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Required Reading: Plagiarism, Fanart, and Scanlations

Where do you draw the line?


After all the hubbub in the anime and manga universe over Nick Simmons' alleged plagiarism of Tite Kubo's manga Bleach, several different discussions started going around the manga blogging and tweeting world, including where to draw the lines on fanart and the irony of the fuhror over the plagiarism being brought to most peoples' attention via a scanlation community (a fact I failed to mention before, though I had intended to).

I'm not going to address every facet of the conversations here, because the point of this post is to get you guys reading something else! Specifically, Deb Aoki put together a huge post full of tweets and blog posts covering the entire conversation, from every angle.

I would also recommend reading Melinda Beasi's Confessions of a Former Scan Junkie, where she explains her own transition from scanlation fanatic to manga reviewer to, well, someone who's fed up with the justifications scanlation readers offer up.

I know plenty of you read scanlations regularly, and I couldn't honestly say that I haven't either. But do you think it's truly justifiable?     
 
And then there's the fanart discussion-- is it okay to make money off of fanart, a la sellers in Artist's Alley? It's hard enough to make money as an artist and fanart sells more easily, and besides which, fan-made doujinshi is common enough in Japan as well, but does that make it okay, or is it only okay sometimes, and when? 
 
Tough questions, folks-- I'm looking forward to your answers!
Destinyheroknighton Feb. 28, 2010 at 11 a.m.

That something to think about
Juuhachion Feb. 28, 2010 at 11:15 a.m.
Selling fanart or doujinshi is in my opionion okay, but selling TRACED ARTWORK is just wrong... That's basically selling someone else's drawings.
Sombreon Feb. 28, 2010 at 11:16 a.m.
Grey area, really. Some scanlations and such are necessary, just because otherwise, we wouldn't be able to get them.
 
For example, over on Giantbomb, a couple of us recently scanned and translated a persona 4 doujin, because otherwise, the great work might not have been seen.
 
I think it's okay, but making money is a grey area, personally. It does help get new blood into the industry, admittedly. And in a seemingly overabundant wave of "Moe" "Fanservice" and the so called "Big 3 " shounen at the moment, it's a welcome change for me.
Superevil225on Feb. 28, 2010 at 11:30 a.m.
Well, I personally think that making money off of fan art is ridiculous. But drawing and posting it is no biggie, in fact it puts the word of a certain anime out there. Selling plagiarized work is out of the question. In no way is it right. With scanlations, sometimes it's impossible to get the manga any other way, that's when it's ok, but if you can buy it at your local book store, the it's wrong.
FoxxFireArt moderator on Feb. 28, 2010 at 11:46 a.m.
I do justify scanlations. Such as in my case with Detective Conan. I face a publisher that refuses to publish the series in the country without dramatic edits that alter story and events. All the while they leave other series virtually alone.
 
Scanlations are the only way I can actually read the read story of the series. VIZ wont change things back, and I see no reason to have to pay for a flawed product while I wait for them to realize their mistake. Even if I was buying them and they did republish with the proper names eventually. That would mean I would have to buy the same volume twice. It's ridiculous for something they should be doing in the first place.
 
When VIZ made those changes they were basically telling me and the entire online audience that they didn't want us as readers. We are not the target audience that they wanted to publish for. It's not as if VIZ offers the ability to purchase unedited versions off their website.
 
I think FUNimation has a slightly better idea.They wanted people to stop pirating One Piece and other animes. Their solution was to give them the ability to watch those episodes on their website an hour after they air in Japan with subtitles.There don't seem to be making dramatic edits, and offer older episodes in both subtitled and dubbed formats. If only they would do the same thing for Detective Conan.
 
I read scanations of many other series such as Negima! and Fairy Tail just to stay current, but I also buy every volume when they are published in the US. Before my boycott on all VIZ products due to their butchering of the Detective Conan story. I was collecting Bleach, Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist, Evangelion, and One Piece. Not anymore.
 

Also, how can you claim that scanlations are unjustified when that latest feature for the site " Weekly Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach Manga Discussion" is completely dependent on the information that comes out of scanlation sites? Not to mention the lions share of information on the site profiles comes from scanlations of series.
Mikenon Feb. 28, 2010 at 1:03 p.m.
 As a scanlator myself, I can say that  what I do is definitely in a huge gray area, but there are certain times when it is justifiable to a certain extent. For example, the series I work on are all not officially available in English, so the projects we work on help fans of the series we work on have access to what they want to read. However, should a publisher come forward and announce that they are working on a series we are covering, I would have no qualms with discontinuing the project and requesting sites hosting the project to pull their links/take the series off their online viewer. I do heavily suggest trying to support the author in some way. For example, I import extra tankouban for the series that I scanlate despite having a digital copy and being quite horrible at reading Japanese because it would be a shame for me not to support what I like anyways. For series I read scanlations of that do get licensed, I do end up buying it once it's released in the United States.
 
