Manga Publishers Fight Online Piracy

The battle continues to wage on between content creators and for-profit websites that host countless amounts of pirated music, movies, and books. A coalition of Japanese and American manga publishers have come together to fight what they see as rampant piracy of their comics over the internet. According to Publishers Weekly, the 36-member group came together in response to the transformation of what was once a fan based movement to swap the Japanese comics among friends to the growth of “heavily trafficked, for-profit Web sites that host thousands of pirated manga editions and offer them for free to readers.”

After years of declining revenue sales due to the growth of the scanlation sites, the comic publishers are finally taking steps to combat the illegal sites and they are well within their right to do so. Like many battles dealing with online infringement, this goes far beyond the notion of a comic fan simply sharing a copy of a comic to a friend who may not have access to it. These aggregator websites, visited by millions of people, operate with an entire business model based on advertisement revenue and membership dues, profiting off the creation of others without due compensation to those rights holders. This not only harms the creative industries economically but also the incentive to create the comics or music, or movies we have grown to value. When creators and innovators face the risk of having their property effectively expropriated, nobody wins.

This news comes on the heels of the Limewire decision, where U.S. District Judge Kimba Woods ruled that the website could be held liable for copyright infringement. As a result of that decision, Limewire could be held liable for hundreds of millions to a billion dollars in damages.

For further reading on the manga issue, Patrick Ross at the Copyright Alliance has a great blog post on the move by manga publishers, breaking down how this latest push by copyright holders is another swipe at the arguments of the “free culture” movement and specifically, Lawrence Lessig, who used in his book, “Free Culture,” the manga publishers previous lack of aggressive pursuit of copyright violators as an example of copyright theft being accepted.