This is a bit of a random blog. What better place to do than a on a blog?
There is the saying “there is no honor among thieves” and we often attribute this to scanlation in how scanlators act. Such phrase gives the interpretation that we, the scanlators, have no right to complain, we have no reason to complain because we are no better and we do the same. And this comes up every time some scanlator gets wordy about abusive uses of their scanlations. But I believe this is quite far from the truth. And what I speak is true in all aspects of actions, reactions and laws.
To be a thief, you must steal something. This involves a deprivation from the past owner without permission, and you in turn must gain something. This is the definition defined per dictionaries and law. In the process of scanlation, does the author lose something? It’s arguable that a potential sale is lost. But if you’re reading a scanlated comic here, the chances of you even coming to become aware of such title without us is nearly nil. But this is still not a definition of deprivation. Because deprivation requires a loss and a potential sale is exactly that, a potential. It’s not something you already possessed. It is also uncertain if even the possibility lost at all. So, we have increased the market size, not taken a portion of an existing one. I’m sure this isn’t true a hundred percent of the time, but it’s quite predictable it’d be a high percentage. The increase in the market also allows further sales by reaching audiences that were never reached before which also creates room for further innovation. And most certain difference is how we act. If the owner tells a thief to return the property, will they? If the author tells the scanlator to stop, will they? In all my years of seeing various scanlators, I have never seen one that refuse to listen to the authors.
This is also boosted by the fact that scanlators share scanlations, not raws. Take an analogy of a light bulb, invented not by Tomas Edison but Sir Humphry Davy with the platinum filament roughly 80 years before Edison. But why is a light bulb credited to Edison? Well, he was the first to create a long-lasting light bulb by adding a superior carbon filament and a casing which gave the symbolic look. There were many inventors and many patents filed between Edison and Davy that constantly improved and changed the light bulb. These are all, a derivative of each other. Each inventor added something of their own to it, and they are given credit and legal rights to their changes. Once Edison held the patent to his version of the light bulb, no one else in the US were allowed to make exact copies of it, but there were certainly continual innovation around it such as Hiram Maxim who improved the manufacturing process of the filament. For this, Maxim filed his own patent. Then another, then another, then another by another… I hope you already see the correlation. Scanlators add value, or at least more objectively, something to it. This added portion is theirs and no one else’s. The copyright law also protects this addition and gives exclusive rights to the scanlator. So, to assume that the scanlators have no rights couldn’t be more wrong. Scanlators have the full rights to exercise all aspects of the copyright they hold, including DMCA in USA and similar forms in other countries.
So you see, a problem may indeed be that “there is no honor among thieves”. The question is, who are the thieves?
Now, there is some seeming hypocrisy here as I’m sure some would be eager to point out. Regardless of word usage to define what’s what, there was an act that took place with questionable permission. But this alleged hypocrisy can be easily countered if met by any of the points.
- A complaint. Did the scanlator get a complaint? Did the scanlator complain? Both cases give a scenario where the copyright holder makes a complaint. When no complaint is made, it’s possible that a tacit permission is given or just an out-right permission was given whereas a complaint strictly defines restriction. The development of SCD webtoon would be an example of a tacit one and our re-translation policy is an example of a direct authorization, though applies only to our changes.
- If you figure out a way to share what the scanlators do without sharing what was scanlated, feel free to let the world know. Then, scanlators would be sharing something they own wholly and hopefully, this ageless argument may come to rest. Otherwise, those arguing with truly no rights are just adding problems.
I don’t write this to justify scanlation. I write this to justify the right for scanlators to complain, one that’s backed up by law.