Plagiarism, Scanlations, and Copies: Nick Simmons’ Incarnate Rips Off Bleach

Today’s schadenfreude opportunity: Nick Simmons, writer/artist of Incarnate from Radical Comics (and son of KISS member Gene Simmons, which might account for some of the glee in watching his downfall), has been caught copying various panels and dialogue from popular manga series, including Bleach by Tite Kubo.

I found out about the plagiarism accusations from Robot6, which includes the news that Radical has “halted further production and distribution of the Incarnate comic book and trade paperback”. I assume that includes the hardcover, shown here, that was due out on March 16. Here’s a LiveJournal post with a whole bunch of pretty damning (if not very well labeled) art comparisons. (Update: That post has been edited to add more labels for the benefit of those of us not already familiar with the series.)

Radical uses the all-too-common “we’re taking this seriously” phrase that means nothing, because every company caught in a difficult situation says that, but they do go on to say that they are attempting to contact the publishers of the original works involved. That gets praise from Simon Jones:

Unlike so many similar cases where the party at fault sticks to their guns, makes bold-faced lies, weasel out of giving real answers with lawyer speak, and basically deny everything until the storm of outrage is exhausted and forgotten, Radical appears to be doing the right thing. … This story isn’t over yet, but thus far Radical is handling it with sincerity and honor, which is a rare-enough thing in the industry that we all should, at the very least, highlight this with the same fervor given to the initial scandal. But I also want to point out that this isn’t just the moral thing to do, but the smart thing to do. When one finds himself on the wrong end of an issue, admitting fault and fixing the problem is almost always the best course in the long term.

Plagiarism is a huge deal in Japan — look at the example of Flower of Eden, where the series was ended, the artist’s other books were pulled from the market, and a planned American translation canceled after the author admitted to copying images from Slam Dunk. I’d also like to call your attention to Radical’s Hollywood connections and interest in getting many of their properties optioned for films. They’ve already been sued once over having cloudy properties, so they know the danger of not having clear rights, especially when you’re trying to license works for movies, when the money suddenly becomes big enough to be important.

I’m a little disturbed by the Robot6 comments, where some people seem to think that if it’s “only” art swiping, it’s not really plagiarism. Perhaps that says something about the comics Photoshop/cut-n-paste creative mentality that supports “artists” like Greg Land. Is the idea that if it’s pretty, it doesn’t matter if it’s original? It’s true that similarly blatant examples have had no ill effect on the artist’s career in the superhero genre.

Some go on to defend this as sampling, which leads into my next thought. David Welsh twittered in response to this news: “It’s nice to see so many people concerned about the rights of Japanese creators to not have their work stolen.” He was referring to the perceived hypocrisy of people justifying reading manga scans online for free, I suspect, while getting upset when an American creator copied the work. Deb Aoki is more blatant: “before you get all self-righteous about how you’re standing up for Tite Kubo, ask yourself how many Bleach scanlations/fansubs you download.”

Isn’t there a difference, though, between seeing the internet as a giant library (rightly or wrongly) and presenting someone else’s work as your own? The former is a commercial/legal discussion — are free samples necessary to convince a buyer in this over-saturated media world? would all readers buy if they couldn’t read for free? how do you convince customers to respect copyright when all it takes is one copy released to be infinitely duplicated? given fan temperament, how do you expect them to wait when desired material is available in other countries already? — while the latter is flat-out misrepresentation.

Daniella at All About Manga tackles that last question with news that Tokyopop is going to be releasing Gakuen Alice more rapidly. It seems that only 10 books of the series are currently available in the U.S., while the Japanese releases are up to volume 21. Thus, it should not be surprising to find out that “Gakuen Alice is the most popular manga on the scanlation conglomeration site Mangafox.” That’s a statement that its readers like it and want more, and I’m glad to see the publisher attempting to address that need.

However, like the anonymous Alexander Hoffman at Manga Widget, whom I’m quoting here, I don’t think they’re necessarily going to be successful, given what they’re trying to accomplish.

Pirates are not going to buy manga. They’ve already made their decision to not buy it. Publishers need to look towards current customers and find out their wants, their needs, and supply material that reaches that demographic. … Focus on the community that will pay for your product, not the community that are “fans” of your product. … Be smart about publishing, and publish material and promote it in such a way that it excites your current customer base, not the pirates who steal your content.

Deciding that if you got rid of free copies, all those people would suddenly buy your product is simply incorrect. There will always be people who read things just because they’re free, and they’re not potential customers. Saying, as Daniella does, “scanlations steal money from the publishers who try to bring you quality manga”, is over-simplistic, because no one’s lost any money if a fan is reading an online translation of book 15 when you last offered volume 10 for sale. If you want them to buy book 15 from you when you’re able to publish it two years later, then make it a better package: a nice reading experience, perhaps with extras like translation notes, good reproduction, solid binding and paper, all at a reasonable price. Give them a reason to buy beyond finding out what happens next.

