The manga publishers who have banded together to form an anti-piracy group have scored a direct hit on one of the biggest manga scanlation sites: A MangaFox administrator announced in a forum thread that they have pulled a number of manga, and a list of deleted titles shows they are mostly from Viz Media and include the powerhouse series Naruto, Bleach and One Piece. MangaFox is one of the sites that hosts scanlations of the most recent chapters of those series, so this is quite a blow to them; fickle readers, however, will be able to find them, at least for now, on other sites.
Deb Aoki, who broke this story at About.com, notes that Viz wasn't the only protester: Apparently a number of scanlation groups have asked for their work to be pulled as well, presumably because they are worried about the publishers' reactions. Interestingly, some of the scanlators had already requested that their work not be reposted on others' sites, and now they are forcefully restating their requests. Since the original scanlations are themselves copyright infringements (although on a smaller scale, and more benign, than MangaFox), the whole situation reeks of irony.
UPDATE: Deb talked to a former MangaFox staffer who revealed that many senior staff have retired from the site, due not only to the anti-piracy coalition but also to some dissatisfaction with the parent company. Click the link above and scroll down for the conversation.
Reader reactions to the removal of the licensed series run the usual gamut from resignation to indignation, claims that the scanlators were better translators than the pros, and calls for boycotts. Followers of the manga industry may find this comment particularly amusing:
If they really wanted to do something, why didn't they do it 20 years ago? I get it, they were too busy smoking the money that was rolling in to not notice the scanlations online. They just kept that as a stand by so when sales fall down, instead of taking the blame themselves for poor marketing statagies, or invoking to expand manga sales through the internet themselves, they can use it as a scape goat. This is serioulsy turning into some real bs here.
Well, yes, but perhaps not in the way the commenter intended. Because the fat-cat publishers were looking for some college students to take the hit for their incompetence in not providing free online manga to the world. Get out from under the wheels of my limo, peasant!
On the other hand, this was kind of sad:
This place gave me virus twice but I kept through for it.Now it just lost everything I want deleting most of my favorite mangas.
and this one was almost poetic:
Thank you mangafox.com for being there for me, making me laugh, or cry when needed...For easing my burden, having you to go to whereelse I needed money.Is this goodbye?
And there are the calls to fight the shadowy forces of authoritariansim and imperialism:
with the whole google issue and now this... it is looking very likely now that someone is trying very hard from the shadows to destroy this site, whole communities of manga fans gone in an instant.....may we prepare a tracker and a lynching mob and track this scoundrel down???
and even worse, i live in Australia, many readers are from taiwan or the philipines.... AMERICAN EGOCENTRICISM SHOULD NOT REACH US.......it's terrible that we have to be subject to america's interpretation of the law
Several commenters make some good points; some are from countries that don't have a lot of licensed manga or live far from the nearest bookstore. And a number of fans displayed a surprising awareness that, yes, they were illegally reading unauthorized manga scans, and that costs the publishers money, so maybe they should just buy a few volumes.
And then there are those who feel any argument about economics is enhanced by hitting the capslock key:
I HAVE MORE THAN 100 VOLUMES OF DIFFERENT MANGA. I BEGAN READING ALL OF THEM ONLINE.
ALL OF THEM.
THAT IS 800+ DOLLARS YOU MADE BECAUSE I CAME TO THIS SITE AND READ SCANSLATED MANGA. 800+. AND I BUY MERCHANDISE. BECAUSE I READ IT ON HERE.
It is the WORST idea ever not to just turn a blind eye to sites like this. THESE SITES BRING YOU MONEY! Sure we don't pay for the manga when it's on here, but people like me buy the volumes when they come out in english, buy the anime dvds when they come out in english, buy the figures/merch of that manga. THAT IS MONEY. MONEY THAT YOU ARE MAKING. BECAUSE PEOPLE FIND MANGA THEY LIKE HERE.
I swear to god. If OneManga removed KHR too, I'm going to smack someone.
By the way, here's a summary of the proposed business model:
It's not our fault that scanlators take a week to do work for free, that takes jackholes who are being paid 6 months to a year to finish.
You want me to pay for manga? How's about you up the ante and produce quality uncensored work that rivals what the fans create, do it at the same speed or in the same range, and chop the price down to 5$ instead of 10$.
Of course, Digital Manga is talking about doing just that; the question is whether fans such as this will actually be willing to pay. The secret to MangaFox's success is that they post other people's work online without paying for it; it's as if you could run a store without ever spending a dime on inventory.
But for those who adamantly stand up for the right of fans to read manga online versus the right of publishers to publish and sell manga, take heart: PirateKingLuffy has formed a a Support Online Manga Reading group on MangaFox. It's up to ten members so far; presumably, everyone else has left the room and headed to Onemanga.com, which as of this morning hadn't pulled any titles.