Manga publishers are not meeting the market demand for translation; fans who’d like to get their hands on a particular title are forced either to learn Korean or Japanese or turn to underground sources whose reproduction of source texts is illegal under current copyright statutes. The language barrier discourages Asian publishers from printing English-language editions; yet surely they can’t be content to watch their copyright be disregarded by eager scanlators! Readers with legal perspective are invited to share their two cents on this dynamic literary situation.
Mr. Caxton – an online persona of veteran manga translator Toren Smith – argues in his blog The Dead Zone that scanslation is not a benign form of reader enthusiasm:
I know from talking to many folks in the industry that scanslations DO have a negative effect. Many books that are on the tipping point will never be legally published because of scanslations. This is not only unfair to the honest fans, it is robbery from the very creators the otaku profess to love.Although they scanlate at their own risk, this fan community is thriving and well-organized, with devoted Spanish-language and German counterparts. The German site Eyeshield21 uses a flow-chart to illustrate their scanlation process (translated here for the convenience of monoglot readers).
And yes, the neo-otaku (my neologism for the new generation of entitlement-minded and puritanistic manga and anime fans) have mutated into a truly awful bunch of people, which is part of the reason I dropped out of the biz. Why work twelve hours a day, seven days a week for such an audience?
The globe-spanning technology that allows the easy interchange of foreign language literature also enables piracy. Or should we consider scanlation a new form of samizdat, being fundamentally a response to the lack of access to literature? Though of course this lack is caused not by censorship but by the laggard pace of publishers in keeping up with their web-savvy readers. As with illegal music downloading, as bandwidth increases so does the tension between publishers and consumers ready to turn to alternative sources for their favorite manga. It’s my opinion that cease-and-desist orders and the threat of lawsuits are not the right way to resolve this burgeoning conflict. After all, authors and artists should be delighted to have readers so eager for the story that they to their own scan optimization, image retouching, research and translation! Let us see.
Turn to The Comics Journal for a discussion of the scanlation phenomenon from July 2005. Blumies who want to learn more can explore del.icio.us tags on the subject or can visit MangaBlog for a good introduction to all things manga.