Understanding Scanlation

Hello everyone,

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.


17 Responses

  1. What a bunch of BS. You are defending stolen goods and justifying that changing the labels on established products is not the same as stealing.

    Scanlators are taking a brand, or product, or idea, or piece of intellectual property, (or whatever you want to call it) that is in no way theirs and are making a profit from it. Bottom line is that scanlators are stealing.

    Complain all you want. If you scanlate like shit and someone else comes and makes it better, then tough luck son. And if someone is rehashing your own rehashed product then that is only a taste of exactly what you are doing.

    Do scanlators give a great service to foreign fans of all these works? Definitely. Is my opinion of scanlators and actions partaking in their rehashed products hypocritical? You better believe your sweet ass it is. But you can’t seriously believe that you get to pick and choose which laws apply to you and which don’t.

    1. I wonder what caused making that note Grumopy…

      Mfilter, you are serious? Or just trolling?

      Stolen goods, what kind of profit scanlators are taking? On thcmpny example, show what kind profit they get? Point it out, but please don’t write about self-satisfaction and lost time, salary-less job.

      Changing labels, my my, I think they aren’t changing labels but a bit content… Label is still the same, moreover there are so many links to Author so my head ache… Labels are the same, but content start to be useable by much more ppl, content start to be wanted by much more ppl.

      There is no profit, no advertisements on thcmpny site, donation is free. They are just gaining ability to translate better. If you don’t see difference between scanlator and thief then something serious is wrong with you, i hope it’s only age. I would compare scanlators to teachers form Medieval Ages… They are gaining/buying intellectual property and are trying to spread it, if not working then they are translating it and analyzing and trying to spread again. Mostly just for food or free donation. It’s importat work, which can not be abandoned because if informations stop spreading they die. They are making more popular those comics what is proficient for author. I;m visiting naver above >50 times per week ‘cuz i want to know whether if raws are out. And i’m from Poland, really far far away, and i’m spreading around my mates how good manhwas on naver are. Among my mates are few who want to read it but can;t ‘cuz they reading skills aren;t good enough. It happened that i translated it to them by mouth – i’m proud that i did it. I;m proud because they have one more reason to train they language skills. We all gain, but money gain only author – still thieves?

      Ask yourself why they complain… They complain because they don’t want to spread author’s work in terrible quality! Those who take someone other’s translations and erase credit part are as well not sharing contact to author. Fans can;t visit author’s page, no profit comes for her/him. You misudnerstood about making better translations, in Grumpy’s note he accepts it – the more better appear with link to author the overall effect is better.

      “But you can’t seriously believe that you get to pick and choose which laws apply to you and which don’t.” – I hope they(thcmpny) aren’t doing it, but it doesn’t mean that ppl don’t use it do wrongly accuse thcmpny.
      Seriously Troll…

      Moreover in this case it all sounds insane, sb really accused thcmpny who is translating webtoons?! That is a bullshit…


      PS Thanks to your work i decided to learn Korean… Unfortunatly in my country there is almost zero Korean language teachers…

      1. For the record, The Company hasn’t accepted donations for… months since before what I assume brought of this post happened. As for them picking and choosing what laws to ignore… They’ve already dropped one project due to -following- the laws.

        Frankly, I doubt the writers mind scanlators establishing a fanbase, entirely free of advertising, for their products. And I’m sure companies like Viz equally enjoy the free product testing, to see what comics do well with foreign audiences so they don’t purchase the rights to lemons. The scanlation system may look a bit strange, but it can truly benefit all parties involved. It’s not until a group refuse to stop releasing a project that things become an issue.

        And trust me, large businesses keep lawyers on retainer for a reason. If they want you to stop, you’ll know. You’re not hurting their feelings by making them send a cease and desist letter. It’s kind of, you know, their job.

    2. I’m not so sure you actually read this post… You’re talking about something else. Try reading the last line carefully to minimize confusion.

      Also, we’ve actually encouraged further reproduction using our version by providing additional tools, cleans and often psds along with our release. Even now, we redistribute our cleans to other groups so they can re-do it easier.

  2. I don’t know. The Company may not be profiting directly from their scanlations (i.e. through advertisements) but a lot of other groups (and manga readers) are.
    In that way, those groups and manga reader sites may not be thieves, but surely copyright violators. They use the intellectual property and creativity of the author and, with far less effort than it takes to create the manhwa/manga themselves, profit from those works others create.

    Though I believe it really is more symbiotic than parasitic. I’m sure there are several of your readers, who, based on your scans have decided to buy the original manhwa in book form. If that hadn’t happened, I suppose the currygom, SIU and others would have asked you to stop scanlating already.

