DRM Strikes Again: Digital Comics Distributor JManga Closing Down… And Deleting Everyone's Purchases
from the ensuring-only-pirates-will-have-access-to-its-comics dept
DRM is rearing its malformed head again and biting the hands that feed it. Rather than simply making an otherwise useful product useless unless requirements x, y and z are met, this time DRM is issuing a clawback on
purchased rented digital goods.
JManga broke some hearts this week when they announced that they were ceasing operations.
This digital manga distributor announced earlier this week that they would no longer sell manga as of 26 March and planned to shut down completely in May.
These things happen. Nothing unusual about a company going out of business, but the words “digital manga distributor” should give you pause (especially if you were a customer).
Any customers with store credit would get a refund in Amazon.com gift cards…
Well, that’s certainly thoughtful of them. Wait, why’s there an ellipsis on this sentence?
… and any purchased content will be lost when JManga turns off the lights in May (no downloads allowed).
Oh. Fun. Yes, JManga, distributor of digital manga, decided to hold off the pirates by screwing the customers and it’s all spelled out in infuriating black and white at JManga’s official, soon-to-be-former site.
c.) Manga Viewing Service Termination
Date: May 30th at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time) Details: As of May 30th 2013 at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time) users will no longer be able to view digital manga content on JManga.com. At this time all purchased and free digital manga content will be erased from all JManga Member’s accounts.
And, yes, no downloads are allowed, according to the FAQ.
It is not possible to download manga from My Page.
So, the pirates win again. JManga’s DRM will allow the distributor to delete paid for manga from customers’ accounts, but presumably all DRM-stripped pirate “accounts” will remain unaffected in perpetuity.
It began promisingly enough.
JManga launched with much fanfare in 2011. This company was backed by the 36 publishers of the Japanese Digital Comics Association, and it was created as a laudable response to the then rampant fan-based scanlation (piracy and English-language translation) of Japanese comics. By offering a legitimate option these publishers hoped to provide the content that was obviously desired by fans.
Unfortunately, things went downhill quickly thanks to pricing issues (mainly that they were too high) and a failure to capitalize on a rapidly growing smartphone market. Now, it’s out of business and its insistence on protecting its products with DRM has resulted in the following scorecard — pirates affected: 0; paying customers affected: ALL.
What we have here is a yet another example of the fact that DRM does nothing but punish the paying customer. It doesn’t actually stop piracy; in this case piracy was already rampant thanks to readily available scanners and a large and enthusiastic fan base.
All that was accomplished with JManga was that the legitimate customer was punished for being honest and paying for the content they received. The pirates, on the other hand, weren’t bothered at all.
I wish more publishers could learn from this mistake, because the hostility that has been shown toward JManga customers is appalling.
“Hostility” is the correct term. Protecting your offerings from those who aren’t paying by making those who actually support you subject to anything from minor annoyances to HAVING ALL THEIR PURCHASES DELETED can’t really be described as anything but. Adding a layer of perversity to the mix is the fact that JManga is still allowing customers to purchase its products until March 26th, despite the fact that these too will be deleted on May 30th.
When you combine digital goods with DRM, it’s lose-lose for paying customers. It turns purchases into rentals and subjects purchasers to the whims of the company. Whether its a verification server being shut down or a company going out of business and taking all its content with it, it all spells bad news for those who exchanged money for goods not even worth the paper the license isn’t printed on.