Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Japanese and US Publishers Declare War on 'Pirate Scum'

Finally waking up and smelling the impending doom, manga publishers both here and in Japan have suddenly realized that the proliferation of scanlations and illegal content posted online for free is a direct threat to the survival of the manga industry.

From the Anime economatrix this week:

"The 36 publishers in Japan's Digital Comic Association and several American publishers are forming a coalition to combat the "rampant and growing problem" of scanlations — illicit digital copies of manga either translated by fans or scanned directly from legitimate English releases.

The coalition asserts that "scanlation aggregator" sites "now host thousands of pirated titles, earning ad revenue and/or membership dues at creators' expense while simultaneously undermining foreign licensing opportunities and unlawfully cannibalizing legitimate sales." Google lists one site on its list of the 1,000 most-visited sites on the web. An unnamed spokesperson for the coalition also pointed to smartphone applications designed to read such sites as an escalation of the problem.

The coalition is reportedly threatening legal action against 30 scanlation sites, whose names were not revealed. The organization currently includes Square Enix, Viz Media, TOKYOPOP, Vertical, Inc., the Tuttle-Mori Agency, Yen Press, and the members of the Digital Comic Association: Akane Shinsha, Akita Shoten, ASCII Media Works, East Press, Ichijinsha, Enterbrain, Okura Shuppan, Ohzora Shuppan, Gakken, Kadokawa Shoten, Gentosha Comics, Kodansha, Jitsugyo No Nihonsha, Shueisha, Junet, Shogakukan, Shogakukan Shueisha Production, Shodensha, Shonen Gahosha, Shinshokan, Shinchosha, Take Shobo, Tatsumi Shuppan, Tokuma Shoten, Nihon Bungeisha, Hakusensha, Fujimi Shobo, Fusosha, Futabasha, France Shoin, Bunkasha, Houbunsha, Magazine House, Media Factory, Leed sha, and Libre Shuppan."

Yep, that's just about everyone of consequence in the manga industry. But this story has been brewing in Japan for awhile. The staff of the Japanese edition of Shonen Jump published this editorial a few weeks ago:

"To our readers,
The Internet is now overflowing with illegal copies of manga. All of these illegal copies run counter to the wishes of mangaka. They also ignore the wishes of the creator as to how the manga should be read. It may be done without much thought, but in reality it hurts the mangaka who pour their creative talents into these works, and it is also against the law. When we discover such illegal copies, we discuss possible measures with the mangaka concerned and try to tackle the problem, but there are so many heartless people around that it is just impossible for us to tackle them all. This is a plea to our readers. Illicit copies of manga harm manga culture, infringe the rights of mangaka, and most importantly of all they deeply wound the souls of mangaka. Please also understand that it is illegal. From now on Shueisha will, in collaboration with mangaka, deal more harshly with any illegal copies circulating on the Internet. We hope we can count on the unchanging support of all our readers in this endeavour".

I could make my usual day late and a dollar short argument, but not this time because the stakes are too high now. I can tell you that the last thing these companies want to do is piss off fans, but they are all guilty of ignoring scanlations and bootleg content in the past when they were deemed to be helpful to the industry's overall exposure in creating new interest in the medium. That was a big mistake. The US manga publishers, in particular, have always been benign to pirates and slow to take action even when circumstances were blatantly biting them on the ass. From what I hear on the street this new move is no gesture to intimidate bootleggers, and that they will soon begin prosecuting all available legal actions against these sites.

And it's just as much the fault of the folks that use these sites to get their manga fix, because if these 'entitlement fans' were not so damned greedy for free content that they have stopped purchasing licensed product all together, this phenomenon would have stayed in the background and been happily ignored by the industry. The publishers would not be taking this action if these bootleg sites were not an existential threat to their existence. Bootleg sites like MangaOne get an unbelievable amount of traffic and need to be shut down.

And it's about time they were.

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