Scanlating a licensed series is an even grayer area. There might be some points where it would be seen as okay to work on a project that is about 100 chapters behind in English, but that in and of itself isn't a proper excuse, though it does prove that we're all really impatient. For one, you're damaging the profits of the publisher working to translate it into the language you're scanlating it into, which may mean that the series popularity will plummet and then possibly cause the publisher to stop translating, hurting the revenue for the original Japanese publishers and the manga-ka as well. Of course, scanlations might hurt Japanese sales as well since a number of raws for bigger series like Bleach, Naruto an One Piece  are posted online before being scanlated, giving Japanese readers a chance to read scans of what they have readily available. Though, for most groups, the raws remain private and within the group itself and their release has a lesser chance of being read of by a Japanese person who probably doesn't have fluency in English [or French/Russian/Spanish/Portuguese/Tagalog/etc...]  I see it as more of a tool to help a series gain popularity so that a publisher can gauge whether they can profit from officially releasing the series in a certain language. Doujin scanlations are okay too, since there aren't really any professional Doujin circles outside of Japan, though support by actually buying the Doujin is better too. Of course I know that many people don't buy manga after reading scanlations -- there's the problem of scanlators not stopping their series once it is licensed or pulling a specific chapter/volume after the official release is available. Additionally, there's the problem of the fans and their tight purse strings nowadays. If they can get what they want for free, why should they go and buy it? It's the sad truth...
 
All in all, I know that what I do cannot be 100% justified and that I [and other scanlators] do deserve quite a large chunk of the heat we get from a number of people as well. However, I do stand by the fact that I have pride in my work and by the fact that it makes a series available to others who would otherwise never have had access to it. It's a shame that most people won't go out and support their favorite series after becoming fans through scanlations -- it really doesn't feel like you're a fan till you go out and actively support a series with your own hard-earned money. I would like to say that I want to see this change somewhere down the line -- possibly having official publishers provide official online reading sort of how anime has started to enter the age of simulcasts/official streaming sites. Of course, old habits die hard and it will take more than just that to convert "scanlation purists" into full-on supporters.
metalsnakezeroon Feb. 28, 2010 at 3:31 p.m.
@Juuhachi said:
" Selling fanart or doujinshi is in my opionion okay, but selling TRACED ARTWORK is just wrong... That's basically selling someone else's drawings. "
Agree
 
Anyway, my opinion on this subject is a bit grey since I'll never know of Naruto or One Piece without someone scanlation of it. It all comes down to where the money is going and is it going to the right place.
Papasanon Feb. 28, 2010 at 3:50 p.m.

I would love to open a manga cafe, but I would have to print out pages from scanlations to glue into the licensed manga to replace the edited crap! Both legal and illegal, but at least it would be accurate.  
 
I want to have my cake and eat it too, but that would require an endless supply of cake, and I would weigh several thousand tons. 
 
I think what I'm trying to say is that there is no perfect system. Accept the edits, or learn to read Japanese, or rip off the industry by using scanlations. 
 
People are gonna get their fix, regardless.
Count_Alucardon Feb. 28, 2010 at 4:41 p.m.

Saw this on another site.
DK1105on Feb. 28, 2010 at 7:03 p.m.
I have my own system I use regrading fansubs and scanalations.  I wont buy anything any more without watching a fansub/streaming online.  Same goes for manga.  I have been burned to many times when I bought something that turned out to be total crap.  If I do like something I will then buy it.  Even after I buy something I tend to still watch the fansub over the legit DVD because fansubs tend to be a more literal translation while the legitimate release is more of a localization.  Granted that both fansub and legitimate releases vairy widely in quality.  My knowledge of Japanese is good enough to tell how well and translation has been done but not well enough to translate myself.  One of my biggest annoyances is when someones name can clearly be heard in the dialogue but shows up no where in the subtitles.  This annoys me because Im a big fan of direct translation.
 
Edit:  I forgot to mention titles that will likely never get released.  An example of this is I'm a big fan of the manga Over Rev! (smiler to Initial D) but it came out in the late 90's and I highly doubt it will ever be released in English.  I would gladly buy it if I could.
Addfwynon Feb. 28, 2010 at 7:10 p.m.
Fanart:  I'm totally okay with, if it's original art based on another artist's work.  Copying/tracing other'e people's work is a nono. 
 
Scanlations:  Tougher category.  When I am living in Japan, I almost always buy manga from my local shop.  It's very cheap (Book-Off for the win) and I like supporting them.  In the US, it's very expensive to import stuff usually (especially when you can burn through a volume in less than an hour) and I don't always like the localization that US does.   If there isn't a localization, importing is so expensive that i don't feel bad about reading scans.  If there IS a localization, I either wait til I go to Japan or I just buy the localization. 
 
I'll sometimes use them as like a 'try-before-you-buy'.  If I like the series, I like owning it and I'll go out and buy it, always. 
 
So for me, scans are like a rental, or a way to get content I cannot otherwise get.  But I won't use it in lieu of buying things.

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