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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:

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Comics A.M. | New lead in Michael George case; SLG’s digital priority

Legal

Legal | Authorities in Clinton Township, Michigan, tracked down two men mentioned in police reports by comics retailer Michael George after his wife’s 1990 murder who were never questioned. The judge gave police 48 hours to locate and question them. One of the men passed away, while the other, John Fox, will be questioned Friday about a family car that is similar to one seen near the comic book store where Barbara George was killed. [Detroit Free Press]

Digital comics | Heidi MacDonald talks to SLG Publisher Dan Vado about plans to release the company’s serialized comics digitally rather than in print. Vado reveals SLG’s popular Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez will be released in digital format. [The Beat]

Comics | Lisa Fortuner notes that this week’s Green Lantern Corps #1 story shares a title with a Nazi propaganda film: “That’s a beheading, followed by cutting a woman in half, followed by the loss of a finger, followed by a reference to an infamous Leni Riefenstahl film. For those of you who are new to the Internet and it’s population of history snobs, Leni Riefenstahl was an early 20th Century pioneer who made inroads for women in the field of Evil. She did a Nazi propaganda film called ‘Triumph of the Will’ which to this day is still inspiring horror of authoritarian power in film classes and museums. It is probably not the best choice of titles for a book where the main heroes are fueled by willpower.” [Written World]

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comiXology glitch wasn’t source of pirated Justice League #1

From Justice League #1

ComiXology has confirmed it accidentally allowed a few users to purchase Justice League #1 on Monday and Tuesday, before the issue’s print or digital release. However, it appears the digital edition was not the source of pirated copies uploaded online as much as six hours before the official launch of DC Comics’ new flagship title.

While some commenters at Robot 6 and elsewhere on Tuesday pointed a finger at comiXology, Bleeding Cool conducted a side-by-side comparison of the digital edition and the pirated copy, and concluded that the source of the bootleg was the print version, which was slightly different from the digital release. ComiXology CEO David Steinberger had no explanation for the variation between print and digital editions, but he did say users who bought the comic Wednesday will be offered an update today to make the digital match the print copy. (If there were a way to re-sell digital comics, there would doubtless already be a robust market for the flawed early variant copy.)

Steinberger confirmed this morning to Robot 6 that three users purchased the comic early from comiXology, and that he had sent them the following e-mail:

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Pirates get the jump on Justice League #1

The message posted at comiXology

Why are we not surprised? The digital edition of Justice League #1 goes live today at 2 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m. Pacific), but illegal downloads of the issue are percolating merrily away all over the Internet. The Pirate Bay shows a copy being uploaded at 4:10 a.m. GMT — that’s 11:10 p.m. ET Tuesday, 50 minutes before the print edition officially went on sale — and some other file-sharing sites have even earlier times.

As of 6:30 this morning, The Pirate Bay file had 210 seeders (people who have downloaded the file and are offering it to others to upload) and 23 leechers (people who are just downloading).

DC Comics has two things to worry about here. The first is that the first comic of the publisher’s biggest event in decades was available illegally more than 14 hours before the legitimate digital release, which raises the question of why the company is holding the digital release till so late in the day. To protect comics shops? Well, that failed. There will always be people who use illegal downloads because they’re free, but what DC needs to worry about is people who would pay for a legitimate download but grabbed the torrent first because it was up when they woke up this morning, and they could read the comic over their coffee. If you’re going to do digital, dammit, do it right.

The other problem is the response to the comic itself in the comment thread at The Pirate Bay, which was pretty negative. Although maybe that’s just a pirate-site thing, with people treating it with contempt because they got it for free, Comic Book Resources reviewer Greg McElhatton was also pretty lukewarm toward the debut issue.


Comics A.M. | Superheroes’ big-screen struggle for diversity; Z-Cult FM returns

Green Lantern

Movies | National Public Radio commentator John Ridley critiques Hollywood for being even less diverse than the Big Two when it comes to diversity in lead characters, and demolishes their blame-the-audience theory that white people won’t go to see a movie with a black lead by pointing to a study by Indiana University professor Andrew Weaver: “Weaver found that white audiences tended to be racially selective with regard to romantic movies, but not necessarily when it came to other genres. So, sorry, Hollywood. You can’t blame it on the ticket buyers.” [NPR]

Piracy | Comic-book torrent tracker Z-Cult FM, which was threatened with legal action by Marvel in 2007 and eventually shut down in 2009, has re-opened its virtual doors. [Facebook]

Creators | Becky Cloonan talks about the joys and the hardships of being a full-time comics creator: “Comics are hard work. Comics are relentless. Comics will break your heart. Comics are monetarily unsatisfying. Comics don’t offer much in terms of fortune and glory, but comics will give you complete freedom to tell the stories you want to tell, in ways unlike any other medium. Comics will pick you up after it knocks you down. Comics will dust you off and tell you it loves you. And you will look into its eyes and know it’s true, that you love comics back.” [Becky Cloonan: Comics or STFU]

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Ken Akamatsu invites downloaders to do penance for their sins

Image from Akamatsu's announcement, presumably of a guilty party

It’s Lent, the time of penance and atonement, and manga creator Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina, Negima) is inviting file-sharers to purify their purloined manga. Anime News Network has helpfully translated his message of hope, which was originally posted in Japanese.

