One of our intentions with this blog is not only to entertain our readers, but to inform and educate them as well. As many are likely aware, one of the biggest issues we face in the manga industry is piracy. In this post, I would like to talk about what piracy is, why it happens, and why we should support the artists as much as we can.
Please note: This post is based on online research and consultation with other Renta! employees. I am not a legal expert in anyway and none of the information provided in here should be taken as definitive legal advice. Please consult with a proper legal professional regarding any questions, concerns or doubts you may have about piracy and/or copyright infringement.
That said, let’s start with discussing what piracy is. Online piracy was traditionally used to refer to acts of copyright infringement intentionally committed for financial gain. With the spread of the file-sharing services, piracy (intentional or otherwise) has come to include acts of copyright infringement for both monetary and non-monetary gain.
Some may be wondering, but what is copyright? Good question. Copyright is a legal right that grants the creator of an original work the exclusive right to distribute and use work as they see fit. It is a right that exists to protect intellectual property. Although establishing that copyright has been infringed can prove difficult in the court of law, it is not impossible with sufficient proof. Once copyright has been determined infringed, the penalties for the infringing party are extremely severe. I will discuss these momentarily. The point is this: it is important that we always obtain the proper permission from the author(s) and/or copyright holder(s) before distributing the work in question.
So, why is piracy so widespread with manga? Three possible reasons come to mind.
- Pricing. I’ve recently been helping manage our English-language Facebook page. This means access to our Facebook ads and the comments left on them. I cannot begin to tell you how often someone comments, “I wish this were free!” or “Can someone tell me where I can get this for free?” Our goal is to make manga available at the most affordable price for everyone. However, we do not hold the right to determine the price for the manga on our site–the publishers do. We cannot change the price of our manga as the users demand so easily. Even when we do, it is either at the request of the publishers or for limited-time promotions and offers after obtaining the publisher’s permission to do so. We have legally binding contracts with each publisher and therefore must sell the manga at the price they have set.
- Unavailability. Traditionally, this was a question of the content being unavailable in English. A scanlator who had access to the original Japanese manga would clean up the Japanese, translate it into English, and put it out online for everyone to enjoy. This still proves to be a problem as some of the content our users wish to read may not be legally available in English for a number of reasons. We empathize with this and strive to provide the manga our users wish to read, but again, we are bound by certain constraints such as contracts, the publisher’s and/or author’s demands, and speed at which the content can be translated, lettered and released on our site.
Now, what are the consequences for piracy?
Once it’s been determined that copyright has been infringed, a letter is delivered to the website in question asking the content to be immediately removed. If it is not removed, the service provider would then be contacted regarding the immediate blockage of access to and/or removal of the content and/or website in question. Generally, the issue would be resolved at this point, so no further action would be required.
However, in some cases, it may be deemed appropriate to pursue legal action. The consequences can vary depending on the copyright laws of the infringing and/or infringed parties’ countries. In the United States, for example, if the infringement is determined to be willful, a maximum of $150,000 (USD) is fined to the infringing party. More recently, however, laws have been passed that disregard willful infringement and impose a maximum sentence of 5-years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000 (USD).
The bottom line is this: support the artists. They’ve poured themselves into creating the best work they can and make a living from doing so. Engaging in piracy means robbing them of a hard-earned paycheck and ultimately robbing the world of their manga in the future because they will not longer be able to make a living from producing it. We want to continue bringing you the best English-language manga available online, so please, help us to do so by supporting the artists!