Robot 6

2010: The year in piracy

If this was the year that publishers started taking legitimate digital comics seriously, it was also the year they started taking bootleg digital comics seriously. A group of American publishers banded together to take down, while American and Japanese publishers banded together to target bootleg manga scan sites. Six months later, is still down (and likely to stay that way, as the authorities have confiscated their servers), while the manga sites are back in business—in part, perhaps, because many are hosted overseas and thus out of the reach of American and Japanese authorities.


Kicking off a year in which piracy and creators’ rights took center stage, Colleen Doran reveals that former clients have released some of work to the Kindle and Google Books without her consent, and despite the fact that they have no right to do so.


Matthew Meylikhov of Multiversity Comics takes a look at two comics that may have been killed by piracy, Phonogram and SWORD, and meditates on how this could happen.

Bleach on the left, Incarnate on the right

When readers noticed a suspicious similarity between the art in Nick Simmons’s Incarnate and Tite Kubo’s Bleach, that was a case of plagiarism, not piracy, but it got people talking about the relationship between the two issues, especially when some folks noticed that Simmons was copying from volumes that haven’t been published in the U.S. yet. In the wake of that controversy, Melinda Beasi confessed her own sordid past as a reader of scanlations.


Self-styled vigilantes try to shut down bootleg manga sites by complaining to their hosts and advertisers that they are hosting child pornography. The effort is ultimately unsuccessful but does force the sites to purge some of their adult manga, which probably cut into traffic a bit.


The pirate site is shut down when the FBI serves a warrant on owner Gregory Hart and confiscates his servers; the feds later filed a motion to confiscate his domain names as well. The move was prompted by a complaint by a consortium of comics publishers that included DC, Marvel, Dark Horse Comics, Bongo Comics, and Archie Comics, among others. Hart, who has a checkered history, claimed that his operation, which posted scans of comics in a browser for people to read, was perfectly legal because he did not allow downloads, and he likened it to a public library.

Meanwhile, the bootleg manga site made Google’s list of the 1,000 most visited websites.


A group of American and Japanese manga publishers threatens legal action against scanlation and bootleg manga sites such as and MangaFox. A few days later, the site MangaHelpers announced that it would no longer carry illegal manga scans. While this is still true, Manga Helpers is currently carrying links to scans on other sites.

Digital Manga Publishing proposes a legal version of scanlation, in which publishers would allow fans to translate manga and post it online, and everyone would get a cut of the profits if the books sold.

MangaFox, the second most popular bootleg manga site, pulls its scans off the web. Blogger Kimberly Saunders points out that the scan sites may say they are taking down the scans, but they are still there if you know how to look. A quick check this morning revealed that bootleg manga, including Bleach and One Piece, is back on the front page of MangaFox.


The mighty announces that it is taking down all manga scans from its website. They do so at the beginning of August, but as of this morning, while loading incredibly slowly, is hosting the latest chapter of Naruto along with a host of other copyrighted manga.


Mark Waid and Sergio Aragones have sharp words about limitations on copyright versus the need for creators to make money, sparking a round of discussion on intellectual property rights.


Marvel hits Google with a round of takedown notices for sites that are hosting illegal scans of their comics, causing at least one site, Comic Invasion, to shut down altogether.


In one of the man-bites-dog stories of the year, sales of Steve Lieber and Jeff Parker’s Underground spike after the entire comic was posted on 4Chan. Rather than send the 4Chan folks a takedown notice, Lieber joined the discussion on the site and suggested people consider paying for the book if they enjoy it that much. CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland discussed the matter in depth with Lieber a few days later.

Story continues below


Colleen Doran paints a bleak picture of piracy from the creator’s point of view:

The minute this book is available, someone will take one copy and within 24 hours, that book will be available for free to anyone around the world who wants to read it. 3,000 hours of my life down the rabbit hole, with the frightening possibility that without a solid return on this investment, there will be no more major investments in future work.

Bloggers Johanna Draper Carlson (Comics Worth Reading) and Tim Geigner (Techdirt) push back, arguing that Doran isn’t doing a good job of engaging her audience and giving them reasons to visit her site (or at least, doesn’t get it).

