Disclaimer: the author and this site does not advocate piracy. This article is made to create a discourse on the fight against copyright infringement and a possible solution.
There was a news article that outline the silent war against manga and webtoon piracy circulating since late 2020. Turns out that some sites are already closed down, a result of ongoing efforts since 2018 to stem the damage from financial losses amounting to trillions of won as a result of copyright theft and illegal distribution.
Are fansites and translators safe?
It looks like they are targeting sites that are profiting from the distribution however. So fan sites may be spared. But one thing’s for sure, it will change the consumption landscape of webtoons online.
It used to be that the scanlation of comics has brought awareness to one of the largest audience to date, but the illegal distribution is hurting sales and some companies are taking action to put a stop to it.
However, the likely scenario is that the war on piracy will only affect those distributing the licensed content. A lot of manhuas, after all are not for sale in western markets, or in fact any markets outside Korean.
Symbiotic relationship between piracy and creators
A lesser known fact however is that there is a symbiotic relationship between these sites and the creators. While I am by no means advocating the piracy of these comics, it is safe to say that these sites did play a role in the proliferation of the manga culture and helped raise awareness for these creations.
In the early days of the internet, for example, some artists chose not to pursue the distribution of their works provided that the distributor is not making any profit from it. Those were the days of limewire where content was easily shared between users.
Exposure alone wouldn’t rake in the profits however, so it’s up to the individual distributor whether such relationship is ultimately beneficial or not.
Is it piracy when it’s not for sale?
The conversation can be muddled because a lot of doujinshis, manhuas, mangas and comics are not even for sale overseas. So it is understandable that there’s confusion whether the financial loss is only exaggerated because some of these sales would not have happened in the first place as there’s no legal distributor for a particular artwork.
The question arise here, if it’s only sold in a few areas, do we really count it as a loss against creators who are not selling their pieces in some countries? I guess this dilemma could also partly explain why they are only going after the sites that are profiting.
Some sites are distributing only so that the material can reach a wider audience.
An uncertain future
No matter how much we rationalize it, there are licensed materials that are being distributed. Piracy has always been in existence since the dawn of the internet. It’s only a matter of prioritizing which form of piracy you’re going after and what you’re going to condemn.
This still places non profit sites in limbo, particularly those of small translators who are not making any money but are just translating for materials for hobby. For now, it appears we just have to wait and see what the future holds for comics.
The solution has been presented with how the music and the movie industry solved piracy. Through active campaign and ensuring ease of access with digital contents, services like netflix, spotify and apple music have made movies and music so easy to pay for that there’s no more reason to pirate them.
It is posited that the industry went through that route because stamping out piracy is nearly impossible anyway, and the real solution is to remove the root cause of piracy, which is the limited availability of the material to a given audience.
It’s not that people aren’t willing to pay, it’s that access, even to this day remains limited. So while the big companies are busy chasing after the illegal distributors, it might also be more prudent to create better services that removes the need for these sights.
And it all boils down to making sure that buying these comics becomes so easy that there’s no need or reason to pirate them. A case study have shown this to be effective. In fact, torrent sites lost popularity the moment that streaming services become cheaper and more accessible. Again, we need only to look at services like Netflix, hulu, spotify and apple music.
The world is changing. And once comic distributors go down this route, I would also believe that the need for piracy will evaporate. What do you think? What strategies do you think are viable for the industries to pursue in order to maintain profit and protect intellectual property?
Original Source but you’d need google translate to read the articles.