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US and Japanese Publishers Fight Back

But are they fighting the right way?

By Chris Beveridge     June 08, 2010
Source: Publishers Weekly


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From Publisher's Weekly via Anime News Network, it looks like the US and Japanese manga publishers are uniting to take down the scanlation sites out in the world as they've now threatened legal action against some thirty sites. "The effort brings together the 36 member Japanese Digital Comic Association—which includes such major Japanese houses as Kodansha, Shogakukan and Shueisha—as well as manga publisher Square Enix, the Tuttle-Mori Agency and U.S.-based manga publishers Vertical Inc, Viz Media, Tokyopop and Yen Press, the manga/graphic novel imprint of the Hachette Book Group." according to Publisher's Weekly.

Things have changed in the last decade, as noted in the piece, where they talk about how a blind eye was once turned to all of this (and similar issues on the anime side) back when access to such materials was nearly impossible as there weren't any companies bringing the works over outside of some heavily edited and flipped editions. But with the ability to so easily port material online while there are numerous companies bringing out official translated editions around the world, companies are taking a harsher look at it. Or rather, because there's less revenue to be had all of a sudden, they're striking out at the easy and obvious targets.

Scanlation and fansub sites have grown far more professional over the years and they can often make quite a lot of money. The same has been happening in he US comic book market with a well known case occurring recently where a group of publishers got together to take down a particular site that was raking in a fair bit of cash and was even trying to wrangle a real legitimate distribution deal from the publishers. It's not unknown for the darkside (yet bright and colorful and easily accessible) sites to try and go legit, with the most famous of them in this community being what Crunchyroll managed to pull off after a few years of work and PR. 

According to a spokesman in the Publishers Weekly article, they're also citing the increased presence of scanlations showing up on smartphones and other devices where the apps themselves are entirely legitimate but they're being used solely for scanlated material. 

 

“Go back 2 years and track these sites and you’ll find an inverse relationship between the rise of traffic on these scanlation sites and the decline in U.S. manga sales,” said Kurt Hassler, publishing director of Yen Press and a former graphic novel and manga buyer for Borders Books and Music. Hassler points out that early fan-driven scanlation sites were aimed at making manga available overseas at a time when English translations of manga were rare. Indeed these fan scanlators would remove their online translations when the books were licensed for the English-language market.That’s no longer the case, said Hassler. “These sites are run as businesses and include direct scans of licensed English-language manga editions. Some even include our copyright notices. We don’t want to have to do this but publishers are now focused on this problem.”

 

So now the Japanese and US companies will work to threaten the sites that are working the illegal side of the market and if that doesn't work, they'll maybe possibly follow through on the legal action side. This comes at a time when you have had CMX Manga thrown under the bus (though it appears that's more because DC Comics simply didn't want to deal with something they didn't understand anymore), we've seen Go! Comi disappear without a trace and we've seen Viz Media drop some 40% of its staff in order to streamline (some likely necessary, some likely to hurt overall production). Del Rey is struggling and they're trying to put out more omnibuses of new material. TOKYOPOP is crawling back to a shadow of what it once was. Yen Press appears to be doing well but you never truly know.

The key problem here to all of this is that none of these companies, US or Japan (and most of the focus lies solely on Japan), is that they have not provided any alternative. Their plan is to eliminate scanlation sites (a true impossibility to anyone with a sense of reality) and yet offer nothing for the obviously millions of hungry manga fans. Anyone who has read anything from me over the last twelve years knows I'm not a fan of fansubs or scanlations. And I'm not advocating that these sites should continue to exist. What I have a huge problem with is that all the companies are going to do is to turn away potential customers. We all know that most of them will never buy books, and that's fine. I don't buy manga anymore either, and not because of economics or because I'm suddenly on scanlation sites (I'm not). 

What the manga and comics and publishing industry is having thrust upon them is the same that the music industry had happen a decade ago. There is a huge new generation of fans coming into being who really aren't interested in owning these things and just want to consume this (to them) disposable entertainment. And you have older fans such as myself that are also coming into this mindset where I just want to read it and be done with it. The onus on the publishers, again, more so in Japan since they have to approve all of it, is to provide quick digital editions with some form of advertising (that the fans have to suck up and understand is a necessity in order to PAY THE BILLS that allow this entertainment to exist) while highlighting the fact that you can buy print editions if you want to own a permanent edition of it.

Until the Japanese publishers alongside the US publishers get this into existence, they're tilting at windmills and alienating much of the next generation from being fans for years to come. 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
Gandalf 6/8/2010 11:37:38 PM

This is definately something that needs to be dealt with,  and learning the lessons that  the mp3 induistry went through would definately be a good idea.

A big problem is speed, if you want to read the latest chapter of xyz its available with a week of it being published is the trouble. You have to wait anything from 6 months to 3 years for the American publishers to catch up.

If at the same time they clamp down on illegal sites they brought their own equivelant sites online things would likely work a lot better.

BlazeFirestorm 6/9/2010 8:34:13 AM

The solution to this problem is simple: paid manga sites. Just translate new releases in Japan and charge people to view them on legitimate sites at reasonable rates. I don't see why no one has done this sooner, especially US publishers. 

When Crunchyroll started simulcasting Bleach yesterday, I became a member. I've been watching Naruto and Bleach for free on other sites for a while but I always felt just a little twinge of guilt, being an artist myself, of not supporting the awesome folks that put this stuff out for us week-to-week. Now that my favorite anime is available to me as soon as it comes out in Japan, I'll gladly pay for it. 

Currently, I read scanlations of my favorite manga every week. I do buy the volumes when they come out but they take forever and I want to enjoy the stories now. If Viz, Tokyopop, or anyone puts up a site that requires me to pay to read manga when it's released in Japan translated to English, I'll gladly stop going to free scanlation sites and read on paysites. 

Now, granted, I probably only represent about 2% of the anime/manga freeloading fanbase. However, if you wanna capture the business of everyone that views pirated anime/manga online for free, don't just focus on shutting the sites down; give us fans a fairly-priced alternative that still gives us our weekly anime/manga fix on time. You may not get every freeloader to pay but some is better than none by simply shutting down all free sites and making us wait forever for new releases.

 

Trapper 6/12/2010 6:14:54 PM

In Japan, they've already gone one step further - they've sued WiFi cafe's and web hosts. Over in the U.S. they've already bagged and sued to the tune of $20million one file sharer as is.

I agree this is insanity - on both sides part!

At one time piracy to the Japanese meant freee publicity as the copies were usually so bad that the people who bought them had to go and buy the real thing... Now a days, with tech being what it is that's, quality, no longer a problem.

If they really want to stop this nonsense you have to start with people before they become fans. As for the " Free - Loaders", all I can say is - for better or worse, right or wrong, the Japanese can easily do without the American Market now that China, South Korea and Vietnam and Cambodia have ahd changes of heart and are more involved with Manga and Anime production as well as the European Market...  They can after a fashion just quit selling to the U.S and even Canada.

I just hope that both sides buy a clue and start really thinking before things go too far. The whole of Fandom shouldn't pay just because a few idiots can't be bothered to use their heads for something other than a hat rack! 

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