Lately, the manga publishers of the world have been trying to fight hard to take down the scanlation sites. Anime News Network reports the latest development is removal of many titles by one of the most popular sites.
MangaFox, a site that aggregated translated scans of manga, has removed at least 350 titles from its website as of this writing. A site administrator cited an unspecified “copyright issue” as well as the recent formation of a coalition between U.S. and Japanese manga publishers against scanlation sites. The administrator added that “our boss is trying to negotiate” with unspecified parties.
I don’t want to spend this entire post retreading the intellectual property discussion for the jillionth time. I’ll just say that I strongly believe in weakening intellectual property law. Even if these manga publishers were able to completely eliminate all infringement, their sales would not increase, but their readership would decrease tremendously.
What I want to point out is that much of the blame for the existence of these manga sites actually rests on the shoulders of the anime publishers. Remember the epic saga of Crunchyroll? Most illicit sharing of copyrighted works occurs in peer to peer networks, but Crunchyroll had the balls to make a YouTube like web site with all kinds of copyrighted anime works. That’s like setting up a store in Times Square and openly selling crack. They didn’t even try to hide it.
What happened to Crunchyroll? The industry invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into them, cleaned them up, and made it their own. What lesson does that teach people out there? I think it sends a clear message that you should make a very popular site with blatant infringement. Then, once the popularity is big enough, nobody will destroy you because the popularity is too valuable. You can then cash out, and let the industry have the site.
I’m pretty sure that’s what MangaFox and the other scanlation sites were looking for. That’s why they are negotiating. They want to be like Crunchyroll. The thing is, the manga publishers are not the same as the anime publishers. I do not think it is likely they will going down the same path.
And you know what? That’s actually a shame, and a stupid move. It’s in their best interest to do the same thing to MangaFox that they did to Crunchyroll. I can use myself as anecdotal evidence.
I hardly ever bought DVDs before, and I still hardly ever buy DVDs. I don’t want more plastic discs hanging around the house, and the price is too high. That doesn’t mean I never buy DVDs. When the price is right on something I really want, I’ll get it. I bought all of Cowboy Bebop for $30 on Amazon.
I used to download tons of fansubs. I would only download unlicensed fansubs, but I downloaded a lot of them. I would get episode 1 of any show, just to see what kind of show it was. Nowadays, I can’t even remember the last fansub I downloaded. Why? Crunchyroll.
Originally I despised Crunchyroll getting tons of money for doing something so blatantly illegal. Now I use their site all the time. I’m watching old shows like Galaxy Express 999 and new shows like Durara. During these shows, there are advertisements. I try to block them, but there are still video ads I can’t block. These are shows that never will be on DVD, or I would never buy on DVD under any circumstance. Yet, because it’s just so easy to go to Crunchyroll, they are still making some money from these ads. Without Crunchyroll, they would be making zero from me. With it, they make a few bucks.
If I were the manga publishers, I would do the same thing to MangaFox that was done to Crunchyroll. Maybe even buy the MangaFox out and give it to the Crunchyroll guys to put them both under the same roof. Yes, there are scans of already translated stuff on these sites, but the vast majority are things that will never be published in English. If your the one who owns that series, why purposefully prevent people from enjoying it? Take the advertising money and be glad you got something. Be glad you entertained people around the world. It’s a lot more than you’re going to get otherwise.