In short, I find that guilt rarely works as a motivator. It just teaches fans to ignore publishers, and it makes plagiarizers buckle down and lie to cover their tracks (probably a fake; image via Petteri Uusitalo).

Update: Tying it all together, Simon Jones points out in the comments that some of the plagiarized art comes from scanlations, material not yet officially released in the U.S.


  1. Johanna, I run Manga Widget, and I try to be the least amount of anonymous as possible. I’ll try to put my face up there somewhere to make it better.

    For manga, I think that the piracy and plagiarism are two important issues that need to be viewed and analyzed. Both are a form of stealing, but plagiarism is more akin to someone scanlating a manga chapter and reprinting it for sale.

    Thanks for the quote! Glad to be a part of the discussion.

  2. Thank you for mentioning my little article there.
    You had some great points, but I’d like to note that while the scanlations offer volumes that have not been published in English yet, they’re also offering volumes that HAVE been published. Scanlators don’t exactly take down the chapter that have been released in English like Viz does.

    Other than that, though, I do agree with what you and Alexander have said about the news, but wanted to keep it simple for the sake of that post.

  3. Amusingly, some of the traces involved chapters of Bleach that have not yet been released in the United States…

  4. Alexander, I didn’t see a name or credit anywhere on the page I linked, thus the comment. Apologies for not including your name. You make a good point here about people feeling differently when money is involved, although the law doesn’t make as much distinction in that area.

    Daniella, yeah, I’m saving my comments in that area for when you write your next post about reasons to buy instead of read online. :)

    Simon, great connection! Thanks for tying this all together.

  5. […] at the latest BOOM! Studios/Jim Henson production, Muppet King Arthur… Brigid Alverson and Johanna Draper-Carlson offer links and commentary on the Bleach plagiarism scandal… David Welsh fancies a bit of the […]

  6. […] his detractors. Johanna Draper Carlson takes a more serious tack at Comics Worth Reading, with a discussion of swiping, plagiarism, and piracy. Deb Aoki has been asking tough questions and tracking the […]

  7. As the poster of that Livejournal post, labels have been added. I did not really anticipate anyone who didn’t read Bleach looking at this post — didn’t occur to me that people wouldn’t know which series was which. Hopefully you don’t think it’s poorly labeled now.

  8. Thanks so much, Kylara. I’ve edited my post to mention the updates. And I appreciate the help, since I’m not that familiar with Bleach.

  9. “Scanlators don’t exactly take down the chapter that have been released in English like Viz does.”

    The crazy thing is, I remember when scanslators and fansubbers used to do that. Hell, many fansubbers removed series from trading lists, etc. once they got licensed.

    Legal matters aside, there used to be more good intentions in the manga and anime underground…

  10. Reeve, (some) scanlators and fansubbers still do that. It’s just that other people (like MangaFox) choose to continue to redistribute them, even after licensing.

    I’ve done work for fansubs and scanlations before; in many cases, I own the original tankouban or the original phonebook magazine it was published in. I have also read scanlations of Nana and Full Metal Alchemist before they were licensed in the US and ended up owning a ridiculous number of the books–in either Japanese or English. Even R.O.D the TV, which I helped to fansub with Anime-Station, I ended up buying on DVD later, despite the fact that I had the entire series digitally.

    I don’t expect every person who’s ever read a scanlation or watched a fansub to go out and buy the thing, but the assumption that all people reading scanlations are thieves is a little misguided.

  11. Summary: Things are different when it’s known that there’s money to be made. :)

    I keep analogizing, rightly or wrongly, to the way we made our own cassette tapes back in the 80s. Sometimes I liked something enough to want my own, proper copy. Sometimes I just wanted to listen to something and but didn’t like it enough to feel the need to own it if I could tape from a friend’s copy instead. Sometimes I loved something enough to want different copies and would rebuy it in new formats. I know copies are much better these days (with digital perfection) and the scale is different (borrowing from the internet instead of just a few friends), but the impulse seems similar.

    If someone samples something, the creator/publisher has a chance to convince them to buy. If they don’t, and they keep reading it for free, does that say something about the material not being compelling enough, at least for that particular reader?

  12. Anyone who can’t see the difference between scanlations and thievery is a
    complete moron. Scanlators don’t make money from their scans, but this
    no-talent hack was profiting from someone else’s work. Scanlators scan because
    of their love for the stories; thieves steal so they can get money and fame
    that they don’t deserve. The situations are in two different universes.

