This article is from the Anime Resources FAQ, by Steve Pearl with numerous contributions by others.
By virtue of trade agreements between the US and Japan, it is illegal in the US to distribute copies of anime and anime-related material without having permission from the copyright holder, regardless of whether or not any fee is charged.
Copyrights are intended to make sure that the author of the work receives appropriate compensation for his/her job. Some people consider the copying of anime a morally corrupt practice, as the author of the work is not being paid. There have been several counter-arguments to this by anime fans, such as:
- It is unlikely that the Japanese companies will sue the fan, as this practice creates a demand for other anime-related products, which increases their sales.
- The fan is against profiting from this activity, and in some cases even boycotts and denounces any people who are doing it for profit.
- These features are far too expensive/hard-to-find for the fan to acquire them by other means.
Regardless of any moral or economical justifications, the fact is that copying of anime features is illegal under US law. If the fan resorts to this method to obtain anime material, he/she should be aware of this.