    1. Well, I really doubt anyone would choose The Company over Naver if they could use Naver. At most they would hold both in equal regard.

      For pure leechers, Naver posts the earliest(as it is the first source). And for fans of the series, they would want to support the author, and therefore go to Naver anyways…

      So not much reason for SIU, Currygom, etc. to complain, right?

    2. First of, many groups buy raws and pay server costs for a website. That money comes from ads, donations and their own wallets. Are you saying there is a translation group that actually runs a profit despite their costs? And I don’t mean aggregator sites like fox, reader and pirate, I mean the scanlators. Could you provide a link to such a group?

  3. God, it’s like we’ve went back to the drama that surrounded fansubbing groups a few years ago. Who can get the show out fastest? Who can produce the highest quality translations? /Who should we steal the translations from/? Honestly, if this is in reference to the upstart group, I don’t understand why they would want to even waste their time doing this outside of the attention (and possible donations) they’re sure to receive. There’s a lot of other projects that need doing without stealing and/or ripping off already established groups. On the bright side, a little bit of competition isn’t a bad thing. Even in this case.

    1. Please, MP starts to translate on their own from >100 chapter. Changes names and titles, makes many meaning-mistakes and just makes faster releases. Normally i would pick up faster group, like i used to with other mangas, but when quality is so low it’s not even competition ;< Moreover for me it's hard to understand their version due to "their names"…

      Beside i find enjoyment in reading release's notes here ;P

      1. Agreed. Seeing their version of my favourite mangas and manhwas made me angry. I hope they will stop releasing them.

      2. It’s like the many channels that are on the TV. If you don’t like one you can just grab the remote and switch to another. No one is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to read a low quality scanlation if that is not your thing. I honestly don’t see where the problem lies. This is what internet is all about, ALTERNATIVES!

        1. But robbing other people their translations to get more advertizement money yourself is different, and it is that reason why I get pissed at some of the aggregators.

  4. I wanna say that thanks to you guys, I can read Kubera, Tower of God, among other manhwas. I love so much these manhwas, I want them in original version, so last month I bought both manhwas of Kubera. So I also think scanlators help authors and people, so big thanks to The Company from a fan yours =)

  5. I’d just like to say that while it is nice to make these posts and such, at the end of the day, everyone in the scanlation/online reader scene can act like want with each respective risks. There is absolutely nothing to stop them. The only thing ppl can do when they are pissed off is just complain, while these people who complain might feel like they are morally superior and in the “right”, in reality there is absolutey nothing they can do to stop anyone that pisses them off.

  6. I respect scanlators and will forever be grateful for everything they do. All the time and effort that`s put into every release is phenomenal.

    I learned about scanlators seven years ago and about six years ago I fell ill. On days when I feel so weak I can barely get out of bed reading has always made me smile. It has felt like a haven of sorts.
    I`ve bought around forty of my favourite volumes that I would have otherwise not have known existed and got my brother into reading as well (who usually abhors books). I believe scanlators give us a rare chance to learn more about foreign culture and that`s a wonderful blessing that we should all be thankful for. We shouldn`t abuse this privilege and say negative things to the people who bring this joy.

    I just wanted give my sincere thanks to all the lovely scanlators, and let them know that there are many people on your side that love and appreciate everything you do.

  7. Well, looking at this from both sides it is hard to say what is right, wrong, good, or bad. I love Scanlation and am so thankful for it. Without it, I would not be able to enjoy these awesome works of art that I look forward to and read each week. ALthough on the other had, putting myself in the authors shoes, I feel conflicted. While I would love the fact that my work is getting out there to other countries, I am not sure how thrilled I’d be about it being read for free. Of course there are all types of logistics involved, but I know if I was a author of a novel and released my book only in English and I wouldn’t be thrilled if people from other countries had read it for free before I had a chance to release it in their language. This would absolutely lower sales once in got to to that country because it had already been read. I mean I know I wouldn’t buy I book I had already read (thats just me personally). But really the problem would be simply solved by having it released in many languages at the same time. I do not know why they do not do this. The potential for profit, especially for Manga and Manhwa, is substantial. Of course I do not know all that is involved with doing that so I can’t say it is easy or a quick fix because for all I know it could be very difficult and filled with legality issues. I really think it is Naver’s and the whole Manga distribution system that is at fault for making Scanlators necessary. If they would just have it translated in the first place then there wouldn’t be a need for Scanlation. There is a huge demand for Asian comics in English and there is also a huge amount of profits that can be made. This could really employ a ton of people and then everyone would be able to enjoy reading their favorite Asian comic in their own language. So in the end I can’t really say Scanlation is right or wrong because it is hovering a little on both sides. I think the Scanlators really do provide an excellent service.

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