WIPO Article About Manga Piracy Describes Publishers' Failure To Meet Demand In Graphic Detail

from the why-not-sell-them-what-they-want? dept

Somehow you rather expect the head of the WIPO to come out with a statement on the potential benefits of patenting the World Wide Web. But you probably don’t look to the WIPO website to carry stuff like this:

Like most comics, manga (roughly translated as “whimsical pictures”) is rooted in sequential art – a narrative made up of images and presented in sequence. The earliest examples of Japanese sequential art are thought to date from the 12th century Chōjū Jinbutsu Giga animal scrolls.

The term “manga” is believed to have been first used by the renowned 16th [sic] century woodblock print (ukiyo-e) artist, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).

That’s taken from an article called “The Manga phenomenon” published in the September 2011 edition of the “WIPO Magazine” (who knew that such a thing existed?) But why exactly has WIPO developed this sudden interest in manga? You probably guessed this was coming:

Manga continues to enjoy a broad global appeal but the industry is suffering acutely from the scourge of piracy.

Here’s the WIPO article’s explanation of what happened:

When it was first launched internationally, manga occupied a niche market in many countries. However, it soon captured the imagination of readers around the world, spawning an enthusiastic international fan base that became increasingly frustrated by the inability to access the same content as their Japanese counterparts. The need to translate manga from Japanese meant there were inevitable delays in their international release. Moreover, many titles were never released internationally because they were deemed inappropriate for specific markets, were unsuccessful in Japan, or were only published locally by independent publishers.

The Internet offered fans a wonderful solution. Many learned Japanese, acquired the original manga, then scanned, translated, edited and posted them on the Internet for free downloading. Alas, what began as a practice driven by enthusiastic fans has become a serious blight on the industry. So-called scanlation – the act of scanning, translating and posting manga on the Internet – is, in fact, striking at the heart of manga and threatening its very existence.

Unauthorized scans or “raws” are typically generated by individuals who scan books into electronic format, a practice known as jisui, which translates as “to cook for one?s self.” With the uptake of e-book readers and computer tablets, jisui has become a fully-fledged business with the emergence of popular scanlation aggregator websites hosting thousands of manga episodes and making them available free of charge. Those who do scanlation rake in profits through advertising on their own websites and also earn points which can be turned into cash for each download made from an aggregator website.

This shows that publishers were doing such a poor job meeting the demand for manga outside Japan that it drove some fans to go to the trouble of learning Japanese, acquiring the original manga, scanning them, translating them, editing and then posting them on the Internet. That sounds like an incredible business opportunity for manga publishers to “rake in profits through advertising on their own websites,” instead of letting others profit. But unauthorized sites were left unchallenged, and flourished as a result:

Scanlation groups, of which there are now well over a thousand, are perpetuating a highly corrosive form of piracy that is threatening the industry, causing global manga sales to plummet and forcing publishers to lay off staff. From 2007 to 2009, for example, U.S. manga sales fell by 30 percent forcing a leading publisher to lay off 40 percent of its workforce.

What exactly were the manga publishers doing to staunch these losses overseas during the last four years? Absolutely nothing – they only started trying to capture all that lost revenue this year:

But major manga publishers are fighting back by reaching out to manga fans in new ways. This year, Kadokawa Group Publishing Co. Ltd. (Kadokawa) simultaneously released a large number of popular titles in key Asian markets. Companies like Tezuka Productions are making available legal, electronic English-language versions of popular manga for tablet computers and, earlier this year the Japan Book Publishers Association launched a series of initiatives to clamp down on unauthorized scanlation activities.

The question has to be: if it was clear that the scanlation groups were “raking in” profits from online manga, why weren’t the publishers offering authorized copies to meet this huge demand back in 2007?

This is a classic tale of old-style media companies refusing to seize the opportunities offered by the Internet’s “wonderful solution” to foreign distribution. Instead, the manga publishers assumed their customers would passively wait until some far-off day when authorized versions were finally made available. And they seem to regard it as extraordinary that, being denied manga through official channels, those fans should be driven by their passion to find other ways to obtain the latest productions of the art form they loved so much.

Of course, the WIPO article is silent on this massive failure by the publishers; instead, it falls back on the tired old rhetoric that piracy is “killing” manga:

Rampant manga piracy is making it increasingly difficult for manga artists (mangaka) to earn a living from their work. Many rely on royalty payments to survive. These are modest at the best of times, especially for new artists, and are generally insufficient for most to make ends meet. Of Japan?s estimated 3,000 professional mangaka, only around 10 percent earn enough to be able to devote all of their time and energy to their art. The simple truth is that if manga artists cannot earn a living from their art, there will be no manga.

