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Manga Publishers Combine To Form Scan-Fighting Manga Coalition

News travels fast in the manga-world and this is definitely news worth spreading – a press release circulated by Viz Media today outlines the creation of a publisher coalition teaming up to target illegal distribution of their work.

“Working together, the membership of the coalition will actively seek legal remedies to this intellectual property theft against those sites that fail to voluntarily cease their illegal appropriation of this material.”

Along with a list of Japanese license-holders, North American manga publishers Viz Media, Yen Press, Vertical and Tokyopop are also all on the list showing a crackdown on piracy that many had hoped (and some expected) was coming.

So what does this mean for the manga scanlation world? In some ways a lot, and in others probably not so much. While the specifics of this coalition isn’t addressed in much detail in the press release, it seems safe to say that Viz, Yen Press and Tokyopop aren’t likely to call out the big guns over things like individual scanlation groups unless they’re outright violating licenses they hold. The large aggregator sites that make money off of posting full series (many of which fully available in English) on the other hand, are something that’s been a huge eyesore in the entire industry and medium for ages, offending companies, fans and scanlators alike as they dropkick any percieved notion of nobility square in the proverbial balls.

Firstly and foremost, scanlations are illegal – flat out, no exceptions. Whether you do it “out of love” or not, scanlations are theft and they directly and negatively impact the creators and the companies. Unfortunately, it remains a moot point to argue that companies don’t rely on them when it comes to deciding on what to license and the resulting fanfare. While even scanlations of series not yet licensed in English is still harmful, it’s long been overlooked as a necessary evil of sorts, one that accepts a language limitation of readers wishing to read a manga in their own language. When this barrier no longer exists however, then you’ve officially tossed all kind-given reasoning to the wind.

This is thus where the biggest issue lies – people who read manga for free that’s fully available to them in their own language (for sake of this article, English will be the predominant example). If the majority of people who thought ‘hey that series was neat’ went to Amazon (or other such online retail site or physical store) first instead of the thousands who go to Google and type in a generic ‘such-and-such-a-series-volume-1-for-free’, then we’d be looking at a whole different manga industry. Most of this falls to a morale stand on the reader’s part, an unfortunate cycle of habit many have gotten themselves into for whatever their reason. Lots of alternative means out there but it’s high time those legal means stopped being the alternatives.

Aggregrators, in the manga sense, are large websites that offer up hundreds of series to read via their site. This regardless of creator permission (which is never), scanlator permission (which is half-never) and regardless of if the series has been published in English (in fact often intentionally so they can thrive off the official publicity and interest). They then slater their websites with ads to rake in the money from visitors and send out Google ads to look more legit and draw in more hopefully-unsuspecting readers. These are the sites need to be taken down so badly that it’s rather sickening to know they’ve thrived this long.

Will the tear-down of these sites be the result of this coalition? It looks like the companies are planning to be civil about it, this despite the fact these sites have been giving them the finger for so many years. Admirably patient perhaps but a polite ‘please stop’ seems like it’ll definitely fall on deaf ears. While promising in itself to see such big manga giants working together for a common goal in this big pool of common interest, where they go from here is the real thing to keep an eye on – it’ll be a huge victory if they can take down these sites but perhaps a little naive to think it’ll happen overnight.

Personally, I say “amazing!” to this – it’s a promising start. If companies want manga readers to stick up for their work (you know, beyond the obvious that you should already be supporting what you care about without being prodded) then they need to show they’re willing to stand up for themselves.

As for the ‘little guys’, the scanlation groups who offer scans and translations of series not yet licensed and don’t charge money for them and don’t feed them like greed-soaked fillets to aggregator sites – keep on truckin’. I don’t personally agree with what you do, but I know what you do is needed with the way things are now and most of you do do it out of love and wanting to share a fun story and read what people think of it. But be nice, follow your own code of yester-year – if a company licenses something, don’t cuss and kick up a fuss. They’re in the right – it’s good news. Politely take down your scans and direct your readers to the legal editions and give yourself a pat on the back for likely helping see it happen.

This is a big manga playground and if everyone plays nice, we’ll have happy recesses forever – everyone just needs to learn how to share the space. Getting there one less bully at a time for now at least!

