Yep, you’ve read that right, scanlation. It might be a foreign term for some people but you’ve seen or read manga on one of the many sites that the Google searches bring you at one point or another. Those mangas are called “scanlations manga.” It’s generally defined as the act of translating, cleaning and typesetting of a manga with or without the permission of the publishers or the author.
When you read the “without” line, you probably think ‘wait, that’s illegal’. You’re probably right but life with its many twists and turns and bends and straights, makes things not as simple as it may seem. Why, you may ask. Isn’t scanlation the same as piracy and you wouldn’t download a car would you?
Again, you’re probably right. Congrats, here’s a cake for you. THE CAKE IS A LIE. Whoa, my crazy other self pops its nasty head for a bit there, ignore him. However, there are a couple of sides to the story that I’m going to touch on regarding scanlations and the situations surrounding it. Here we go.
Let’s kick things off with the bad news first. Obviously scanlations are illegal and you probably don’t wanna go anywhere near it. I mean it’s a blatant copyright infringement. Some might argue that since it’s translated and the words have all changed that it probably falls under fair use because it’s transformative enough of the source material.
Now, I’m no lawyer and I seek legal advice to my pet goldfish. But I feel that since manga is 70% images and 30% text, if you only change the text then more than half of it is still not changed. Not to mention it’s basically the same text just in a different language. I don’t think it’s fair use at all and my pet goldfish also agreed.
So, we’ve established so far that scanlations are illegal and no matter how you argue, it’s still some form of digital piracy. Yet, it’s still floating around on the internet. That’s because scanlations have something that people want or need. The first example is scanlations used for trial reads. Because buying a manga is sometimes a costly expenditure, some people want to buy a certain manga but they don’t know if the manga they’re buying is worth it so they use scanlations to read a couple of chapters. After that, they’ll decide whether to buy it or not.
The second use is frankly saddening for people who can’t afford to buy manga but since they’re a such diehard otaku, willingly or not, scanlations are going to be their saviour. Mostly happened in otakus who are in high school or middle school because their pocket money is used up for other purposes. Of course, it happens in the older age range too. It’s just one of those things in life.
With such an abstract legal status of scanlations some people will, unfortunately, do some scummy stuff. People who took others’ kindness and money. Claiming authors’ work as their own. Some despicable stuff really. While the authors are barely getting any money from their work since it’s a widely established fact that most authors can’t survive purely on manga.
Yet some scanlation groups (because it’s a daunting task to do alone, it’s mostly done with a couple of people in a group but lone wolf exists too) will constantly ask for donations and money to continue scanlating people’s favorite manga. The ‘big two’ korean scanlation groups are notorious for this act. Manga scanlation groups are no exception.
All things said and done, scanlations is something that I’ve personally experienced and even practised. Now scanlations is illegal, I’m not trying to persuade you into thinking otherwise. What I’m trying to give you is the other side of the story, the ugly truths surrounding scanlations.
In my personal opinion, scanlations and in some parts digital piracy too will always exist as long as there are still people who can’t put bread in their mouth. As Gabe Newell, one of the founders of Valve, said in a famous quote “The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting anti-piracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.”
What’s your thought on scanlations? Tell me in the comments below or join the Discord channel (https://discord.gg/msj)