Manga Readers, Pros React to New Crackdown on Online Piracy

Hot on the heels of San Diego Comic-Con 2014, a consortium of Japanese manga publishers and anime production companies announced that they have joined forces to crack down on online piracy. Their first step: Unveiling a new website and video introducing fans to Manga-Anime Guardians Project.

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  1. The intro video features an array of clips from anime old and new, and manga series including Nana by Ai Yazawa, Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma and One Piece by Eiichiro Oda, with characters all smiling (and some crying) while saying "arigato" (thank you).  
  2. Their message to fans around the world was fairly simple: 
    "Thank you for loving these products. Thank you for having good taste in content. Thank you for protecting the future of Manga and Anime."
  3. The Manga-Anime Guardians website goes into a little more detail about who's involved, what their goals are for this project, and why they'll be cracking down on online piracy once again. And maybe this time they really, really mean it.
  4. According to the Manga-Anime Guardians website, "a huge number of Manga and Anime fans, over 50% of them in U.S. and 12% in Japan, are watching or reading pirated works."  The website goes on to say that the estimated damages to the Japanese anime and manga publishing industry is "as much as JPY 2 trillion (approximately US$ 20 billion)."

    While these figures cited are hard to confirm (or check the math), the Manga-Anime Guardians website goes on to assert that in the past fan translations were done out of love of anime/manga, or to gain attention/praise from other fans, but that today, "'pirates' are getting advertisement revenue, kick-bucks from cyberlockers, affiliations with E-commerce sites, or selling Apps.... They are exploiting Manga and Anime just for the sake of money."

    But is it a case of too little, too late? Lance Heiskell from FUNimation points out how long it has taken the Japanese government to take the threat of piracy seriously.
  5. Past efforts to shut down scanalation aggregator sites (websites that host a variety of manga and anime content translated by various fan groups, and supported by ad sales/affiliate links on their pages) have been tried in the past, only to see the sites pop up again later, usually under another domain/website name/URL. 

    Need an example? Scanlation aggregation site MangaHere removed several popular Shonen Jump titles from their site, but right on their front page is a banner that says "Want to read Naruto, Bleach, One Piece? Click here!" The link immediate redirects readers to a new site, MangaTown, which has all the Shonen Jump titles that are no longer available on MangaHere. And that's probably just the tip of the iceberg.
  6. Another problem is that many illegal sites look pretty slick and professional, such that casual fans don't realize that their free manga and anime fix is courtesy of an illegal/unauthorized website.
  7. Trying to eradicate pirate websites has been one long, and largely fruitless game of whack-a-mole for publishers, anime production companies, and anime/manga creators. The site goes on to say "Now is the time when everyone gets together to overcome this difficulty," but neglects to explain exactly WHAT they'll do "together" to address this long-standing problem. 
  8. There's some pretty inexcusably awful English grammar on this website. "Stop! Keep on stop piracy!" is just one glaring example of the kind of cringe-worthy copywriting that's posted throughout this barebones website.

    The other issue? It seems like there wasn't a lot of thought put into making the website easy to navigate and browse, and provide content that readers actually need to find "legal" versions of their favorite manga. Like what you ask? Well, like what countries the content is available in. What languages. What digital file formats (iOS, Kindle, Nook, etc.) All they've got up there is a bunch of cover art, and not too much else. If anything, it feels half-baked and rushed. Fans who checked it out on the first days it was live were underwhelmed (myself included).
  9. The Japanese Shonen Jump Facebook page also asked readers to share their comments and suggestions via Facebook:
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