The simple truth is that manga artists could have earned much more from their art had manga publishers not been too lazy to consider changing their old business models, and had started selling international customers online products they were clearly desperate to buy.

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Comments on “WIPO Article About Manga Piracy Describes Publishers' Failure To Meet Demand In Graphic Detail”

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Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s a perfectly reasonable business. Good luck trying to do it however. All reports I’ve seen is that the Japanese publishing companies are very difficult to deal with. Obstinate would probably be putting it kindly. They’re also terrified of re-importation (although somewhat less so with manga) because they tend to insanely overprice their product in the Japanese market, and have made little to no moves to provide digital manga within Japan so they’re at best uninterested in allowing a company in another part of the world to provide the same service, at worst they’re actively against it.

So the inevitable has happened, and despite what the WIPO article claims the problem isn’t the scanlation groups, it’s the big aggregators like MangaFox. The aggregators take the work the fans do, put it up in online readers, slap ads all over the site and rake in ad income, while doing none of the work. There’s quite a bit of very strong dislike in the manga fan community about what sites like MangaFox do (very, very strong dislike, hate is probably a better word). Many groups have policies forbidding the big aggregators from posting their scans at all, or requiring a delay of several days (to weeks). MangaFox has a tendency to only honor these requests when it’s not a super popular series.

There’s also further problems with WIPO’s article. Nearly all of the scanlations groups host their manga on MediaFire as it’s far less annoying than most file sharing sites and works wonderfully for the small files that manga scanlations typically are. MediaFire has no points system, nor any way to earn money from downloads. Many of the scanlation groups do run ads on their sites, but it’s exceptionally rare for any of them to even break even on hosting costs, much less turn a profit. All the sites making profit are the big, big aggregators like MangaFox.

Finally, and I say this as a long-time fan of anime & manga, it’s very, very hard to feel sorry for the Japanese anime & manga industry. The publishing companies have been repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot for a long time, and have apparently still learned nothing. They grossly overprice their product in their own market (anime on BluRay in Japan routinely costs $60 USD or more a disc with 2 episodes a disc being the norm, that’s $30 an episode!) and are terrified of re-importation (Japanese customers buying the release from another country and just disabling subtitles to watch it). This is an industry in dire need of change, but it’s resisting it even more strongly than the RIAA and MPAA are in the US, and it’s starting to catch up with them.

Anonymous Coward says:

This seems totally true. Companies that deal in this merchandise often charge highly inflated prices for what true aficionados consider sub-part work – I know manga and anime are different, but charging $20 and up for 2 episodes of anime when I can get an entire season Lost for $35?! If they have to lay people off, perhaps it is because their business is not efficient. Also, just to make it clear, I do not approve of piracy, but I feel it is an indicator – there are problems with your business model. Do you know how much I would pay for a manga series if it came with two tickets to a lecture series with Masamune Shirow?! The fans will pay! Just don’t make us wait and don’t offer us dog-food when we want to pay for prime rib!

bdhoro (profile) says:


As a huge manga/anime fan I know first hand how horribly the industry has failed, while the fans have kept the industry thriving by doing for free what people would have paid for had the content providers gotten there first (or within a reasonable amount of time).

There are a few shows I’ve been watching, which are hit mega popular shows, such as Naruto Shippudden and Bleach, that have been ongoing for many years now, that have only recently within the last year provided translations in a timely manner.

Not only that, but even now that I have a legit source, I’ve grown to like the fansubs better, they provide better translations, and I don’t have to stream the damn show (which gets rough for popular shows that are released only on the internet, server goes down as soon as the shows are available). I’ve also gotten very used to my favorite fan subs over the years and the content providers are gonna have to beat them in order to get me to pay them.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Moreover, many titles were never released internationally because they were deemed inappropriate for specific markets, were unsuccessful in Japan, or were only published locally by independent publishers.

The Internet offered fans a wonderful solution.”

Well, if the Internets ‘solution’ is simply to offer these inappropriate titles to everyone, then perhaps those titles weren’t really that inappropriate for those markets.

“the act of scanning, translating and posting manga on the Internet – is, in fact, striking at the heart of manga and threatening its very existence. “

So by making manga more available and more well known to a larger audience in ways that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred, they are hurting them? How does this make sense? What would have been the alternative, many of those people who now know about manga would have otherwise not known about it and manga would have been making at most the same money that it’s making now selling its product to the same limited audience that it had before (and would still otherwise have).

“But major manga publishers are fighting back by reaching out to manga fans in new ways.”

