A group of Japanese and American manga publishers have formed a coalition to battle scanlations of manga titles, the group announced today, with thirty sites identified for action.  The participants include the 36 members of Japan’s Digital Comic Association, Square Enix, Viz Media, Tokyopop, Vertical, the Tuttle-Mori Agency, and Yen Press. 


“...[T]o protect the intellectual property rights of our creators and the overall health of our industry, we are left with no other alternative but to take aggressive action,” a spokesperson for the group said.  Scanlation sites are urged to “take it upon themselves to immediately cease their activities,” with injunctive relief, statutory damages, and referral to law enforcement agencies promised for those sites that do not comply.


Sites featuring scanlations, which allow online reading of manga in fan-translated English versions almost immediately upon release in Japan, have reached mammoth proportions.  Onemanga.com, the largest of these sites, is the only comic-related site in the top 1000 sites worldwide, according to Google’s list of top sites (see “Pirate Manga Site Makes Google’s Top 1000”).


Manga publishers have been slow both to take action against scanlation sites and to offer legal alternatives for fans that want to read manga in digital format.  For years, publishers appeared to view the scanlation sites as free marketing that primed the market in the U.S. for future release of legitimate editions and quietly tolerated them.  And although the digital comics business for mobile devices is huge in Japan, Japanese publishers have largely ignored the market here, leaving illegal options the only way to read manga on cellphones or desktops.  We asked Viz Media’s Gonzalo Ferreyra why manga publishers were so slow to offer legal alternatives here, and he told us that sorting out the issues in Japan was taking a long time (see “Interview with Viz’s Gonzalo Ferreyra, Part 1”).


But with manga sales in the U.S. plummeting (see “A Second Bad Year in a Row for Manga”), and the number of titles licensed for the U.S. also dropping rapidly, the Japanese publishers appear to have finally decided that they need to take action.  Shonen Jump editors recently asked for scanlation sites to voluntarily stop (see “Shonen Jump Takes on the Pirates”), a precursor to this industry-wide coalition. 


A coalition of American comic publishers has already drawn blood, successfully getting the largest source of American comics on the Web shut down (see “FBI Shuts Down Scan Site”) and the ownership charged (see “DOJ Sues Pirate Site Operation”).


Whether the new anti-piracy coalition formed by manga publishers will be as successful remains to be seen.  But comic store retailers that specialize in manga, who almost uniformly believe that scanlations are hurting their sales, will undoubtedly cheer the efforts and hope that the massive amount of pirated manga content available online begins to diminish.