  13. Joanna,

    Good article all around.

    First, on the “Who cares?” people in the comments sections: I’ve resigned myself to the fact that people will vocally defend even the most absurd and inexplicable positions in comments sections. I’ve seen people argue repeatedly that Disney deserves the rights to Kirby’s characters more than his heirs do, BoingBoing’s article on Paperchase flagrantly swiping Hidden Eloise’s art has attracted many comments from people who swear they don’t look that much alike, and a few weeks back I saw commenters defending a Texas politician’s implication that 9/11 might have been an inside job. No matter how absurd a position is, you can find a comments thread somewhere that’s full of people who support it vociferously.

    As for the piracy portion of the piece: good job there too, in puncturing the copyright holders’ simplistic rhetoric without becoming a cheerleader for violations.

    I think that when material is unavailable, it certainly creates a demand for illegal downloads. Doctor Who is an example — when it was running on The Sci-Fi Channel, it lagged behind the BBC airings so much that they literally debuted a Christmas episode in July. BBC America, while not perfect, has so far managed to close that seven-month delay to the point where the last two specials aired in America the day after the UK. These, of course, were episodes that were bound to be in high demand, as they were the last Tenth Doctor story; I don’t think many fans would have had the patience to wait seven months to see them on cable.

    Doctor Who’s not really a perfect analogy, of course, as it’s already in English. Manga has to be translated. And that’s a task that a small group of dedicated fans can often perform more quickly than a corporate publisher.

    So I suppose it comes down to a couple of things at that point: are professional translations better than fan scanlations? By enough of a margin to justify purchase?

    And of course fans’ sense of obligation comes into account — we’ve discussed how some people will stop sharing scanlations after an official version is made available. Similarly, I know MST3K episode sharing sites that make it very clear they will not share any episodes that are available on DVD. I’ve personally deleted files from my hard drive after they’ve been announced for official release — but I don’t find any objection to keeping a copy of Pumaman (which the Brains have said is in rights hell and unlikely to get a DVD release) or Godzilla vs. Megalon (which WAS released on DVD and then pulled after the Godzilla rights holders made some legal threats — I sure do wish I’d bought it when it was available).

    I don’t really follow manga scanlations, but I’ve played a few fan-translated video games in my time. I don’t see as many of them as I used to, but there was a time when literally half the Final Fantasy series was unpublished in the US, and the other half was compromised by some rather silly censorship. The publishers certainly didn’t lose sales on these.

    (Of course, then Final Fantasy 7 happened and the series became A-list in the US, so we’re unlikely to see any further Japan-only entries in the series. But stuff like this still happens from time to time — the Mother series has a cult following, but only one of them has ever been released in the US; Mother 3 is a fairly recent game but Nintendo nixed US release plans, so that’s another one whose only English version is unofficial.)

    For all the jabbering I’ve done about the ethics of copyright violations, I think that’s moot from a publisher’s standpoint — like you say, guilt is a poor motivator. I think publishers are best served if they stop focusing on legal and ethical arguments and simply try to build a better mousetrap: iTunes has proven that, if you make a good enough product, you CAN compete with free.

    Which, of course, isn’t really pertinent to Nick Simmons swiping art from Bleach. As you say, an artist copying somebody else’s work is really quite a lot different from somebody illegally downloading a song.

    So, back on-topic: it’s great that we have the Internet to expose people like this. It took decades for people to realize the extent of Bob Kane’s plagiarism and fraud.

    All of which is rather long and rambly, but hopefully I made some good points?

  14. […] Bleach and other manga titles, bloggers Deb Aoki (on Twitter), Rob Bricken, Christopher Butcher, Johanna Draper Carlson and Simon Jones weigh in with commentary on plagiarism, scanlations/piracy and fan art. Butcher has […]

  15. I enjoyed reading it, Thad. Sometimes casting examples in different media sheds new light. The Doctor Who example, particularly, which brings up the question of global release dates now that country borders mean little to the internet.

  16. I think the problem with the mixtape analogy is that with a mixtape, you were making one copy, and it always involved your borrowing someonelses purchased copy, whereas scanlations allow infinite, mass produced copies that companies have no control over, while acting as a more convienent way to access the material.

    If none of your friends had a copy of a CD or tape to record off of, you probably had to buy it yourself, or you might of just bought the tape since it’d be quicker/easier than spending the time making a copy.

