Robot 6

Sailor Moon fans push back on manga piracy

Until Kodansha’s recent re-release of the first volume, Sailor Moon had been out of print in the United States for six years. What’s more, the original English-language edition suffered from many of the sins of early manga — bad translation, flipped pages, etc. Since it is, despite this, one of the most popular manga of all time, it’s not surprising that there are scanlations of it all over the web.

But when a Sailor Moon fan site linked to scans of Kodansha’s new edition, readers who clearly had no problem with posting scanlations were strongly critical of the site owner for linking to rips of an American edition. Here’s a comment that sums up much of the discussion:

This is so sad! The new books are really beautiful and it’s shame to rip them off this way. I understand why the Tokyopop translations were circulated because the copyright expired but this is very different. Really disappointing and I have to say I hope you remove them from your site.

But the person who posted the links, Elly, shoots right back:

LOL glad to see you’re grateful for the years of pirated materials you downloaded from this place.

You people are unbelievable. One day you’re fine with stealing copyrighted material, the next you aren’t because it’s an ~American release~. Guess what? International copyright applies to all the stuff you downloaded in Japanese too. Downloading scanlations makes you just as much of a criminal as downloading Kodansha’s release.

As for the ethics of pirating any work, foreign or domestic, she has a ready answer: “As for personal morals, mine aren’t confused. I’ve never supported copyrights.”

Oh, OK. If I’ve never supported the idea of personal property, can I have your car?

Back to the issue at hand: Many scanlators, especially old-school ones, have an ethical code that prohibits scanning licensed titles; they only translate work that isn’t available in English, and they take down the scans once news breaks that a book is licensed — before it is published. This allows them to justify copyright violation because it’s only theoretical — the copyright holder isn’t losing any sales — and, in fact, it builds an audience for the book, making it more likely that it will be licensed and sell well in the U.S. (Some publishers have made the opposite argument, that scanlations saturate the market and make a work less salable.) What’s not in dispute is that posting a work without authorization is a violation of the copyright.

Some people simply don’t care, and the big manga pirate sites routinely post rips of U.S. editions without even pretending they are scanlations. But in this case, the fans are enraged:

This smacks of utter arrogance to me. You knowingly put up scans of something for people to download FOR FREE, and you think you won’t get any legal repercussions for it?

Scanlations are one thing, scanning a legal and official release for “comparison” is another.

I hope you get a cease and desist. In fact, I hope the many emails Kodansha USA get about this issue help shut this illegal action down.

In fact, Elly remarks that since it’s a small site, the fans probably pose more of a risk than the publishers, which is kind of ironic, given the history of manga in the U.S.

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“Oh, OK. If I’ve never supported the idea of personal property, can I have your car?”

Bad argument. Nowhere does Elly state she is against the idea of personal property, she is merely against the idea of copyright. Or, in other words, she is not saying that actual, physical things have no value, but that the ideas behind their creation do not. Thus, if there were a way to cheaply and easily make an exact copy of her car she would presumably allow you to have one, as long as she was able to retain one for her own use.

Depending on your stance this may still be morally reprehensible but it as it doesn’t actually prevent the original owner from retaining/using the original object, you cannot equate it to physical theft, which does.

Don’s right. It’s fine to think of her stance as disgusting or idiotic (it totally is–things can’t work that way), but I’m tired of creators and fans alike trying to equate copyright to physical items.

Asking for her own personal car is a bit of a bad analogy. A better analogy would be taking the schematics of something someone spent time and money in designing/creating, make it yourself, and then undercut them in price when you sell it because you do not have to make up the expenses associated with the development of the product.

Brigid Alverson

October 6, 2011 at 10:04 am

Actually, my point was that not agreeing with a law doesn’t give you a license to disregard it.


They’re not confused, they’re nonexistant. It’s also a way to justify theft and dissemination of a work that the creator is supposed to be able to profit from in order to continue to make these things she enjoys so much.


Sure you can. She has stolen something and is giving it away. Unless she’s giving the creator a royalty payment, it’s a theft, plain and simple. People are not entitled to the material and she’s not some “Robin Hood” giving to the poor. She’s a thief and a scumbag that has to justify stealing from people who work very hard on this stuff. She is an entitled cow and her site should be shut down.

The two quotes that went missing^^:

“As for personal morals, mine aren’t confused. I’ve never supported copyrights.”


“Depending on your stance this may still be morally reprehensible but it as it doesn’t actually prevent the original owner from retaining/using the original object, you cannot equate it to physical theft, which does.”

Workerbee says it right. If she ain’t paying for the works its theft. Copyrights are there to protect the work. There have been a few cases of breaking copyright and outright plagarism of manga art work in the last few years.

Nevermind her views on copyrights – you should read her commentary on her site and others about why fans should support her translations over the official ones. And a fansite didn’t publish those scans, it was Elly herself (see here: You should give the first volume of their scanlation a read. There are so many translation inaccuracies and they have added non existent words everywhere. They have practically tried to shove their scanlations down fans’ throats. She also caused a lot of drama this summer with her fraudulent certificates (see here: claiming that she was more qualified than even Japanese people at translating things.

I wonder if Elly herself would be so happy, if, say, she wrote a 500 page novel, taking many years of painstaking research, lost sleep, blood, sweat and tears, and finally have it be published… only to find that people are then scanning and torrenting her creation, FOR FREE. Not one cent back to her.

Hypothetical, yes. But I doubt that if it ever happened she would be so happy as to not get any compensation for the amount of work she put in it. (Sure, translations are a lot of work, but at the end of the day, she didn’t write the manga. She didn’t put even a quarter as much work into translating it as Naoko Takeuchi did in creating the entire package)

The fact that she lied about scanning and torrenting those files (as the evidence in that sailormoonfansubs forum proves, thanks to Orb for linking them) shows one what sort of character she is – one that lives off deceit and drama.

Perhaps the perpetrator should lay off the dramatic Russian literature a bit, and focus on real world concerns, off the internet? ;)

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