I tweeted about this earlier, but since both Twitter and Tweetdeck are being unreliable pieces of junk (trying to access the MT online editor in Chrome isn't much better; the rich-text editor doesn't even come up when I select it from the dropdown ostensibly because something refused to finish loading; the concept of a "robust web application" grows ever more idiotic with each passing fail) ... here we go in detail.
An international coalition of Japanese and American-based manga publishers have joined together to combat what they call the “rampant and growing problem” of scanlations, the practice of posting scanned and translated editions of Japanese comics online without permission of the copyright holders. The group is threatening legal action against 30 scanlation sites.
Cue the inevitable flailing and screaming, plus various misguided comparisons between the music industry (discussion of which has been hopelessly muddied by so many levels of misplaced indignation and moral posturing).
First, I have zero sympathy for people who post scans of existing licensed titles (or later volumes of same) and get yelled at for doing so. I do have sympathy for those who fan-translate unlicensed titles, and who remove their work when licensed editions become available. I've read far too many of those exact things to not be sympathetic.
That said, I've begun thinking it might be at least as productive to write about the best untranslated manga out there and stump for its licensing whenever possible, rather than do an end run around conventional licensing and release it samizdat-style.
I don't expect a lot of people to agree with me on this point. No, reading someone else's notes about a comic is not the same as reading it for yourself. But I feel increasingly less comfortable with assuring myself that those reading those things are just as ethical as the ones producing them, when I have plenty of evidence they're not.
I do agree that yes, the way manga is licensed can be terribly hidebound. To that end, I'd like to see more work done to make fans understand why things work the way they do — that it is simply not possible to give them everything. I have myself entertained a number of what amount to Utopian themes for accelerating the licensing and publication of titles that have less-than-stellar commercial prospects — e.g., pay-as-you-go, fan-funding, that sort of thing. I doubt those plans can work, simply because the amount of money that needs to be spent upfront to bring any title to the table, and the resistance that might be encountered from Japan over something that unorthodox.
So what would work? Well, I'd bet that once Japanese publishers start getting more on the ball about digital distribution (which is already gaining momentum), it might be that much easier to see manga directly cross-licensed for the U.S. in that form. That wouldn't reduce the time needed to translate and edit it (that's always going to be a bottleneck), but it would be one less roadblock. But I know better at this point than to assume there's going to be any magic bullet solution.