  17. Not some…most (almost all) of the Bleach images in question come from scanlated chapters that haven’t even come out in the US yet. I think I’m one of very few Bleach fans for whom those images were spoilers(I like to collect the manga I read, so I don’t read scans so it’s new to me when I buy it), but the scandal was too good to not look at them. I think that’s one of the biggest problems with American manga industry. At least with their most popular series, they should speed it up! Some are doing a good job with that recently, particularly Viz with Naruto and One Piece. But even easier…just tell the people who are posting it online to stop. I’ve seen countless anime fansub groups drop a series because of a cease and desist letter. No serious legal action taken. Just a warning was enough to make them stop. Sure there are a lot of sites hosting scanlated manga, but it’s not hard at all to find them. In the older days of the scanlation scene, there used to be an honor system where if a series was license the group dropped it immediately. Very very few still do that, and the ones that do are the ones who’ve been around since those early days (Snoopycool for example).

    And Doctor Who is a good example. Especially on the internet, where you want to interact with a fan community, it’s kind of hard to do so when fans downloading it are months ahead of you and talk about spoilers freely. If you want to be in the loop, you have to download.

  18. Bahamut, good point, that sometimes it’s a matter of peer pressure.

    And Paploo, this is pushing the mixtape comparison further than it needs to go, but sometimes we also taped off the radio.

  19. “BBC America, while not perfect, has so far managed to close that seven-month delay to the point where the last two specials aired in America the day after the UK.”

    Hah, I’d say knocking it down to a one-day delay is pretty much perfect, as far as things go! :)

    And, seven months? You think that’s bad? Try being in the UK a few years ago, back then seven months would’ve been really fast. Most shows would be a year behind. The best example is probably Seinfeld – the BBC was so far behind that they didn’t show the last episode until about two YEARS after the show had finished in America.

    These days, British TV scheduling of hit American TV shows (Lost is probably the prime example at the moment) is pretty much a classic example of how broadcasters have responded to the piracy of foreign TV shows by narrowing the gap to such an extent that people may find the fuss of downloading more onerous than waiting a couple of days to watch it on TV.

    To link this back to being slightly more on-topic, this is close to what Tokyopop are trying to do with Gakuen Alice – make the scanlations less tempting by providing more timely legitimate volumes. I think they’re well aware that there are people who won’t buy them regardless, and as such they have realistic expectations of capturing the smaller subset of people who think “Well, I could download the latest chapter… but it’s such a fuss and TP are releasing a new volume fairly soon anyway!” There have to be some people who far prefer reading things out of a book than off a screen, right? I know I do. Hell, even with SigIKKI I’ll be buying the books instead of reading online, as I’m just not comfortable with it. In each case, with the SigIKKI manga, I’ve read enough on the site to determine if I want to keep reading or not, and in each case it’s a manga I wouldn’t be buying had I not been given the chance to sample it first.

    But I’m rambling now, so I’ll draw this comment to a close.

  20. Consider that, in Japan, when a tankobon is published, most of the people buying it have already seen the content in magazines. Meanwhile, here in the US, I find it hard to justify spending $10 or more on a book I’ve never seen before, especially if it’s part of a long series.
    Mind you, by the time something gets collected in Japan, the artists and publishers have already made a profit from the magazine sales. Only something that’s worth the effort of collecting is published in tankobon. But scanlators translate everything – popular, obscure, whatever – because they love the material.
    But for people to justify downloading illegal reproductions of copyrighted work is downright juvenile. Scanlations are nothing but bootlegs, and the people who supply them are pirates. Pirates with good intentions, maybe, but pirates nonetheless. Sure, they don’t make money from their work, but they’re enabling the people who don’t care enough about a series to go out and support its creators. I mean, when did this become more about the fans’ sense of entitlement and less about the people who put out the effort to produce this content? It used to be that the fans had a say in how things worked because they paid for what they got. Now the fans get what they want, when they want, for free, and the creators are supposed to feel grateful for the attention.
    And people who download scans are theives. They can water it down however they like, but they are theives.
    I wish that there was some alternative to scans and sites like MangaFox for these people, but I sure can’t think of any. The fact is, people who want to download scans aren’t going to be dissuaded unless there’s a more attractive option. And what’s more attractive than free, instantaneous content?

  21. “before you get all self-righteous about how you’re standing up for Tite Kubo, ask yourself how many Bleach scanlations/fansubs you download.”

    That isn’t always the case. Why do you think Bleach is so huge in the US? Most fans only read the latest released chapters from Japan. For 7 bucks a volume, any fan would gladly buy the hard copy (Viz US translation) since it’s cheap. More often than not I will read scans to get a taste of a series and determine if I want to purchase it or not. Also there are people who walk into bookstores that just read the manga and walk out. What about them? Is that any different than reading the scans online?

    More and more bookstores are putting plastic wrap around manga to prevent customers from reading and leaving. How the hell am I supposed to know what the story’s about if I can’t take a quick peek at it? I’m the kind of customer who goes into a bookstore, browse and purchase at least one thing to show that I appreciate the fact that I can sample some stuff. And if that’s the case, where else would a potential customer turn to? Online sources.