You mean they’re ‘fighting back’ by copying what everyone else was already doing and offering their product to other markets? Isn’t that copying? I thought copying is wrong?

Anonymous Coward says:

I am a French reader, France being the second biggest manga market at the moment.
I both “pirate” and buy legit copies of mangas.
However, I usually stop buying the mangas after 2-3 volumes. Why?
First of all, I don’t like going to a shop to read my mangas, I prefer reading them on my computer, as it’s much more convenient for me to just have to move my mouse over a folder/url to read a chapter.

Second, chapters alone can not be read as they’re not published anywhere (except in the Japanese magazines that I do buy as well, given I can understand the manga in its original language, which i sometimes fail to do). i’m not willing to wait 2 months just so that I can finally read my favorite manga, when the chapters have been available forever on the japanese market.

Third, A manga costs anywhere from 7 euros for the least popular to 10 euros for the rarer/most popular ones. However, I see missing words/mistranlation everywhere. I’m not paying 7-10 euros for a work that is not even on par to scanlations. Same goes with animes, which are around 30-40 euros for a full series if it’s old, or 60 euros for a recent one. Granted, I did pay 300 euros for a collector edition of City Hunter

Anonymous Coward says:

Interestingly, most manga wouldn’t even be known outside Japan had it not been for the scanlating community. I fail to see how making a manga popular hurts the industry.

There is actually a project called OpenManga that aimed to provide artists a revenue, while scanning and translating would be handled by fans. I think it was based on a subscription/advertising model with part of the funds going to artists. It is called OpenManga, but I don’t know if the project is still active (the page is down for me).

Beech (profile) says:

My first experience with anime/manga was flipping past an episode of Dragonball Z on Cartoon Network. I thought it was terrible. The voice acting in particular turned me off big time. Then i went to college and my roommate showed me the first few fansubbed naruto episodes. From there i started watching bleach, then stopped watching anime altogether to just read the mangas online (couldnt stand filler arcs). Once i found a site with a bunch of mangas on it, i went hog wild reading all kinds of them and havent stopped since. How much have the authors gotten from all that? Probably not one red cent. But i also started a minor collection of mangas in print (mostly naruto, but also some one piece and bleach), from which im sure the authors (or at least the publishers) got paid something.

But if it wasnt for those first illegal fansubs they wouldnt have ANY of my money because i would still think of “japanimation” as creepy, weird, and poorly translated.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Of Japan?s estimated 3,000 professional mangaka, only around 10 percent earn enough to be able to devote all of their time and energy to their art. The simple truth is that if manga artists cannot earn a living from their art, there will be no manga.”

Whuh? According to their own data, 90% of manga artists don’t earn a living from their art, yet they continue to make manga. Do these people even read their own sentences?

Markus Hopkins (profile) says:

My God... It's full of piracy!

I know several people that have learned japanese in order to be able to read manga that is unavailable in english. It seems like with a community as active and passionate as this, the threat of “piracy” could be turned into a huge win for manga producers. They could hold contests among fans for the best translation of a given work, and use this to hire translators that are passionate, or even hold contests on a regular basis. With the contests idea, if you have a contest for each release, and the prize is something like early access to new content, or the ability to weigh in on translations or plot arcs in the future, you engage your readers, and you avoid the costs of hiring translators (that may not even be as good as your passionate fans). This can be extended to subs/dubs of anime as well. It’s unfortunate that when content producers are late to the game, they always miss the opportunities that an organic community may provide them; all they think is “My God… it’s full of piracy!”

Anonymous Coward says:

As someone who has been active in the scanlation community for some time… I laugh at their tales of ‘profits’.
I know only one or two groups who actually manage to use all of their advertising revenue and download points (which most don’t use at all) to actually be able to cover the entire cost of the web servers, IRC bots, and buying RAWs. A lot of the money comes from the scanlation team’s own pockets. The idea that any scanlation team profits off of this is ridiculous.

Not to mention that there are times when the scanlation quality is just far better than what’s officially released. There are times when I go to the book store and just gape at the poor quality of the edits done (although often times the translation quality is the same).

Also, compare the number of scanlated mangas and the number of manga released outside of japan… the difference is staggering.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

There are more problems at play here.
The ignored the people doing scanlation figuring there was no money to be made there.
What they discovered is there are people who want the product, and that need was being met by the scanlation people.
They then hastily threw together their own versions, and expected to take over the market. They paid no attention to detail like the scanlation people did.

