Top Japanese and US manga publishers have formed a coalition with the aim of crushing illegal online distribution of their manga, explicitly targeting scanlation.
The alliance comprises a coalition of 36 Japanese publishers, the Digital Comic Association, with major US manga publishers such as Viz, Tokyopop and Yen Press joining them.
The group cites the rise of “scanlation aggregator” sites as the major impetus, charging that non-commcercial scanlation has been transformed into a major money making enterprise by unscrupulous companies with no respect for copyright or the livelihoods of publishers and mangaka.
Thirty sites are said to have been shortlisted for action, with the coalition threatening to set the FBI on sites which do not relent and respect its copyrights.
The publishing boss at Yen Press, the embarrassing company which removed Horo from the covers of its Spice & Wolf books, predictably claims scanlation is the cause of all the industry’s woes:
“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.
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.”
Whilst he may be grossly oversimplifying for PR purposes, most such sites are run on a purely commercial basis, and are funded by advertising whilst masquerading as “community” sites – the annual running costs of such sites will be in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, well beyond the scope of an informal enterprise.
One major anime/manga piracy network is actually run by a Chinese company (whose corporate site was deleted very recently…) behind the scenes, dispelling any notions of legal action by publishers as somehow being an attack on “fans” – rather it is an attempt to eliminate shameless industrial scale piracy and parasitism.
Although an understandable and perfectly reasonable response, the fact that manga publishers have failed to couple an attack on piracy sites with efforts towards the provision of a viable legal alternative for manga fans whose primary means of manga consumption is the Internet is a rather glaring omission.
Indeed, it is rather telling that in the 5 years since its inception Japan’s Digital Comic Association appears to have done nothing to seriously promote online distribution, and in fact looks to have spent more time fretting about copyright infringement than actually promoting digital comics.
Paper publishers are evidently desperate to ignore the technological disruption the Internet imposes on their centuries old business model, but it should be clear now that digital distribution is not going to go away, and the longer publishers refuse to acknowledge there being any alternative to paper manga sales, the more damage they will ultimately do to their industry as technological change leaves them behind.