    I personally like to get a taste of a series before I buy it. I refuse to spend my hard earned money on something I’m not going to read over and over again. I may not like Bleach per say but I do have the right as a customer to know what I’m going to purchase.

    Companies are being overrated in their assumption that scans are a completely evil thing. It’s not actually. I tend to buy more manga from a plethora of series if I first get a taste of what they’re like. Then there’s the issue that companies are SLOW in releasing the translated versions whereas the scanlators either do it the same day as the Japanese release or a day after. You really can’t compete with that kind of speed.

    Then there’s the issue of lack of variety. Online sources have a huge variety of series that I enjoy reading and I do purchase the original Japanese manga since it’s about 5 bucks a volume at a local Japanese import bookstore since a lot of companies are super slow in obtaining licensing/translating them.

  22. Also, it’s worth noting that while plenty of people are guilty of theft (piracy or plagiarism), few people get caught doing both, as this Simmons kid has clearly done. It’s a shame that he has no respect for artists, since he supposedly is one.
    I don’t care how deep his father’s pockets are – he’s set himself up against a lot of creators and publishers.

  23. “More and more bookstores are putting plastic wrap around manga to prevent customers from reading and leaving.”

    Every time I’ve seen that happen, it’s been with books like Berserk, MPD Psycho, Lady Snowblood, EDEN: It’s an Endless World, Gantz, and so on. In all those cases, the intent is not to prevent customers from ‘reading and leaving’, but rather because the manga contains ‘mature’ images and the publisher doesn’t want Church Mom to get all outraged and campaign against it because five-year-old Bobby saw it when they were at the mall.

    Certainly I’ve yet to go in a bookshop where they’ve routinely shrinkwrapped all manga on the shelf, which is what you seem to be implying. That just sounds weird and counter-productive. I can’t imagine they’d sell enough extra copies to cover the costs of the wrapping.

  24. Katie, I don’t think calling names (“thieves”, “pirates”, “juvenile”) helps the discussion in any way. It doesn’t convince anyone, and it makes everyone less likely to listen to other participants.

    It is possible to compete successfully with free — others in the thread have pointed out some ways it’s done. Easier to find, more reliable, extra features, free legal samples are four examples mentioned. It requires creative thinking and understanding the audience more than just throwing up your hands and giving up and stereotyping, though.

  25. I apologize. Certainly, I could have voiced my thoughts in a more considerate manner. What I was trying to say (and how I should have put it) is that readers are more likely to choose the cheapest and most convenient option. It’s difficult to move people away from the style of consumption that they’re accustomed to, but it’s also important for people to realize that, as well as the current system may work for them, it’s detrimental to others.

  26. And of course there are people like me, who discovered almost all of their
    manga/anime through scanlations and fansubs. A huge percentage of my purchases
    would never have been bought if I hadn’t originally found the series through
    scans and subs. But of course that’s just “anecdotal evidence” and doesn’t
    count–obviously “OMG scanlators are teh evils!!1!” is a much more valid

  27. Thanks for being cool, Katie. I’m trying to keep this focused on ideas, and I’ve been thrilled how it’s proceeded so far. And I agree that participants often don’t think about anyone but themselves — but how much should we expect them to go against self-interest? Practically speaking?

    December, I often wish that there was more study of the situation (without preexisting bias) because people do tend to dismiss experience — but what else do we have to go on these days?

  28. @Anonymous To clarify, my statement on this subject was:

    “before you get all self-righteous about how you’re standing up for Tite Kubo, ask yourself how many Bleach scanlations/fansubs you download. the sales lost to mass consumption of Bleach fansubs/scanlations hurts Tite Kubo far more than any half-assed Nick Simmons comic. it’s fine that you love Tite Kubo’s work & want to defend his honor — but while you’re at it, buy his damn books instead of downloading it.”

    this statement was mostly aimed at people who are taking a lot of joy at giving Nick Simmons a lot of crap for “stealing” from Tite Kubo — but in the big scheme of things, Tite Kubo loses WAY more potential income from fans downloading illegal scans/fansubs of his work than he ever would from sales of Incarnate.

    So I’m just reminding his fans that they shouldn’t feel so smug about their defense of Tite Kubo’s rights as a creator if they are regular and habitual consumers of illegal downloads of his work. You can’t just be a defender of “creator’s rights” when it’s convenient, or just when it’s fun to pile on a rich kid who has made some very stupid mistakes.

  29. Scanlations are the reason I’m a fan. Don’t think for a moment that I only read and watch manga and anime on the internet. The minute it comes out I am right there at the store. The reason alot of people go to the internet is becuase it is uncensored.