Just because the scanlation people “beat” them to the market, does not mean they own the market. If you can provide something better from the official channels, people will pick you. But if it is a half hearted afterthought to release these, people will still pick scanlations because they are superior.
They are superfans, and the crazy part of my mind says – HIRE THEM.
They have an entire system built to deliver these items in the best quality they can. Imagine what they could do with your blessing. Will there still be “pirates” most likely, but if your serious in trying to fill the global market desire… hire the people who have done it for years for nothing more than the love of your product.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "the crazy part of my mind says - HIRE THEM."

You’re mistaken. In this case, the “pirates” are the ones who have not only created an entire market, but have done all the work to produce a product.

The manga industry has pretty much had all the work done on their behalf.

“Pirates” or better said, people, want to pay for manga. The only problem is, up until recently, there was nothing being distributed. There was literally nowhere and no one for them to take and give their money to.

The other fundamental problem, that you’re blatantly overlooking, is that in regards to manga, the “pirates” are the ones who have been producing a better product. Or better said, up until recently, were the only ones producing the product at all.

People have up until now been doing all this work in bringing manga to the masses freely. It wouldn’t take much to hire them. I’m sure maybe even just some acknowledgement of all their hard work would be enough for some. But calling them “pirates” for doing what you refused to isn’t going to endear anyone to you or your less than adequate offerings. It goes back to the “give the people what they want and do a decent job of it and they’ll give you their money”. Fail at that, you have no one to blame but yourself for any shortcomings (that’s the ACTUAL reality, not blaming piracy).

But let’s ignore all that and just say they’re all a bunch of thieving freeloading pirates. It’s a much more mature attitude than actually trying to solve the problem in any kind of productive manner.

Hi, I’m an AC who actually looks past their own bias and I meant every word in this post.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: "the crazy part of my mind says - HIRE THEM."


I pay for both scanlations AND original works, and in my experience, the scanlations are better-annotated and better translated. I consider it a reward to those fans who make the time and effort to translate manga from its original language to English, amongst other languages.

It literally makes no sense for it to be released 12-18 months later, if at all. Even “big” manga, such as Naruto, Bleach and One-Piece have a translation turnover of around 6 months. That’s pretty damn clearly an unsatisfied need.

And in the age of the Internet, people will pay for ease and convenience. They won’t pay for unacceptable delays that are, to them, inexcusable.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: "the crazy part of my mind says - HIRE THEM."

YES WE DO. If we’re given a good enough reason to part with our cash. Case in point – I infringe on the copyright of a ton of games. Yet, I have over 40 games bought and paid for on Steam. And that’s not counting the games I have on disc for PC, Xbox and PS3.
In this case, the ‘legit’ manga are of such poor quality, or are just too late to be brought to the market, that they’re just not worth my money.
God, when will you understand? You have got to find a way to convince people to buy your product. I buy games on Steam mainly because I can’t be bothered looking for illegitimate downloads on the Net. Hell, I even spent NINETY EURO getting Catherine for PS3, because its not available in my region (had to import it). I admit, if I knew how to crack my PS3, I would have just downloaded it, because, well, that’s NINETY EURO down the drain for one game. But in the end, that one game was such a unique game that it was basically worth it.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: "the crazy part of my mind says - HIRE THEM."

The sane whole of my mind

Citation Needed

Pirates do infact pay for things of quality, they will not suffer crap foisted into the market that is subpar.

Lets look at the gaming industry for an example.
As playable game demos died off, “piracy” jumped.
As they put out gameplay videos that did not reflect the actual product, “piracy” jumped.
As they fretted about piracy and used more DRM, “piracy” jumped.

Oh the people who “pirate” the games –
Many are seeing if it is actually worth their money, because the once great studios are now run by people who demand a hard release date and will ship a product that needs 6 months of patches to make it playable.

Several are people who want the game, bought the game, and “pirated” the game to get the DRM free version of the game. DRM can and has “destroyed” peoples machines.

There are some who are just going to try it and not like it, but are unwilling to plunk down $60 to find out the game is crap and be unable to sell it used because there are 14 unique codes in the package to kill the used games market.

The Manga “industry” is moving slowly and I wonder how much of it is a cultural difference.

WysiWyg (profile) says:

Re: Re: "the crazy part of my mind says - HIRE THEM."

I just want to say, as a big-time pirate, that I would kill (not literally, but you get what I mean) to BE ABLE TO pay for the content I watch.

Problem is, there is no good way for me to do that over here in Sweden. And no, I will not pay for a DVD/BlueRay only to have to go through a small hell to rip it.

And yes, I know we were mainly talking about manga, but the point still applies.

