Hey, let’s talk piracy!
AnimeVice published a pretty poorly written defense of scanlations, tying into a larger discussion of Nick Simmons jacking art from Bleach. It has some fairly huge issues, including some outright factual inaccuracies, but boiled down? It’s crap.
I don’t want to spend this point by point rebutting Remmell’s essay, but I will say that hinging a pro-scans piece on Viz’s “butchery” of Gosho Ayama’s Case Closed is an incredibly bad decision when the changes were requested by Gosho Ayama and the Japanese licensors. It is the real story, since the author wanted the changes. Your mom’s pound cake is your mom’s pound cake, no matter the recipe she chooses to use.
The biggest problem with the essay is the idea of justifying scanlations, and through that, piracy. That’s stupid. Here’s the truth: you can’t justify scanlations. Justifying an act requires proof that the act is necessary. You can justify a war, you can justify violence, you can justify sleeping in and missing some school. The thing is, you can’t justify scanlations. The original creator that you’re such a fan of gets no recompense from you reading scans online. No money, nothing. In exchange for that nothing, you get to read that creator’s book for free. In the end of things, that’s what happens. You aren’t supporting, you aren’t helping, you’re just leeching.
Let’s keep it all the way real. I have a Demonoid account, just like everybody else. Sometimes I hear about a movie and I want to watch it, but Netflix has nothing. Well, look at that: Fatal Fury the Anime is on Youtube. When an album I’m looking forward to leaks a week early, I download it, listen to it, and then decide whether or not I’m buying it off Amazon’s MP3 store. I follow several mp3 blogs to keep up on new singles, freestyles, and mixtapes.
In fact, real life example: I wanted to listen to A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders the other day. It’s one of my favorite albums, I was having a crap day, I figured it’d be a pick-me-up. I found out my mp3s were screwed up. They were skipping, some didn’t play, blah blah blah. This morning I remember that the songs were broken, delete the ones I had, and downloaded the album. I threw them into iTunes, synced my iPod, and got on my bike to go to work.
Now, I’ve owned a copy of Midnight Marauders for years. Several- from cassette to CD to CD after that other CD broke. I could justify it by saying that I’ve paid for the album before, so why should I pay for it again? But- no. It’s on Amazon for ten dollars. I’ve got ten bucks, I love the group, it’s one of my top five favorite albums, and there’s nothing stopping me from downloading the album from a legal venue, except for the fact that I valued my own convenience over the rights of the dudes who made the music.
Make no mistake: this is, legally speaking, piracy. I can’t defend it, I can’t justify it– under the letter of the law, I’m a music pirate. If I got my card pulled over it, what am I gonna say? “I did it because I want to purchase content, not format?”
(The content vs format debate is a valid one, but completely secondary to what happened and why it happened. I downloaded that album because I wanted to not pay for it.)
I did it because I wanted it and it was convenient. This morning, I prized myself over someone else. Nothing more, nothing less. Trying to justify that kind of thing is dumb. If you did it, you did it. At least be real enough to say, “Yeah, I did that. That sucks, huh?”
Scanlations aren’t how you stand up for Authentic Manga or creator’s rights or whatever. Scanlations are how you read books for free. You aren’t fighting the power. You aren’t sending a message to the companies. You’re reading for free. If you care that much, then the only thing you should be doing is purchasing the original tankobon from Japan and reading it yourself. That way, everyone involved gets paid, you get your authentic manga, and we’re all happy.
Pretending that scanlations are something you can justify, or something that is morally correct in any way, shape or form, is a joke. You want it, you read it. That’s what it is, that’s how it works. Be grown up enough to admit it, rather than trying to justify it.
“Be aware and be honest,” is what I’m trying to say here.