    Take the Manga Naruto. When we read the scans of them, there isn’t a kid holding up his smoking hand where a cigarette was penciled out, or where a jutsu is blacked out becuase there are two guys/girls in an intimate pose. What’s Naruto doing? showing his fist? no… in Japane, like it’s meant to be, is flipping someone off. Was a ninja assassinated? Who knows because it’s censored.

    4Kids did the same to the one piece anime Dub. “There shall not be any blood in this pirate show! Guns? no no we’ll use super soakers instead. Spikes shot out? Nah… let’s have suction sticks, that’s more like a pirate’s attack. That guy isn’t smoking… he’s eating a lollipop

    I go to the scanlation sites becuase it’s the only place where I can read them the way they were meant to be. Pure and not contaminated by American Censorship. Once it comes over to America, I buy it, censored or not. If It’s not interesting, then I don’t read/watch it. I would have never read Percy Jackson or the Inheritance Trilogy if I didn’t pick it up and check it out first.

    Comparing this to Nick’s issue is irrelevant. Like lawyers, people are trying to sniff out anything they can to comare it to so that it looks good. I mean, when the Patriots were caught cheating what did their fans say? “Everyone does it, they just got caught.” Making excuses is a poor way to figure out the situation.

    Nick Copied work from multiple Manga. It’s obvious by the way his style jumps from one to the next, first bleach, then Hellsing. There are more, of course. It may not be traced, but eyeballing is just as bad and for many people, it can look identical. It’s still taking someone elses work and claiming it as your own.

    For those who say “What’s the big deal? He just used them as a reference.” Well, you have no appriciation of the work Tite Kubo and others have put into it. It’s their life to work on things like that. So if you say “it’s not that big of a deal” that just shows that you are no better than Nick and would do it yourselves if need be. Tracing and eyeballing to practice is not an issue, but do that to make money on something is wrong.

    I don’t see a major lawsuit or anything, but I’m sure Nick will not be allowed to use those characters he “created” again. He will probably be asked to work on his own unique style and then try again, given that he is given another chance. And maybe next time he won’t put into the book’s selling spotlight that he is Gene Simmons son but instead, just Nick Simmons… trying to get by on talent and not a name

  30. I think the decline of the anime industry and the manga industry coinciding with a sharp increase in the availability of bootlegged material speaks a lot about the affect of piracy- while there are other factors, it’s something that’s hard to ignore

    But here’s another tangent to consider. I think another issue is that the sheer amount of bootlegs available online adds another aspect to it all- many fans are unaware that they are bootlegging, and to most 12 year olds, something like MangaFox or NarutoFan probably looks very official [NarutoFan in particular goes to lengths of adding lots of small legal print that present itself as some sort of copyright holder]. Even if a company makes a large, free website with lots of extras, they’d have a hard time competeing with those pre-existing communties.

    This has also lead to a lot of fans being unaware of the availability of legal options- at a convention last year, I encountered-
    -fangirls who were completely unaware that Yaoi books were available in print
    -two kids who had no idea that dubbed Tsubasa was available on dvd, having only watched subtitles because they didn’t know it was on dvd or had been licensed.
    In the past fansubbers used to take down links to downloads for licensed titles, stop subbing subsequent, and inform people who had licensed it and direct them to a news source.

    This used to be less of a problem when anime and comic news sites were the biggest online communities, but the growth of bootleg-oriented communties has lead to a lot of fans simply being unaware of the legitimately available material. Most people don’t read review sites or ANN or Newsarama or whathaveyou. I think this is another aspect to take into consideration.

    Even Wikipedia is another issue, with it’s fan-edited content that many fans don’t add information relating to domestic availability, and articles on piracy that cloud the legal status of this aspect of fandom.

    Regarding cease and desist notices- I recall reading on the GoComi forums that that’s something that doesn’t really work well. They had to email Manga Fox several times before scanlations of a completed series [probably just scans of their books] AfterschoolNightmare were taken down. There aren’t many legal options, and it is more difficult due to the international borders involved on some occasions.

    As for name calling, while calling them juvenile might suit that, I don’t see what the issue is in calling them pirates- they are committing piracy, according to the definitions I’ve come across. While taking an overly harsh tone might cause issues, I don’t really think sugar coating things is a solution either. I really appreciated the stern, concise posts Deb put up on twitter. Sometimes a spade is a spade.

  31. Forgot this part-

    But now fansubbers just charge ahead and ignore cease and desist letters, ignore licensing announcements, claim it’s okay because a company won’t catch up for a year or so, and just on their merry way. Many do it for attention, and it’s something that’s far easier and cheaper to do then in the mid 90’s when you had to buy the expensive software and import the laserdisc of a show yourself.