Or in other words; WHY DON’T THEY WANT MY MONEY!?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "the crazy part of my mind says - HIRE THEM."

There are two issue here:

1. You’re statements are self-fulfilling in that you open with the assumption that a better product won’t sell and use that assumption to conclude that a better product should not be produced neatly excluding the possibility of ever actually testing your assumption.

2. The primary complaint that the Japanese publishers are raising in the WIPO article is actually the opposite of your assumption, that people are paying the pirates for their scanlations: “Those who do scanlation rake in profits through advertising on their own websites and also earn points which can be turned into cash for each download made from an aggregator website.” So are they lying or is your fundamental assumption just plain wrong?

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: "the crazy part of my mind says - HIRE THEM."

The sane whole of my mind says: WITH WHAT? PIRATES DON’T PAY.

Unfortunately for the “sane whole” of your mind, every independent study I’ve ever seen has found that people who pirate spend much more money than people who do not. Depending upon year and region (country), pirates spend anywhere from twice as much, to ten times as much, as non-pirates.

So, pirates DO pay. They are, in fact, your best market.

Jay (profile) says:

Piracy = unmet demand

I would like everyone to pay very close attention to this article. This is exactly why PIPA will not work. It’s why the DMCA, for all the bad of it, hasn’t stopped piracy. It’s also why those in the industry can’t understand how to make new business models that work to coincide consumer demands and revenue for those inside the business.

The movie and music industry could take considerable notes in regards to having better business practices if they followed this area of commerce. Everything here coincides to EXACTLY the things that both industries want: more money.

The legal avenue has shown no signs of working and cost the industry millions of dollars in lobbying, in public perception of them, and in failed legislation that does nothing but makes them weaker and weaker in regards to making money.

All that anyone has asked is lower pricing on tangible goods. In terms of manga, the fact that you pay $10 for a series that has 52 parts is a little expensive. The industry could be better improved by only having to pay $5 per book and a focus on more niche products. Other industries could have smaller bundles for products that people might like. Customizing and making movies that people might want or music that is a mix of various songs, could reinvigorate the industry. As it stands, all the other parts of copyright can do is make people focus more on the illegitimate material than the legal stuff.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Piracy = unmet demand

First, I’m glad you use the term “piracy”.

Short chain of logic:
If you /have/ someone else’s work product which you know that they want to be paid for, then you’re a thief. Doesn’t matter if they’re left whole and unharmed because it’s digital data: you’ve stolen the work product and have it.

You and others go into the usual “it’s priced too high” bit. That’s a separate problem. I agree with you there, but the ONLY moral path is to forego the product. Let ’em starve until see your point.

Just a repeat of usual: “unmet demand”, heavy on the demand, not going to pay, /entitlement/ mentality. It’s quite bizarre, but guess for today, reasonable people are exasperated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Piracy = unmet demand

That is just it, I don’t believe people should pay for what others had the trouble to make based on the work of others and distribute that freely.

Just as I don’t believe a restaurant can charge customers of another restaurant for food they didn’t produce even if they copied the recipe to the letter from the other restaurant.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Piracy = unmet demand

“If you /have/ someone else’s work product which you know that they want to be paid for, then you’re a thief. Doesn’t matter if they’re left whole and unharmed because it’s digital data: you’ve stolen the work product and have it.”

Honto ni? Ore wa dorobou na no? Nani ga tsureteitta? Sono manga daisuki dakedemo, takai na! Dakara, konputaa de yomimasu.


Now, in order for me to translate what I’ve said, it costs $5 to you to translate it. Or someone could come by and translate it for you. But if you take those words and translate them yourself, you’re a thief.

This is explaining the point about piracy in general. People are paying for the books and translating it out of their own pockets. When I last went to Japan, the books came in two different types. One was the weekly edition which was usually 500 – 800 yen. WEEKLY! The thicker collections (which held 10 weekly books) usually cost ~ $15 and came about every two or three months. And don’t get me started on the anime.

Basically, blue, you don’t know anything about the manga market. In the 80s, people traded tapes before Dragonball was shown on TV. As demand for more shows came up, more people translated. They aren’t thieves. Some sites are quite prevalent in showing people’s scanlations of not only the most famous ones (such as Naruto) but older ones that have since gained an audience (Shin-chan or Kinnikuman come to mind).

The manga arena has been getting bigger and bigger. Some people can now get jobs from being in the scanlation groups. Other seiyuu (voice actors) are famous for their depictions.

But the fact remains, thinking that all of this can be guided by some moral plea is absolutely ludicrous.

Transbot9 (profile) says:

An exception to the rule...

