For many years, Japanese manga companies tended to ignore the majority of overseas markets, despite the potential for lucrative trade.
However, fueled by a global internet and ardent fans with translation skills, scanned copies of manga titles first leaked and then flooded to the West, creating a huge market and future demand for this Japanese cultural product where none existed before.
Manga pirates often praise a highly successful unpaid marketing venture, but after seeing the potential, manga publishers understandably want that market for themselves. Great strides have been made in recent years to offer improved legal options for manga fans outside of Japan, but pirate sites still exist and publishers now want to make them disappear.
Legal action by publisher Shueisha
Since investigations into the former operator of manga piracy giant Mangamura were uncovered, publisher Shueisha has been closely associated with a growing number of major piracy investigations. From Mangastream’s disappearance in 2019 to Mangabank’s closure in 2021, Shueisha (along with anti-piracy partners Shogakukan, Kadokawa, and Kodansha) has rarely been far from the action.
They are currently investigating several major platforms and are even suing Cloudflare for “helping” pirate sites. The giant pirate platform Manganato is also under pressure.
competition with piracy
In January 2019, Shueisha launched MANGA Plus direct publishing platform with accompanying mobile apps. It’s proved popular with fans for offering free content in multiple languages, but it can’t compete with pirate sites for a number of reasons.
For example, readers of many series will be greeted with a message stating, Our current license prohibits us from publishing the in-between chapters, a problem pirate sites never face. These types of problems are not insurmountable in the long term, but obviously pirate sites are proving to be attractive in the short term.
Need confidential information from users? Just ask her about it
To get a better idea of what customers expect from MANGA Plus, the company conducts a survey asking questions about the languages that are read the most, the quality of the translations, potential buying habits (including volume and preference for in-app currency) and how much users would pay to bridge the “missing chapters” issue and what new comics users would like to see on MANGA Plus.
These are obviously solid questions for improving customer experience, overall satisfaction, and assessing what people are willing to pay to get the features they want. But of course, Shueisha’s manga business is challenged by illegal pirate alternatives, which the company doesn’t even try to hide.
Please confess here
As early as question four of the survey, Shueisha asks users of its MANGA Plus service to admit copyright infringement, and question five asks them to identify the pirate site they frequently (or occasionally) use to break the law.
There are two ways to look at these questions, with the less cynical suggesting that Shueisha simply wants to look at these platforms and see what it can do to become more like them, be it in terms of speed of release or sheer volume of content, functionality and/or familiarity. In fact, question six does just that.
Question eight asks directly how MANGAPlus can be improved, again with an emphasis on piracy. Options include update speed compared to pirate sites, catalog size, language support, and the number of works available for free. It is even acknowledged that MANGA Plus users may have heard about Shueisha’s legal service on a pirate site.
Should people confess to piracy?
The text in the app and website versions of the survey differs slightly, with the app version offering the following assurance: “Your survey responses will only be used to help us make future decisions regarding Manga PLUS, so please don’t hesitate to answer honestly. ”
Of course, conducting a poll like this on a platform used by manga fans makes perfect sense, since the responses are provided by active users who are best placed to offer advice. That said, MANGA Plus users subscribing to a database of known piracy users controlled by a company with a reputation for fighting piracy might not be the best idea — at least according to one attorney.
Like most companies, Shueisha collects personally identifiable information, including an identification code[s] and location data unique to each mobile device, browsing history and, where applicable, email addresses or account IDs. These are retained for all normal business reasons, including “to prevent or take action against wrongdoing”.
Data collected from users may also be shared with members of the Shueisha group, including VIZ Media, which is also known for its anti-piracy activities. Shueisha also reserves the right to disclose information to third parties in cases based on “laws and regulations, including investigations under criminal procedural law.”
In the end, users will do what they think is best, but there are many reports online that users happily hand over the requested information. In particular, people seem happy to list the pirate sites they like the most, which of course won’t affect Shueisha in any way if it decides to remove its next list of pirate sites.
The interesting thing about this is that, at least today, Shueisha sees pirate sites as competition, units to keep up with, emulate, and ultimately beat. The big question is whether innovation will continue if it manages to bring down most of them, or whether it will use the data on how much people are willing to pay to capitalize on their new market .