The announcement of a joint coalition between American and Japanese publishers targeting illegal online manga “scanlations” has spurred a flurry of activity on two major aggregator sites. Since the announcement three weeks ago, MangaFox, one of the primary aggregators of illegal manga scans, has pulled over 330 titles—a large number of them Viz Media properties—from their home page. Likewise, OneManga, a scanlation aggregator that has a reported over a million visitors per month to their site, also pulled titles from their manga list.
Although Viz declined to comment on the removals, comments and reports on a variety of blogs focused on manga and the scanlation community have reported some disruption on the aggregator sites. Indeed the removals of some illegally scanned material is reported to have come at the request of scanlators themselves—the volunteer manga fans who translate and post scanlations—who fear legal repercussions for their acts.
Kurt Hassler, publishing director of Yen Press, Hachette’s manga and graphic novel imprint, a member of the anti-scanlation alliance, told PWCW he has just returned from Japan where he had discussions on the topic with his Japanese partners. “I can tell you that the coalition is pleased with some of the responsible movement we have seen although it is neither as complete nor as comprehensive as we would like,” Hassler said. “The Japanese version of the formal announcement of the coalition went out last week, so we'll just have to wait and see where our next steps take us from here.”
Hassler makes an important point. Despite the fact that some material has been taken down, removals are likely to be largely cosmetic as visitors and fans continue to be able to access series via RSS subscriptions or mobile phone applications. Observers have also noticed that since pulling the titles, a few of the illegal scans have gone back up on the aggregator sites. Osamu Tezuka’s MW, published by Vertical, is one example of licensed material pulled from MangaFox but relisted.
“They literally scanned our edition,” Vertical marketing director Ed Chavez told PWCW. “That effects people here; our translators, editors, designers. They’re being exploited.”
MangaFox was also confronted back in April by Google for allegedly hosting images said to resemble child pornography. Google dropped the site from its search results, but has since relisted the site. CEO of the company is not pleased with the attention and is also said to have contacted one blogger, asking why other aggregators and scanlation sites aren’t receiving the same criticism.
OneManga continues to host licensed material such as Dengeki Daisy, forthcoming from Viz Media this summer, as well as Viz Media’s hit vampire series, Vampire Knight. Other scanlation sites, including MangaHead and MangaStream, continue to host copyrighted material illegally.
The international alliance was formed as a response to scanlations—illegally scanned and translated manga that are then uploaded onto the Internet—and specifically targets scanlation aggregators who advertise on their sites and collect revenue for the pirated content.
Unfortunately, while some smaller scanlation organizations have pulled their content, the viral nature of the Internet makes it difficult to control material. Indeed, anyone who has downloaded a manga scan can upload it onto any of the other aggregator sites. This happened with the now defunct scanlation group, Omanga, who pulled their scans for the GANTZ series once it was licensed for the U.S. market. Their scans have since appeared on the OneManga site.