One manga in particular (Naruto) had it’s US release dates rapidly accellerated by the publisher (Viz Media) back about 2007 because of the insane demand. I don’t know if translation quality has suffered, but at least the first 12 volumes had higher quality translations than the fan ones. As I understand it, the graphic novels are released state side almost as quickly as in Japan.

I assume that this manga is still selling quite well due to the huge amount of shelf space it gets at Barnes & Nobel, where shelf space is a premium.

I have no idea if this has been followed up by other manga collections, but it is an example of a business reacting to their fans in a proper way. I’m sure others can find examples of Viz Media acting in a more typical fashion, but they’ve at least done something right with higher quality translations and rapid US releases.

Of course, the anime version still sucks 😀

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: An exception to the rule...

Just one nitpick, there. While the visual quality of the old Naruto manga was higher in the official version, the quality of the official translation was quite bad. Not as ridiculous as some of the crap they pull with other manga (like when they try to convert a tenn & older title into a children’s book), but pretty bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’d like to give some props at least to the related but smaller niche filled by the visual novel translation companies who work to do official English releases of these titles. While fan translations have been going on for years with these visual novels, the two main translation companies, JastUSA and MangaGamer both have worked to reach out to fan translators to work with them to get official releases (although there have been a number of bumps with the latter company).

ToBeBlunt says:

Just want to point out something

Yes it is certainly hard to survive as a mangaka. Look at it the other way around. Why are manga so popular and good quality compared to comic, manhwa and others. Isnt it because of the nature that only the best manga survives? The world is cruel yes it is.

Another thing is online scanlation is sort of global advertisement. Advertisement is never free. If there were no scanlation to start with no one outside of japan would ever know anything about manga. Just because over the pass few years manga and anime have become worldwide famous thanks to scanlators and subbers it doesnt mean foreign people should start taking opportunity to abuse this trend just for their own sake to make money.

Most scans are from magazines rather than the compiled manga itself. I believe that japanese themselves will buy those magazines such as shounen jump or sunday to read the manga rather than reading them scanlators. This means in japan itself since before the rise of scanlator the market is there. Even if somehow there are some japanese would read from free scanlator i believe that small amount will be compensated by foreign interest who buys directly from japan.

The point is just because foreign publishers have problem dealing with own business investment it does not means “manga” itself should take the blame and loses its popularity due to the lost of free publicity.

Finally manga does not only promote the manga itself it promotes japan (google japan tourism anime manga). Overall i believe there is still a plus side for japan even the free manga scan trends continues.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Just want to point out something

“Finally manga does not only promote the manga itself it promotes japan (google japan tourism anime manga). Overall i believe there is still a plus side for japan even the free manga scan trends continues”

You should look into doujinshi. Some of the most famous manga artists (even Oda of One Piece fame) recognize that taking works and selling works from others has helped their own art and careers. Too bad we don’t have anything quite like that here in the US. Other than DeviantArt…

Other point to bring up, the most famous ones usually do so by selling merchandise. Chopper is One Piece’s mascot, Naruto has the merchandise that keeps it famous. Other than that, I believe some just do better because they make better financial decisions. But that’s just my guess.

ECA (profile) says:

I see some have pointed out

There is a disparity here.
And its not from the Manga side.

NO COMPANY can distribute anything in the USA without going thru USA CORPS..

The manga groups want there share. The USA corps Over price EVERYTHING, even if they have a ready made market.

Availability..really SUCKS. the USA corps dont know WHO to send the books to, to have them sell, sosend to certain places only.

Anonymous Coward says:

Everybody forgets the fact that the Japanese really don’t care about the market outside Japan. For most Mangaka it’s hard enough to get their Manga published let alone think about marketing in America. And if you’ve lived in Japan you know that the Japanese have a very strange idea of what is acceptable to foreigners, and instead of asking foreign publishers they rely on their own spotty “judgement” on what we can handle. They alway fall back on the “We only need Japan” mentality and don’t care about foreign markets, it seems the only ones upset with Fan subs are the foreign publishers buying the rights.

Kirion says:

There is a manga called Bakuman about mangaka (And yes, I read it on so called pirate sits. although i would gladly pay for spotify-like service with tablet apps and stuff).

it’s a good manga, but what strikes me is how old school are the publishers. Virtually no digital promotion. Fierce competition to get in magazine and result decided by few hundreds of fans. Success = get published in a famous magazine. Manga publishers are ultimate gatekeepers there.

David Liu (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh god, Bakuman’s latest arc’s just screams out how set their old-school thinking is.