Akamatsu has been experimenting with online manga, and last year he launched a Japanese comics site called J-Comi that features out-of-print manga, including his own Love Hina. Akamatsu has gotten some of the big publishers to play along, but in Japan, the creators often hold the digital rights and they get to call the shots.

Now he has come up with an interesting twist that combines his business plan with private expiation of guilt: He asks readers who have downloaded manga illegally through file-sharing services such as Winny to forward the files to him. (Reassuringly, he says, “everyone has done this at least once.”) Interestingly, he also asks people who merely know of such files to go ahead and download them and send them to him. Akamatsu and his crew will contact the creators, and if they get the go-ahead, insert ads and post the files on J-Comi. All the ad revenue will go directly to the creator, J-Comi gets the benefit of the added content, and the downloader stop feeling guilty and start sleeping better.

If the creators don’t choose to play along, of course, nothing will change:

“However, if the creators do not give their OK, the files will be abandoned and the files will continue to drift through hell (Winny). Perhaps forever….”

Has pirated manga become ‘property of the internet’?

Akamatsu's legit manga download site

A blog called Welcome Datacomp has translated a discussion of manga piracy between manga creators Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina, Negima), Minako Uchida, and Kazumi Tojo that took place on the Japanese social media site Togetter about the prevalence of scanned and fan-translated manga on the internet. Akamatsu is experimenting with his own free manga site, but even so, he sounds pessimistic: “Am I too late? I get the feeling that [my project to release free manga PDFs] won’t be enough at this point.” He goes on to say

Hasn’t illegally scanned manga, propagated so casually like this, fallen into the category of “property of the Internet”? You won’t be able to eliminate it. The only thing we can do at this point is [launch our own free websites with the] “advertising model”. (Because charging people would be difficult.)

The most recent illegal scans are very high quality, and the translations are exceedingly accurate. (^^;) If there’s no respect for original authors on the net, then obviously the official versions will lose out.

The creators express dismay that people who would not shoplift from a physical store have no compunction about reading pirated manga; as Tojo says, “It seems like people will pay for things they can touch like vegetables, but they think it’s a waste to pay for intangible data.”

It seems like the creators are talking about both scans in Japanese, which are read locally, and fan-translated manga for other markets; they cite one example of a publisher being told by fans to change a name to the one selected by a scanlator. And there’s an interesting side discussion on the decline of the cell phone, which was once a popular platform for yaoi and erotic manga. As people switch to smart phones, the options dwindle: Apple doesn’t allow adult manga in the iTunes store, and Akamatsu says Kindle doesn’t either (I’m not so sure about that), but the fans reassure him that Android allows it, making that the platform of choice for ero manga fans.


Comics A.M. | Spider-Man producer fires back; more from Gareb Shamus

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | Michael Coehl, lead producer of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has responded to the thrashing the $65-million production received this week from some of the country’s top theater critics. The Julie Taymor-directed show, which finally opens on March 15,  was labeled by The New York Times and The Washington post as one of the worst musicals in Broadway history. “Any of the people who review the show and say it has no redeeming value are just not legitimate reviewers, period,” Coehl told Entertainment Weekly. [PopWatch]

Publishing | Wizard World CEO Gareb Shamus gives another interview about the abrupt closing of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, his expanding stable of regional conventions, plans for a weekly online magazine, and the state of the industry: “The market’s changed. When I started 20 years ago, I was pioneering in the publishing world in terms of creating a product that got people excited about being involved in the comic book and toy and other markets, and we could do a lot of really cool and innovative things. Unfortunately right now being involved in the print world is very stifling, in terms of being able to leverage your content and your media and your access to the world out there.” Meanwhile, Tom Spurgeon and Martin Wisse comment on Shamus’ previous interview, which is pretty much the same as the new one. [ICv2.com]

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Comics A.M. | Essex County voted off Canada Reads, NYCC tickets on sale

Essex County, Vol. 1

Awards | Jeff Lemire’s acclaimed Essex County was the first finalist eliminated Monday in the Canada Reads literary debates to select the essential Canadian novel of the decade. Despite a defense by musician Sara Quin, the graphic novel was voted down by the five-person celebrity panel after the first hour, not because of content but because of format: Four of the judges just couldn’t get past Essex County‘s “lack of words.” This year marked the first time that a graphic novel had been a finalist for the prestigious Canada Reads program.

“Well, I was the first book voted off of the Canada Reads competition today, and I’ll admit that it stings a bit more than I thought it would,” Lemire wrote on his blog. “But, in the end I am really proud of the accomplishment of making it to the final 5. It’s a great sign for the future of graphic novels in this country, and their continued acceptance mainstream literary circles on a whole.” [Afterword, CBC News]

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Comics A.M. | Bad January for direct market; online piracy helps anime sales?