    I think anime companies and manga companies would be far better served if there was a way to fine, prosecute or otherwise stop people making the material, but currently there aren’t many options, and I think that lawmakers are at fault for this. Companies are also very cautious of upsetting fans, given what happened to Odex when they tried to use the courts system in Singapore to stop online distribution of their titles. So they apparently have to find a way to deal with pirates that is both efficient, cheap, and quiet- which lawsuits tend not to be.

    On another note-
    Have fans really become such horrible people?
    I’m really saddened by how fans aren’t really the supportive audience they use to be. The fact that people are still subtitling Naruto and One Piece when Funimation and VIZ offer simultaneous streams of both is pretty counterproductive, and means that legitimate offerings have a harder time building an audience- I imagine that they would have an easier time attractin advertisers and establishing some kind of economy if everyone who downloaded Naruto stopped doing so and went to official sources for the content.
    It’s almost as if they purposely work against the creator now with this kind of fandom, and it’s something that I think will have negative consequences for them in the future. I think companies would be more open to experimenting with online content if fans had better track records in the treatment of their IP.

  32. “You had some great points, but I’d like to note that while the scanlations offer volumes that have not been published in English yet, they’re also offering volumes that HAVE been published. Scanlators don’t exactly take down the chapter that have been released in English like Viz does.”

    MangaFox and its ilk are not scanlators; they are aggregators that make existing scanlations available for online viewing, usually for the purpose of selling ads. Individual scanlation groups may make every attempt to be responsible in pulling scanlations when the material is licensed, but once it’s been leaked to the aggregators they won’t take it down unless threatened by the copyright holders. Aggregators also routinely post material from “private” scanlation groups that ask for the scans not to be redistributed. There are certainly scanlators that have no respect for the creator’s intellectual property whatsoever, but scanlators as a group cannot be judged by the behavior of the aggregators.

  33. “I think anime companies and manga companies would be far better served if there was a way to fine, prosecute or otherwise stop people making the material, but currently there aren’t many options, and I think that lawmakers are at fault for this.”

    The problem isn’t with the lawmakers, the problem is with international boundaries and working out who to prosecute. There’s also the effect that many companies are acutely aware that the people doing this are their fans and potential customers, so they don’t want to alienate them by coming down too hard. That’s why you’ll see them trying more ‘carrot’ methods (simultaneous releases, free material on websites, etc) instead of ‘stick’ methods (sue the scanlators/aggregators/downloaders into oblivion).

    Not all companies are cautious of upsetting fans, though. ISTR that Bandai are exceedingly aggressive in protecting (or trying to) their many Gundam series, for one.

  34. BTW, since Twitter is such a fleeting medium, I posted my original comments on the Simmons/Bleach situation, plus all the comments/opinions from other creators that flew at me as Tweets at this post:

  35. Julie, the problem is that they are the end use of scanlators hobby, and as such, the reality scanlators have to face as the result of their actions. Their hobby results in manga creators loosing control of their properties, and large sites like these making massive profits off of their art, and the work of scanlators. If I was a scanlator with any principles, I’d abandon scanlating altogether if this is what scanlating something ends up doing.

  36. Oh, come on. That’s like saying that anyone who ever worked on a video game or violent comic should stop because sometimes crazies act out and blame the things they’ve read or seen. People are not responsible for how their work is misused.

  37. Sorry Anonymous

    If publishers are so angry at scanlation groups, why aren’t they taken down. Isn’t it easier for them to create a fan base and then enforce their rights to distribute the copy so that it is taken down from the site. Take the manga Inuyasha for example. It used to be up on Onemanga but recently it has been taken down because VIZ media requested it. It is undeniable that the only reason that publishers have an audience for a particular work is because of how we have been introduced to the work online. Most of us would have never heard of series like Naruto or Bleach is there wasn’t a scanlation group that introduced audiences to the series.

  38. It can be very complicated to shut down something on the internet. If they’re in a different country, different laws apply, or their owners/ managers/ hosting company may not care about threatened legal action.

  39. Last I checked the video game or comic weren’t used as a weapon in the act of the crime. I think that analogy would be more applicable if the comic artist or video game person were somehow involed in the crime, but they’re not, they just made the story.

    I think it’d be more applicable if I were saying the professional translator was responsible for people uploading their materials to the internet. Scanlators put the material out there, many translate items that have already been licensed because they’re impatient/want the glory, and are already committing a crime by putting their translation on the net in the first place- they’re responsible for putting it out there. I don’t really see what they do as “work” and more as “infringing upon an artists rights”. They are responsible for their initial criminal action, so they shouldn’t hide behind it- what they make will be circulated on the internet forever, or at least until lawmakers come up with a way to stop them.

