Why banning scanlations = major brain fart Part 1

A response to this in 15 points. If you’re in a hurry, the main ideas have been emphasized in bold. : D

The facts:

1. Official licensed manga releases are expensive and take too long to get published.

Processes such as acquiring licenses, translating, editing, replublishing and resaling contribute to making the production of English manga titles lengthy and costly.

2. Released licensed translated manga titles are only available to countries that [American] manga distributors can ship to – which is bad for people living in countries not in the list.

There are stores in the US that don’t provide shipping to countries like the Philippines, Africa and India because of fraudulent activities. But aside from that, shipping costs are way too expensive – almost half, sometimes even more than the total cost of the item being bought. It doesn’t help that the fastest shipping we have in the country still takes two to three weeks, tops. (The regular air mail takes about two months.) Oh, and of course, the humongous tax obligations would want anyone to just buy a rifle and gun down the post office.

3. Some manga titles aren’t even licensed [by American distributors] and basically have no way of getting to non-Japanese consumers who want them.

There are more unlicensed but popular manga than we think – they relatively have a small fan base compared to the Big 3 (Naruto, Bleach and One Piece) and other mainstream manga, but big enough that there is a demand for them by non-Japanese fans. American distributors do not pick them up, since they cannot provide these companies big revenue. So where do the fans turn to?

4. Thus, manga scanlations [by fans for fans] have sprouted all over the internet.

The primary reason why scanlations exist is to promote smaller titles so that they can gain enough popularity that big companies like Viz Media and Tokyopop decide to pick them up.

Aside from that, they function as a venue for sharing manga with fans who are not able, legitimate reasons or not, to avail of the translated manga published by American publishers.

5. Manga distributors are associating [as much as 30%] decrease in sales with scanlations [according to pop culture news site ICv2.com].

Licensed titles are still being scanlated because there is a demand for them (discussed in depth later)… and companies are losing profit because fans read manga online rather than buy tankoubon (manga volumes).

6. Manga distributors have formed a coalition to put a stop to online manga scanlations and scanlating groups [as described here].

As a response to the loss of income, manga publishers want to ban the source: scanlations, and correspondingly, scanlators…

7. … As well as scanlation host sites like MangaHelpers, OneManga and MangaFox.

… and the places where these scanlations are made available to the public.

8. In fact, MangaHelpers has shut down its operations because of this, seen here as well.

Although there is word of a new site (from the same people behind MangaHelpers) called “OpenManga” that would function as a host site for free manga (while still allowing mangaka or manga authors to gain profit), it’s still in its infancy.

9. Fans are not happy.

There has been varying opinions on this, but majority of scanlation patrons are against the banning of scanlations.

10. And I mean, NOT happy.

The claims:

11. Putting a stop to scanlations, scanlators and scanlation hosts is not going to put an end to their existence and proliferation online.

Just because companies tell them to do so, scanlators and scanlations are not just going to suddenly disappear. Scanlators mostly do what they do in order to promote the titles they love, or to supply a demand for certain titles which are difficult to obtain. It follows that they will continue to promote the titles they support if they find that existing promotion is not sufficient. The same can be said about supplying a demand; if there is still demand from fans, then there will be scanlations.

That aside, supposing that scanlators follow the coalition and stop producing scanlations, there is still the issue of tracking where their scanlations have ended up and removing them from the web… which is, if not totally, then next to impossible. There are hundreds of titles with hundreds of volumes with hundreds of chapters with hundreds of pages. There are also hundreds of scanlators with hundreds of scanlations with hundreds of download links with hundreds of downloads with hundred of patrons. I wonder if the coalition has a plan of getting to each and every single one.

12. In fact, they just might retaliate.

Retaliate not like in a street rally (although I am not removing that from a list of options really incensed fans may take), but in other ways. Refusing to cease scanlating operations is one. Boycotting licensed manga titles is another, although a bit far-fetched. Spreading propaganda against members of the coalition through forums, chatrooms, SNS and the like is still another. In any case, there will be retaliation to this.