The founders of the torrent-tracker site The Pirate Bay head to prison after an appeals court upholds their conviction for “assisting in making copyright content available.”


At the Content Protection Summit in LA, a Warner Brothers exec shares some of what the company has learned about online piracy from tracking digital downloads of movies: Pirates and pirate site users do pay for some of their media, people use download tracker sites as a way to find new movies to watch, and many users of such sites are outside the U.S.

Someone figures out how to put bootleg manga on the Kindle, bypassing the Amazon store by providing download files that people can add to their Kindle manually.



Techdirt’s hit piece is roundly debunked by Gail Simone. The writer not only lied through his teeth, he knows nothing about Doran, her work, or comics in general. He made the shit up, including the bit about Doran supporting COICA. She didn’t.

Clueless idiot that he is, he and Carlson can shelve their schadenfreude. It looks like Doran’s site is doing pretty well.

Fascinating roundup Brigid. I’m curious whether we’ll see any legal action in 2011 on the manga front- given it took them a full year to shut down HTMLcomics, I’m guessing if anything was started in terms of legal actions against manga sites, we’ll see those results over the summer [though I’m guessing costs might of held them back- guess we’ll wait and see].

Colleen’s blog is one of the best for this sort of stuff- young and new creators should do themselves a favour and read through her archives, not just for the piracy and creator’s rights knowledge but lots of solid industry perspective as well.

Gail’s take down of the TechDirt artcile, and the article’s authors lame attempts to get around it should be read by all- pretty good and refreshing stuff to read after the wobbly, jerky reactions we saw to Colleen’s article when it was published.

Anthem— Colleen did post some stuff on COICA on her site, though that article was written before COICA popped up, and published a good while after it had been initially written, which is where some of the confusion came in.

Brigid Alverson

January 3, 2011 at 5:52 pm

@Anthem: Thanks for the links. I didn’t realize they had gone another round. At the time, I was just struck by how forceful the pushback was against Colleen.

@Paploo I think the big problem the manga publishers face is that the big scan sites aren’t located in the U.S. or Japan—one of the top two is in Hong Kong and the other is in China, I believe. HTMLComics was pretty forcefully shut down, but the guys who operate the big scan sites are probably too far out of reach to be touched.

I agree that Colleen’s site is a worthy read, and I’m a big fan myself. She has a lot to say—and she herself went a couple of rounds with the HTMLComics guy, before he was shut down.

Piracy thrives where prices are too high. This is not a justification, just a fact.

The books published by the big 2 as well as indies, as well as the software industry, music, and movies are all pirated regularly. Even worse, they always will be. Get rid of Bit Torrent and a new method will appear

At the end of the day, entertainment is a consumable good. Where the price of the good is too high, people will look to other means of accrual, particularly where the attachment between the good and the consumer is by nature temporary (i.e. lasts for as long as it takes to read the book, watch the movie, listen to the album, or finish the video game.)

The testers and people who like to try things out without commitment would rather dabble at little or no cost. This will always happen. The true fans and lovers of the medium only do it when they feel that they do not have the means to procure their good of choice through legitimate means. While illegal and immoral, piracy today is often very convenient and easy and it is always foolish to underestimate the selfishness of the individual.

Piracy will always exist. At best it can be minimized. Price goods so that they are available to the majority of their intended market, and piracy will ebb. If you obliterate piracy, but keep prices high creators will still not be getting paid for their efforts and investments since the audience with the means and the will will stay small. Free markets always sort themselves out, just not always employing means the producers of goods would prefer.

LMAO… “Self-styled vigilantes”

I like how you linked to post but everything you wrote contradicts what it says.
It wasn’t about piracy or even lolicon really. It was about how Goggle turns a blind to their own TOS when revenue warrants it.

And I never contacted any web hosts because, for the umpteenth time, I didn’t want ANYTHING taken down EXCEPT the Google ads. Thus the title of the post “GOOGLE Sponsors Child Pornography.”

My only problem with piracy is how fast it eats up hard drive space on my computer.

Leave a Comment


Browse the Robot 6 Archives