For those that don’t read it, their latest story line involves an artist that utilizes online crowdsourcing to help create the ultimate comic (getting ideas for stories, editing help, etc). The comic succeeds wildly, but the artist is portrayed as some sort of ultimate evil that all the main characters must defeat, all just because it’s different from the usual artist-editor/publisher relationship (and because it’s different, it must fail, and eventually “does”). It just screams of old school snobbery, how the old way is obviously the best way because that’s how they’ve done it for years.

Obviously, this is just a comic, but it’s a comic that’s a result of these manga publishers, and all that I’ve heard about them makes me think that the comic doesn’t fall all that far from the truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

The thing I find ludicrous is how it really wouldn’t be that hard to have a simultaneous English release of say, shounen jump. Have the mangaka do the drawings without the dialogue drawn in, scan the manga onto a computer and then have a translator team do a translation.

The amunt of actual dialogue on a average chapter of manga is very low, so it really shouldn’t take long to do the translating, and then have the english version available online for a subscription fee like crunchyroll does simulcast anime.

Really, there is no excuse for the prices and delays that plague the legit sources of manga. If I could buy a english weekly shonen jump online for five bucks I would totally do it, not to mention that the price should be lower since there would be no printing costs associated with it.

Scooters (profile) says:

Here we go again.

As an avid fan of Japanese entertainment, I find this report from WIPO just another example of how out of touch Japanese business truly is to the world outside its little island.

The manga industry in this country isn’t failing because of piracy. It’s failing because of extortion pricing of licensing fees, left to the publishers who must then, as quickly as possible, turn a product in the hopes the few buyers left will pick up a copy or two.

Want to know what else the WIPO article left out? During the greatest recession this generation has seen, the manga industry raised its prices a staggering 12%.

12%. This may not seem like much, but this comes after just another recent price hike. What used to be $6.99 a volume has reached as high as $9.99 a volume.

Manga fans are terrified because they know as the market keeps shrinking, supply and demand will increase their prices audaciously to the point they must pick and choose a series they wish to follow, and walk away/pirate the others.

I will never understand why this industry isn’t based on a revenue sharing system where the market, not copyright expectation of licensing fees, are dictating costs. In Japan, if a series is in high demand, so too is the the licensing fee.

Crunchyroll has established the fact there is a market of those who wish to consume, not own. The manga industry is trying to follow suit by offering online “products” for a staggering $5.99 per digital file.

$5.99 per digital file.

This isn’t a solution. It’s another nail in the coffin.

The great news is piracy will ensure anime fans will never have to worry about the loss in the market, such as with Stu Levy’s Tokyopop (under because of CEO stupidity, not piracy).

Finally, another fact WIPO leaves out: In every anime market in North America, sales are down but not a single company has gone under due to “piracy”. Yes, prices have gone up slightly (everywhere, and some due to the Yen’s strength right now), but fans who wish to collect will not be deterred quite yet.

Not bad considering this is 2011 and piracy has yet to take a single victim.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Here we go again.

This a thousand times. I would LOVE to own all my manga in paper form, but I can’t afford to with these ridiculous prices and in this recession. At my local Barne’s and Nobles my 6 favorite titles go for 12-15 dollars a volume, and all of them have over 50 volumes each!

So instead I purchase a couple of marked-down older anime boxsets or manga compilations each month (more bang for the buck, as I can often get 20 episodes or 10+ volumes for less than 40 bucks) and get any recent titles from scanlation websites.

Joe (profile) says:


So they are complaining that sales dropped by 40% during the recession even though there product was not a necessity and the largest segment of there readership was also the most likely demographic to be laid off during the recession? Now they want the money their hard core fans earned via advertising all the while exposing their product to a new market in a convenient format?

If they were smart they would drop their complaints, hire these rogue elements which are there fans and figure out how best to charge for higher resolution manga libraries for tablet owners (since there target is early adopters who hopefully are employed again). That does not mean charging by the chapter…these are not the”collectable form of manga” and should be steeply discounted. Probably around $20 for a lifetime pass to each stream of manga.

Otherwise they will scare away new users and limit the audience potential. To be clear when I mean stream they would have paid $20 to access all higher resolution version available and to be released of Naruto. Done the same, paid $20 more for the naruto shippuden arc and all future releases are included in that arc.

They might give the first 5-10 chapters of all msnga as a free trail. Arcs that release weakly are $20 for a pass. Those thay are monthly would be $4 for a pass etc.

Granted we all know they will screw it up. But a fan can hope.

Anonymous Coward says:

Glyn, it’s a wonderful story, however it seems to be more filled with glint in the eye optimism rather than any true business acumen.

