Welcome to the Bootleg guide!
If you aren't too familiar with shopping online, here is a guide to help you spot the difference between a legit product and a fake one. Here are 10 tips to help you avoid getting ripped off online:
1) Trademark/Company logos/Packaging - If there is no Funimation/Bandai/Section23 logo on the set then its fake. Also, 26 episode series nowadays would come on 4 discs (3 if its Blu-ray). If 24-26 episodes comes on 3 discs, or 12-13 episodes comes on 1 disc, then its fake. Yet the disc number count isn't necessarily the best way to figure out if a product is legit or not. Lack of a logo, however, is a very good sign that the product is fake.
2) Languages - If it has Chinese dub in it then that is a strong indication that its fake. A legit set should contain either Japanese audio alone, or Japanese and English (Dual Audio). Sometimes a series/movie might contain another language such as French or Spanish, but that happens very rarely. Yet be careful as there are some bootlegs that are copies of the legit R1 releases. Don't rely solely on the audio opinions.
3) Subtitles - If it contains Chinese subs then that is another indication that its fake. A legit set should contain English subs only. Sometimes it might contain Spanish or French subs, like on the Disney releases, but that also happens very rarely. Yet bootlegs can also contain English subs that are copied from the R1 releases. Again, don't completely rely on the sub opinions either. You will have to look for others signs if you wish to confirm that the product is fake or not.
4) The Price - If the series is OOP (Out of Print) and a seller is, for example, offering $20 for the complete series plus movies of CardCaptor Sakura then you want to avoid them like the plague. Don't be fooled by the low price. The legit sets range between $100-$400 because they are no longer available in stores.
Yes, Anime can be expensive when its OOP. If you can't afford to cough up that much money, then you might as well go watch the fansubs. Better yet, you can always get a Crunchyroll/Netflix/Hulu subscription. That way your money isn't wasted on thieves and you can use it to buy other series that are still in print. Yet, don't be a cheapskate. If you want to be a pirate then I highly encourage you to be a good one. A good pirate will still buy the products even after viewing the source, illegally, online. But really, do try to avoid pirating alltogether. smile
5) Region - Official English release DVDs are always Region 1. If its Region 0 then it is fake.
6) Location - If the product is being sold from Malaysia or Hong Kong then that is usually another hint that the item is fake. There might be a 5% chance that someone from an English speaking country is living in one of those countries and trying to sell off their R1 copy of some Anime series (I have bought legit Trigun DVDs from someone living in Hong Kong before), but 95% of the time people from those countries are selling bootlegs.
7) Unlicensed Anime - Let us use the series School Days for example. Funimation, Bandai, Section23, etc have not licensed the show for English release. Also, legit Japanese DVD's do not contain English subs (although, Japanese Blu-rays are starting to have them now). So where are these boxsets with English subs coming from? That is an immediate reg flag on the product being a bootleg.
8) The Stores - There are quite a few stores online that either sell fakes, a mix of fakes and legits, and legit only products. If you stumble across a site selling Anime DVD's you then might want to do your research first before buying anything from the site.
Here are some examples:
http://www.kcdvd.com/ <-----Everything that they are selling here is fake. Untrustworthy site. Avoid!
http://www.shopanimedvd.com/ <---They sell a mix between fakes and legits. Because they sell boots in the "Import" section then I would have to say that this site is untrustworthy. Avoid!
http://www.rightstuf.com/rssite/main/ <----Everything that they sell is honest to God legit. This site is completely trustworthy. Buy buy buy!
9) Seller's Feedback - For sites like eBay they have a feedback system where a buyer can rate their transaction with the seller as positive, neutral, or negative. If the seller has an abnormal amount of negative or neutral feedback with people saying they received bootleg/fake items, that is an immediate red flag and you definitely don't want to do business with them.
However, there are some people who don't know the difference between a fake and a legit item. They would give the seller positive feedback because they are happy with the product. There have also been some cases where obnoxious buyers would leave "revenge feedback" because they want to tarnish a seller's rep over some silly dispute during the trade. Don't completely rely on a seller's feedback (unless they received over 50 negative feedback marks in less then a month) if you are unsure about a product they are selling. It is best to ask questions first if you are afraid that what they are selling is not legit. Which brings us to tip #10.
10) Ask Questions!! - Don't ever be afraid to ask a seller questions. Most of the time they will be honest with you about what they are selling. However, if they say something like "This has been approved by the Malaysian Government", or something similar, then that is completely false.
Companies have to pay for the rights to a show if the want to distribute DVD's/Blu-rays/Merchandise of it in their country, but bootlegging companies never do (hense why you don't see credit given to the creators of the show when you look at their products). They either record shows off the TV or download fansubs online and make DVDs out of them. Lately, sellers have been using the "This has a 'Approved by our Government' sticker." speech to make you believe that their products are legit. But they are still illegal regardless of stickers saying otherwise. Anyone can slap a 'its legit!' sticker on a product, yet you don't see stickers like that on Disney DVD's/Blu-rays. Why? Because their products are always legit and they don't need to provide a sticker saying that they are.
If a seller tries to be (or has been) dishonest with you then you can always use it against them when filing a complaint with Ebay or Paypal (or whatever method you used to pay for the item). You can also take the fake to a local DVD store and get a note from a retailer indicating that the product you were sold is not legit. Paypal is pretty good about giving buyer's their money back when they encounter a fake product.
If these tips aren't enough to help you with shopping online then please proceed to the visual guide! And remember folks, buying boots kills the Anime industry. The money goes straight to people who copy fansubs or legit Region 1 releases and sell their own version of the DVD's for profit. The creators/distributors don't get ANY of that money. Please support the official releases and keep our Anime industries alive!
Note: Because I own the official DVD releases of Di Gi Charat Nyo! I am therefore allowed to own a bootleg copy, which I have kept for the sole purpose of making this bootleg guide. When I decide to sell my legit copies (pffft....) then I must destroy the bootleg copy as I would then be owning it illegally.