Fantastic Four #587

Publishing | Direct-market sales plummeted last month, down nearly 23 percent in units and more than 20 percent in dollars from January 2010.  Marvel’s heavily promoted Fantastic Four #587 was, unsurprisingly, the top-selling comic, while Vertigo’s Jack of Fables, Vol. 8, led the graphic novel list. Retailer news and analysis site ICv2.com puts part of the blame for the year-over-year decline on the weather. However, John Jackson Miller notes that Diamond Comic Distributors shipped 23 percent fewer comics last month — 555 different comics and trades (including variants), compared to 683 in January 2010. “This is more than can be explained by the holiday difference; this would appear to simply be the old pattern of publishers holding fire at this time of year and releasing fewer items,” Miller writes. “Some years, that effect is more in evidence than others; this could potentially be one of the bigger years for this kind of positioning.” [ICv2.com, The Comichron]

Digital piracy | A Japanese government think tank has released a study that concludes online piracy of anime series actually increases sales of DVDs. “One point of critique based on the main conclusions of the study, is that the observed relation only appears to be correlational,” TorrentFreak cautions. “This may mean that the results could in part be influenced by significant third variables such as promotion and overall popularity. Since the report is only available in Japanese we were unable to confirm whether this was taken into account.” [TorrentFreak]

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Comics A.M. | Borders bankruptcy looms; ‘Mystery Men’ trademark issues?

Borders

Retailing | Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reports that Borders Group may file for bankruptcy protection as early as next week. Additionally the struggling book chain, the second-largest in the United States, will likely close at least 150 of its 500 remaining namesake stores. Company stock plunged in the wake of the news. A Borders spokeswoman declined comment, but referred to a Jan. 27 statement from President Mike Edwards in which he raised “the possibility of an in-court restructuring.” [Bloomberg]

Legal | Rich Johnston and retailer news and analysis site ICv2 look at potential trademark issues surrounding Marvel’s “Who Are the Mystery Men?” They note that cartoonist Bob Burden owns the trademark to the one-word “Mysterymen,” while Dark Horse and Universal Pictures control the two-word “Mystery Men” — both relating to the characters created by Burden and the 1999 movie adaptation. Dynamite Entertainment also has laid claim to “Super-Mysterymen” for its Project Superpowers series. “I have not heard from Universal yet, but I’m sure Universal will proceed in an orderly and propitious manner,” Burden said. [Bleeding Cool, ICv2.com]

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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 HTMLComics.com, while American and Japanese publishers banded together to target bootleg manga scan sites. Six months later, HTMLComics.com 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.

January

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.

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Manga piracy moves to the Kindle

It was inevitable that someone would try manga piracy on the Kindle. It’s actually coming a bit late: The iTunes store is riddled with manga apps that pick up files from pirate sites like OneManga.com.

The Kindle is more of a closed system, so you have to hack it a bit, but an entrepreneur has figured it out. Manga on the Kindle is a subscription service; for $5 a month, you can download your choice of manga to your Kindle. It sounds legit, until you look at the list of available manga: Naruto, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, Air Gear. No way is any American manga publisher going to let properties like that go to an obscure multi-comic app like this.

So how do they do it? At first I thought this might be published as a blog or e-zine on Amazon’s Kindle service, but it’s not. Basically, it’s just downloads that can be configured to go on a Kindle. There’s something touchingly old-school about the instructions page; it reminds me of the beginner’s guides to IRC (Internet Relay Chat) that scanlation sites used to feature, back when you still had to download. It’s written in the same friendly, reassuring tone, and it explains absolutely everything that will happen.

It’s pretty blatant piracy, but Manga on the Kindle gets a lot of things right. Continue Reading »

Notes on digital piracy

At the Content Protection Summit (yes, there is such a thing) in LA a few weeks ago, a Warner Brothers exec, Ben Karakunnel, discussed some insights into digital piracy that the company has gleaned through its reseach. Apparently WB has been tracking both P2P and streaming of their movies, and they have come to some interesting conclusions—which may have implications for comics as well.

One key insight, which vindicates the indignant comments whenever a site like scans_daily, HTMLcomics.com, or Onemanga.com is shut down, is that people who use pirate sites also pay for their media.

Even the most diehard pirates spend some money, though less than more casual infringers. “One of the main things we’re doing is looking at why they do things legitimately on certain products and not on others,” said Karakunnel.

Another is that people are finding their free media via specialty sites that link to it rather than search engines. That’s also significant for comics. Publishers have been doing a better job lately of making their own sites rank ahead of pirate sites on search engines, but if everyone is heading over to Surfthechannel to see what’s new, it really doesn’t matter. In fact, the difference here seems to be between looking for something you already know exists and looking for something new to watch—which means those link sites could have considerable promotional value.

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man resumes tonight, One Piece creator makes $24M

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | The Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark canceled both Wednesday performances to test new safety measures following the Monday-night fall that left a stuntman hospitalized with broken ribs and internal bleeding. The cancellation of the sold-out evening show was announced just three hours before showtime at the Foxwoods Theatre. Tonight’s performance is expected to go on as planned.

Producers and creators met privately on Tuesday with the entire company to address safety concerns about the $65-million musical, the most expensive and technically complex in Broadway history. Although accidents in theater productions aren’t uncommon, it’s unusual for there to be four injuries before a show has officially opened. MTV offers some context. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]

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