Via Slashdot: CNET reports on Fansubbers, fans of Japanese anime who get a copy of a title that has yet to be released in the US and add their own subtitles to the movie and of course release it online via BitTorrent or other P2P networks. Japanese studios, which had previously turned a blind eye to the practice presumably because it helped to build buzz for a release, are now sending cease and desist letters to some fansubbers. Sales of Japanese anime DVDs are flat:

…sales of DVDs–which amount to about 5.7 million copies a year, according to internal industry estimates–are holding steady or dropping. Companies worry that the easy prerelease availability of fansub versions means that the otaku class has already seen their products, and no longer need to buy anything but the must-haves.

The result has been growing anxiety in the industry, although little in the way of direct action. Anime distributors don’t have the financial resources for protracted copyright lawsuits, and for the most part, the fan communities are diligent about pulling down titles once they are licensed for distribution, leaving American companies diminished ground for legal action.