It is always hard to compare the labor of love amateur translators to those who would do it for a living. Amateurs do it for nothing more than the pleasure of doing it. I have a friend of mine who has done this sort of thing on videos for years. It’s his hobby, and it absorbs probably 30-40 hours a week of his life. As another friend said “he needs to get laid big time!” (tip of the hat to Seth McFarlane). Oddly, my friend met and girl and was recently married, and no longer spends his time doing translations.

Amateur do the work for nothing. Professional translators are fairly expensive. Limited runs to print the things in other languages is equally expensive. The market? Nobody can be sure, but it doesn’t appear to be that large.

If there was money to be made, someone would be making it. If it is only functional with piracy and labor of love workers, than you have your answer why it isn’t being done.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re:

” Professional translators are fairly expensive. Limited runs to print the things in other languages is equally expensive. The market? Nobody can be sure, but it doesn’t appear to be that large.”

Professional translations take the “flavor” out of some of the mangas. I follow One Piece. Looking at what happened to the 4Kids translation versus what the “amateurs” did makes you realize that there’s a ton of difference between the two.

For brevity, I’ll point you to why there is editing to Japanese anime here. Then, you look at what fansubbers do by ignoring all of that, using the Japanese DVDs for anime and how much goes uncensored in the manga books. Fansubs trump the official versions in tons of circumstances.

Sometimes, those edits are just stupid like in the Initial D series:

The manga and anime have also been licensed by Tokyopop for an English release. The company decided to change the names of the characters in the anime edition. In addition, starting with Volume 2, the company changed the names of the characters in the manga to match the name changes in the anime. The company changed names of characters. For instance, the main character, Takumi, became Tak, and his best friend Itsuki became Iggy. Some characters, such as Takumi’s father, Bunta, retained their original names. These name changes were to reflect the name changes that Sega implemented into the western releases of the Initial D A Stage video games {see below} due to name length limits.

The company also changed the music from the series’ staple eurobeat tracks to originally developed tracks of rap and hip-hop via Stu Levy (DJ Milky), the Tokyopop CEO and an in-house musician. The massive editing has been attributed to rumors that Tokyopop was hoping to cash in on the growing Import Scene brought about by The Fast and the Furious with edits that would conform to American broadcasting standards on TV

To someone like me, who is used to a certain name, then has to readjust an anime using a nickname, it was hard to adjust to. And looking at how Tokyopop also put in “special effects” for NO reason other than to compete with Fast and the Furious, the only other option was to get an “official” translation from somewhere other than America. Which I did. I paid $50 for the entire Initial D set, coming from China, while the Tokyopop version was selling their DVD, with their edits for $10 each. I got the extra movies and each season (there were 4 when I bought it) for less than it cost to get the series in the US (which still wasn’t finished). To get the series in the US, when it was done, would have cost $100+ dollars (3 episodes per DVD, $10 each, one season = ~4 DVDs), and was CLEARLY an inferior product.

So, to answer your next phrase:
If there was money to be made, someone would be making it. If it is only functional with piracy and labor of love workers, than you have your answer why it isn’t being done.

There is money to be made. But overpriced crap is not going to be bought much in this day and age.

stephumz says:

I understand that manga is not cheap and to collect an entire series can be quite a costly exercise, although I do not believe that scanlation communities were borne because of that reason alone. Like @Jay said, ?Piracy = unmet demand?.

Let us rewind a little bit. To get a bootleg someone, somewhere must first purchase the product. This person may or may not be a pirate, but regardless they fall into the description of Kevin Kelly?s ?true fan?. According to Kelly?s 1000 True Fan theory, ?a true fan?will purchase anything and everything you produce? (Kelly, 2008). Hence without these people, all industries will ultimately fail.

@Prashanth mentioned Lessig?s Free Culture, whereby his book illustrates how piracy has actually helped the manga industry, both within Japan and globally, gain popularity and a market share of comic book sales.

Lessig?s eBook also introduces doujinshi into the mix of piracy culture and the laws which turn a blind eye to it. Lessig quotes that the doujinshi market is not banned in Japan as it spurs on the mainstream market and there would be no benefit if it were banned (Lessig, 2004).

Perhaps instead of trying to stamp out piracy, publishers consider their business model and turn the market in their favour.


Kelly, K. (2008, March 4). 1000 True Fans. Retrieved from http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php

Lessig, L. (2004). Creators. New York: Penguin Press. Free Culture: How Big Media uses Technology and the law to Lock Down Culture and Strangle Creativity (pp. 21 – 30). Retrieved from http://www.free-culture.cc/freeculture.pdf

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