    “Oh, come on. That’s like saying that anyone who ever worked on a video game or violent comic should stop because sometimes crazies act out and blame the things they’ve read or seen. People are not responsible for how their work is misused.”

  40. Also, for that matter in Japan people who upload materials to the internet are the ones who are charged and recieve sentences for their actions-

    Once a scanlator makes their scanlations available on the internet, whether through their messageboard/group/etc or by uploading it to bittorrent or posting it on their website, they are responsible for putting it out there.

    If they were just translating for fun or for a friend, that’s their business. But once it’s out there, it’s out there, and they’re the ones who did it.

  41. Another thing I’m curious about-
    Would you be defending scanlators if they were just american fans scanning american comics?
    Is it okay to bootleg manga because the creators are Japanese?

  42. I think you’re misreading my more nuanced position as “defense”. The two situations you mention aren’t directly comparable, for two reasons. One, material from another language needs to be translated, which adds some additional creative work. Two, material in Japan is released there long before here, in some cases, making for a time gap that scanlators exploit. Regardless, my opinion on the two areas is similar. But nice try at dragging in hints of racism; that’s a level of argument I wish you hadn’t sunk to.

  43. @Paploo: I think that’s the rationale behind scanlatiors. American comics are all available to Americans, but not all Japanese manga are. So even in the case of something like Bleach, they’ll argue that the most recent chapters aren’t available to us so for them that still justifies scanlating a licensed series.

  44. Johanna— Sorry, but it’s something I’ve often seen come up [“It’s from Japan!”], and something valid to me. There’s also the fact that japanese creators can’t jump into the fray themselves and defend their work like domestic creators can- I think that’s part of the reason why manga fans are more open and comfortable with their bootlegging habits then fans of superhero comics. There’s far less shame associated with reading scanlations because of this. Erika Friedman brigns up japanese creators reactions to digital versions of their works in the discussion Deb posted, and with some fans using the “They’re in Japan, so they don’t care” defense, it’s something to consider.

  45. And again, I don’t think it’s a fact of racism on fans part, and definitely not on yours. I’m just saying that it’s a lot easier to get away with bootlegging someonelses work when they’re on the other side of the world, and that’s something that’s allowed people to create justifications for their actions. Shouldn’t creators in America, Japan and other countries deserve the same amount of respect and control over their work?

  46. I haven’t seen superhero fans be particularly hidden about their reading habits online, although sometimes the justifications are different. (Manga doesn’t have the problem of line-wide crossovers, for instance, which some fans use to excuse reading the books, because they’re need to understand the story in the comics they do buy.) And I find the whole question of “creators’ rights” different, since manga creators are much more likely to own their works; superhero artists are most often not the legal owners of their creations.

  47. Sorry, forgot to say, thank you for clarifying that you weren’t talking about racism. I apologize for thinking you were.

  48. I find the “but I have to read the whole crossover” thing to be similar to “it’s 30 volumes long and I can’t wait/can’t afford/etc” thing. It’s all the same charade masquerading as some kind of valid reason.

    Johanna, another element- if we were to shift superhero books to say, creator owned books like Bone or Courtney Crumnin, I think it would balance out the argument a bit more.

    Still, we’ve seen plenty of superhero creators like Gail Simone [just read a lengthy thread on her forum at CBR about the issues] and Dan Didio get upset over scans of their works, so I think “creator rights” could also apply to superhero creators- they might not own the characters, but it’s still their creative output, and they do have a stake in it, personal and financial. Likewise, manga creators aren’t always the owners of their work, in the case of manga based on anime-studio originated works like Gundam or anythingelse with “Hajime Yadate” (Sunrise Studios pseudonym for their creative staff. Think if Marvel credited their editorial board as “Forbrush Man”) in the credits.

  49. Mmm, I think whether you see manga/superhero fan as more similar or different depends on what aspects of it you focus on. I’m going to redirect by restating one of my key points: whether or not you think what they’re doing is justifiable or understandable, you’re not going to change ANYone’s mind by attempting a guilt trip (“you’re responsible for books getting canceled”), calling people stupid (“if only you really understood how the business worked, you’d agree with me”), or calling names (“you’re a pirate/child/criminal/idiot for doing this”). Companies are not going to close the barn door at this point — the horses are countries away, frolicking in the fields. They’d better learn to deal with it with new strategies. Right or wrong, it cannot be stopped. Let’s approach the problem practically instead of via dream world. (“If only we could go back to the days when fans were good and the internet wasn’t widespread.”)

  50. […] Draper Carlson has a lot of links.  Other bloggers are so good with the linking, I’m jealous…and clearly, lazy.   […]

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