A couple of weeks ago, Japanese publisher Shueisha requested that content pirates cease and desist the online distribution of Shueisha copyrighted material. Scanlations, baby. This quasi-informed/inspired the entry I posted last week about publishers and online content – and publishers needing to optimize the biz opportunities that online piracy presents.
Simon at Icarus makes a few poignant observations about the lack of incentive for publishers to build – and sustain – an online model for content distribution. It’s just not profitable. This in response to observations made at Sankaku Complex, who actually allege that publishers are more threatened by mangaka (creators) than pirates.
I’ve read a couple of comments that support Simon’s point about lack of incentive and the financial gamble that publishers face in creating an online distribution model for their IP/manga. Whether publishers are threatened by creators posting their content online themselves…? Regardless of who is doing it, my response is still “global reach” and the liquid quality scanlations have in permeating borders of all sorts, and how they’ve worked as an advertising vehicle for the mangaka and his/her series. Add to that the people who still want the books, they still buy the books, even though this stuff is online (all of it, and timely) and free.
Another thing that I’ve been considering is that manga starts with the story (in print form) but spins off into other media – i.e. merchandise (and video games and television series’ and feature length films). A license is more powerful the more widely it’s known. If I sound like I’m talking world domination here, I’m pretty sure I am. People get into the arts for the love of it – and for the love they receive from it. If writers wanted money, they’d be bankers – or James Patterson. The objective for creators is to have their message, their story, spread as far and wide as possible. Publishing is a means to that end – not an end in and of itself. (Unless for you, it is.)
But the more people familiar with your story, familiar with your work, in love with your work, the more apt they are to buy a hat/hoodie/lunchbox with your brand on it. Don’t have merchandise? My argument falls flat on its face.
However, most manga has affiliated merchandise – and I’m sure those licenses cost a substantial penny. And I’m pretty sure that the fandom out there is happy to shell out a few bucks for the perfect cup holder/pencil case/thermos with their favorite character on it.
I don’t know enough detail about the actual licensing and manufacturing process to push this too hard, but I do believe that it is a changing landscape out there for publishers and creators, and that copyright infringement isn’t going to to anywhere regardless of how many C&D letters go out. This is the unscrupulous and morally ambiguous side of me speaking, but at some point, we’re going to have to get beyond the ethical argument of scanlation and do something constructive to address the demand and need for manga in an online, on screen, format.
And this is not to say that books are going to fall by the wayside. I think books will be around forever. I’m hoping they’ll be around forever. My only point now is to encourage publishers to accept the fan energy that’s made itself visible online, and shape it into something that they can agree with morally, ethically, and profitably. As for creators posting their own work online, I’m sure there is a way to address this and keep both parties happy.
The demand is out there. Love is all you need.