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
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7 Responses

  1. Aaron says:

    Good article I can see your point but I can also see the point of those that release sereis that haven't been released in the U.S. For instance I would love to buy a copy of Bitter Virgin but for whatever reason it's never gotten a release in the U.S. that I know of.

    so even though I would legally buy it if I could it's never gotten a release here. So my only recourse if I want to read it is a scanalation of it which I don't really like but it's not getting published here.

    Or another example I looked for six months to try and find a legally published copy of Shiroi Heya no Futari and I just couldn't find it.

    So while I hope the big publishers can shut down the most egregious offenders. There are times when I feel if some of the more obscure volumes got published or republished. I wouldn't have this problem and have to resort to reading a scanalation of something I would buy legally.

    • Lissa says:

      The big problem with scanlations is that they're an alternative to buying in general. A lot of people use the reason that they read them because a title hasn't been released in English, implying they're reading it merely for the translation, and yet they don't buy the Japanese edition. This means they're reading scanlations for the manga as a whole in substitute for buying.

      Also it's a sad cycle of 'I wish it was published'. If everyone who read manga illegally, purchased it legally instead then we'd see a hugely different manga industry. If people bought everything then manga publishers would license and publish SO much more because they could afford to and the market would've proven itself there. Vicious cycle really, people don't buy because companies don't license but companies can't license if people don't buy.

  2. Ephidel says:

    The problem with the scanlation aggregator sites is that you don't need to type ’such-and-such-a-series-volume-1-for-free’ into google to find them. In many cases they'll swamp your searches if you just type in "such and such"

    (And in most cases it gets worse if you happen to type in "such and such Manga" instead)

    • Lissa says:

      Very true. It's one thing that so many people search for illegal means to read manga, but even more depressing that those looking for legal means are presented with the illegal ones first!

  3. FrostQueen says:

    You are right, I one hundred percent agree with you, but where can I go to find 'legal' English translations of yaoi online? Is there a list of legal sites somewhere? To top it off, because I like yaoi, I am in a 'third' class category where it comes the finding manga or anime, making it hard to find at all, let alone an English version! I also like reading it online, which I do a lot. Someone needs to remind these companies, that they would not have a market at all if it were not for the scanners. I have bought manga in the last year, that I would never have known to exist, because I found it online. I also buy a lot; if I like it I collect it, when it comes out I go to Amazon or your site. However, a perfect example of the current situation is it took years for Viewfinder to make it to English print!

    • Lissa says:

      Ephidel beat me to the punch but suggests two great sites for legal online yaoi 24/7! You can read free previews of most of their series and then pay pennies to read them. Tokyopop's website (http://www.tokyopop.com/Robofish/tp_article/2534461.html) also has free chapter previews of tons of their titles, including their boys' love series (published under the BLU imprint). You can also purchase tons of boys' love titles to read on Kindle (which also includes Kindle apps you have on your computer instead of purchasing the device) including lots from Digital Manga, Yaoi Press and the now defunct Deux Press. Hope that helps some :D

      And in regards to Viewfinder, most of the series was already released years ago before BeBeautiful went bankrupt. Viewfinder was then stuck in licensing limbo – believe me, more than one company was trying to get it re-released in English far sooner than now!

  4. Ephidel says:

    Emanga and Netcomics both have 'legal' english translations of BL manga.

    Both offer free samples (not entirely sure what 'amount' of a series emanga has, but netcomics is the first chapter).

    Digital's emanga site employs a points sytem where points are paid for and each title generally has a 200-300 point rental fee. Rental is 72 hours, and two rentals makes it a 'permanent' purchase.

    (Points can be purchased using credit card (visa or mastercard) at varying rates. 500 for $5.50, 1000 for $10.00, 2000 points + 100 bonus for $20.00, 5000 points + 500 bonus for $50.00)

    Netcomics uses 'e cash' which is equivalent to real money ($1 of ecash is the same as $1 usd) and charges 25cents per chapter for 48 hours and can be paid using amex, visa or mastercard.

    And as far as Viewfinder goes, I'd like to think it isn't really a standard example with its license history (sure it still took years, but the first time around it didn't take nearly as many :p).

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