that not all public goods are non-scarce. They're all non-excludable (or at least aren't excluded). What makes a club good such is that it is excluded (in the case of anime, this results in a condition of artificial scarcity). I apologize for what is a very embarrassing error.

The question of the poll is hinged on the concept of exclusion, so I felt pointing out this technical error was important. The OP basically boils down to one sentence: "Anime is an excludable good, but should it be excluded in light of the fact that it's also non-scarce?"
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Posted 9/13/14
Club good


BlueOni wrote:
The remainder of the argument, the claim that an enterprise in producing intellectual property must be profitable in order to be considered a worthwhile undertaking (and thus to occur), is absolutely not true.


While it's not universally true, likewise it's not universally false, because ultimately that's a judgement that can't be made by anyone but the one who is producing that product.

Considering that anime studios, publishers, and mangaka who don't make money generally stop producing works, this provides credence to the idea that many, or possibly most, of those creators are driven by the profit motive. Or at the minimum, restricted in what they are reasonably capable of doing when they are not allowed to profit off of their works (Can't eat hopes and dreams),
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Posted 9/13/14

kardonius wrote:

Club good


BlueOni wrote:
The remainder of the argument, the claim that an enterprise in producing intellectual property must be profitable in order to be considered a worthwhile undertaking (and thus to occur), is absolutely not true.


While it's not universally true, likewise it's not universally false, because ultimately that's a judgement that can't be made by anyone but the one who is producing that product.

Considering that anime studios, publishers, and mangaka who don't make money generally stop producing works, this provides credence to the idea that many, or possibly most, of those creators are driven by the profit motive. Or at the minimum, restricted in what they are reasonably capable of doing when they are not allowed to profit off of their works (Can't eat hopes and dreams),


But ah, employees of non-profit organizations are still paid. Employee wages are part of an enterprise's overhead, and so must be covered in order for the enterprise to be solvent. I'm proposing that that overhead could still be covered even if anime weren't excluded.
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Posted 9/13/14
Successful non-profit organizations generally still make a profit, and engage in activities to generate those profits including selling materials they create, they generally don't operate all that differently than for-profit organizations, except they are required to re-invest the profits into the organization, not that it stops people from pulling in as much or more as for-profit business owners do for personal income..

It seems more like your suggesting that they could use something like the patron system of the Renaissance period, but I don't believe there are enough people capable of being patrons to support an anime industry that it is at all comparable to what we currently have.

Direct funding of projects by the audience is great, and the potential for it is growing, but those are almost certainly going to be limited to a small group of people both funding and creating those projects, as it wouldn't be a stable source of income, and there are simply not enough people either willing, or capable to invest in all the projects that would exist if the entire industry were to switch to that model.

Basically I think any system where content creators are not able to effectively monetize their content will inevitably result in fewer people and groups that are able to consistently create new content. So the anime industry would be far smaller and more limited than it is today. Sort of how the community around theater, orchestra, and other fine arts are also likewise far smaller and more limited in availability and cost than mass entertainment media like most music, video games, television, and movies.


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Posted 9/13/14 , edited 9/13/14

kardonius wrote:

Successful non-profit organizations generally still make a profit, and engage in activities to generate those profits including selling materials they create, they generally don't operate all that differently than for-profit organizations, except they are required to re-invest the profits into the organization, not that it stops people from pulling in as much or more as for-profit business owners do for personal income..

It seems more like your suggesting that they could use something like the patron system of the Renaissance period, but I don't believe there are enough people capable of being patrons to support an anime industry that it is at all comparable to what we currently have.

Direct funding of projects by the audience is great, and the potential for it is growing, but those are almost certainly going to be limited to a small group of people both funding and creating those projects, as it wouldn't be a stable source of income, and there are simply not enough people either willing, or capable to invest in all the projects that would exist if the entire industry were to switch to that model.

Basically I think any system where content creators are not able to effectively monetize their content will inevitably result in fewer people and groups that are able to consistently create new content. So the anime industry would be far smaller and more limited than it is today. Sort of how the community around theater, orchestra, and other fine arts are also likewise far smaller and more limited in availability and cost than mass entertainment media like most music, video games, television, and movies.


Well, the thing is that the patron system would not have to exist in isolation, it could exist alongside a broader program of community investment such as is the case for the National Endowment for the Arts. Part of what I'm suggesting is to make things like the NEA more prevalent and larger in scale.

Edit: What I'm ultimately envisioning is production and distribution using a business model similar to that used by free to air public television stations, only the internet would probably be the distribution medium.
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