Take the case of Hetalia: Koreans were highly insulted by how they were depicted in the series that they sought to get it banned from television. They succeeded; the Hetalia anime was canceled even before it started airing. But fans who wanted the anime to be broadcasted in English found a way to do so: they ripped the original Japanese versions released through online podcasts, subbed them and uploaded them in communities and file sharing sites.

Today, FUNimation has picked up Hetalia, and is intending to release an English dub of it, despite the previous commotion it created.

Another good (probably better) example of retaliation is the Crunchyroll legitimization and the formation of Horrible Subs. In 2009, Crunchyroll became “legitimate” and began removing user-uploaded videos of anime series, which were mostly fan-subs of American licensed titles. Later on, they signed contracts with certain anime producing companies and became the legitimate online video streaming partner of these.

Crunchyroll became a profit-oriented site thereon. They began enforcing a membership fee on users who wanted “real-time” streaming – meaning they get to see subbed anime as soon as it is aired in Japan. Those who couldn’t pay the fee still got to watch their shows, but had to wait a week later (as was the way of subbing groups). The membership fee plan in itself was not a bad move; it was actually, in my opinion, a great way to earn profit without compromising their original ideals of providing free content to users who cannot afford to pay. However, because of licensing restrictions, certain areas of the world (including the Philippines) have become unable to access certain video contents of the site. This is what evoked a lot of negative reactions from fans whose only means of watching anime was through the free content of Crunchyroll.

In retaliation, an unknown group (or are they even a group) of people formed Horrible Subs, a group who has the “sole reason of pissing off Crunchyroll” by ripping their streams as soon as they are first released and repackaging them through torrents to the public for free. The members of the group explicitly state that they are not doing what they do because of fans, but because they want to get back at Crunchyroll.

    • barrycade
    • July 14th, 2010

    Manga is Greek to me, but what I’m getting from this very informative and substantive post is the difference between a company-initiated product and one that’s collaborated on by users themselves. Fine, scanlators are seemingly bad but what they are telling business is that when customers aren’t happy with the product, they can self-organize and “create” the product. they can even “mutilate” it, or “renovate” it. the point is, customers want to be involved and whether the company likes it or not, they will find ways to be part of the product they like. šŸ™‚

    • Thanks for the comment, sir. I hope the topic [and the length of the post] didn’t bore you. But that’s exactly right, and I hope that the manga publishers don’t just stop at banning scanlations; in fact, they should take a moment to look into the reasons why consumers subscribe to scanlations. I think that for the gap between consumer and company to close, it’s necessary to do so. :3

  1. Yay for free manga scans!

    I don’t know what else to add since I believe you’ve already covered the whole issue BUT I’d like to note that these licensed distributors do not seem to realize the fact that as fans, we would also like to get our hands on real manga issues, touch their glossy covers and smell their ink. I myself would prefer a real manga library than scanned pages from the Internet. The point is that die-hard fans obviously want the real thing, they want to contribute something to the author of the story they’re reading. But if there are so many obstacles (financial issues, shipment and time constraints), then they would naturally choose the easier way to do it.

    And I agree. Cheaper prices could actually solve the situation. I went to Viz Media’s download page to check whether they sell downloadable manga and learned that the best they could do is ship copies. They even used Flash for the previews, which is an obvious attempt to prevent piracy. But hey, if companies like Viz really want to make the most out of their business, they should stop ‘withholding’ the product and start thinking of ways to engage their very enthusiastic audience more.

    • YES, EXACTLY. It’s not that we want to pirate stuff, right? It’s just that with the prices and the [non]availability of legit mangas, we are forced to subscribe to the alternative. How I wish they would just take off their corporate hats for a second and look at it from the fans’ POV.

      Having said that, I think what they really need is a wake up call… I just hope it comes before their companies are seriously affected by the sales decline.

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