The Curious Case of Doraemon

Fans and staff,

Before we dive into my post, let’s take a step back….In case you missed the news, I discovered in late January that Doraemon is available at Amazon.com for the Kindle.  You can see the original post here:  http://bato.to/forums/topic/21682-doraemon-is-available-digitally-at-amazoncom/

Now that you know what happened…

TL;DR:  We will not be halting work on the Doraemon manga.

If you are unfamiliar with licensing, make sure you read this post first:  [Why did you drop this manga?]

When I learned that Doraemon was available on Amazon.com before this group was even formed, I was stunned.  I asked myself…why didn’t they contact us and ask us to drop it?  Like, seriously!?  Do these people even know what scanlation is and what that has been doing to their sales!?  In any case, regardless of the mystery behind situations like these, I decided that I should adhere to my policy of dropping any manga,  regardless of whether or not it was my favorite, that has been licensed.  Much to everyone’s dismay I announced my decision immediately and without much debate.  After all…why should I have double standards in my group?  Why should I spare only Doraemon from the fires of licensing?

The crutch of the problem was where should I draw the line?

In consideration of drawing the line, I have come to terms with the following points that can be universally applied to any project:

  1. To even consider the licensing issue, there must be evidence that…
    1. The manga is available for sale in the scanlators “home country”…
      1. The home country is the country that the group leader lives in.
      2. Legally speaking, the group leader will be the party held accountable for copyright infringement.  Other countries can hold the group leader accountable but that is only possible if the home country does so first (usually).
  2. To cover the various types of licensing situations…
    1. There are those publishers that have high popularity.  These publishers will pursue scanlators and hold them accountable.  Therefore if they announce that they are going to publish a manga in English we know that they will send a DMCA to any competition upon release of their version of the manga.  These publishers have a lot riding on their investment and they will do what it takes to protect that investment.  More importantly, perhaps, is that they are well aware of scanlators and they have experience dealing with the issue.
      1. Such examples include Viz Media, Orbit, among many others.
    2. There are more obscure publishers that add unexpected complications to the situation.  These publishers may have very little experience with scanlation (or not even know about it) and they may never send a DMCA to those individuals.  These publishers may have to convert the manga due to some contract that they have with someone else or they may simply attempt to make a profit off of this new kind of enterprise.  In situations where a defunct Japanese publisher needs to make a little cash they may auction off the license to other publishers and the license may sell to someone just now looking to enter this market.  In other cases the Japanese publisher may be looking to publish to a new format, such as a Kindle, and in that case they might seek out a company like Amazon to convert this manga for them.  Alternatively, the Japanese company might simply put the conversion on such a low priority that it gets converted in a low quality but in a quality that is “just good enough to make it profitable”.
      1. Such examples include Eleven Soul’s publication on the Amazon Kindle.
  3. The type of issue…
    1. Has there been email communication between you and the publisher?  If so, did the publisher demand that scanlation be stopped and links be removed for the series?
    2. Has the publisher not contacted you, but rather, contacted the file host for removal of download links?
    3. Has there been no action whatsoever by the publisher for the series?

There are as many situations surrounding licensed material as there are projects themselves.  The vast majority of these issues arise and the decision to drop them is clear when the licensee sends an email demanding that the scanlator stop working on the series.  However, when that does not happen and there is no communication between the licensee and the scanlator, things can become murky.  My *now defunct* policy of no-licensed-manga regardless of communication circumstances leaves no doubt as to my intentions:  I simply don’t want to face a legal problem.

In the case of Doraemon, the situation can only be described as “grey”.  After all, Forgotten Scans started releasing chapters well after date that the English version was available on Amazon.  Why didn’t they say something?  Do they really not care?  Do they think that Amazon shoppers won’t know anything about the freely available scans?  After all, to contact us the publisher merely needs to read our credit page in our scans, go to our website, and send us a message.  If they don’t want to talk to us directly, they could simply issue a DMCA to the file host to demand that the Doraemon chapters be removed.  This, in particular, has always amazed me: our file host has received DMCA’s before on our Psycho-Pass links, but we ourselves have never actually received a DMCA email about the chapters that we have on our online reader.

Because we never received any communication about the Amazon chapters, we never knew they were for sale.  Thus, like other manga that we have worked on before, we had no idea that the manga in question was licensed.  When I did discover this I was shocked and took immediate action.  After I announced my decision I realized how much this weighed on my conscience and I really did not like the fact that we were going to stop working on this series.  There are so many people out there, including me, who are huge fans of this amazing little manga.  Eventually I decided that there was no way I would be able to kill the very thing that we all enjoy so much without a very good reason to do so.  However, if we get a an email ordering us to stop work on this project we will have no choice but to stop.

Here are the deciding factors that has led to my current decision:

Reasons to drop Doraemon

  • The manga is being published in English.

Reasons to continue scanlation of Doraemon:

Group reasons:

  • The manga is great for new staff who have little experience.
  • The manga is extremely popular with many fans who enjoy reading it.
  • Everyone, including the staff, would be disappointed to the extent that they would be in or near a state of depression if we stopped working on it.

Other reasons:

  • The English version of the manga is not a straight-from-original-publication-to-English conversion:
    • There are many chapters that have been left out, and they have “completed” the conversion of the series a long time ago (thus there will be no more English releases).
    • The chapters that have been chosen are in no particular order – so we cannot provide a guide to which chapters are in which volume of the original Japanese publication.
    • The publisher has no actual remarks about how the chapters that they published are in relation to the original chapters.
    • The “new” version of the English Doraemon is in color and has differences that make it of no direct relation to the original material that we publish.
  • The publisher has not contacted us about Doraemon nor has it taken any action to stop distribution of the Doraemon scanlation.

Based on this point-by-point analysis, I REVERSE my decision to drop the series.
  If the circumstances change, everyone will be made aware of the new decision at that time.

Regards,
Radioactivekitty

Doraemon Screenshot

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  • Chaos King

    Glad to hear it. Please keep up the good work on Doraemon.

  • Aria

    Woaah! Woaaah!~!!! I’M SO EXCITED *w* I definitely wanted to read the original, even though a lot of people seem to prefer color… I AM A PURIST.

    And… I didn’t realize all of that about Amazon’s version! Random chapters?! Already completed?! Woaah! NOW I AM SUPER GLAD YOU’RE STILL GOING TO DO IT!! (°ロ°)/

    I think though, based on that… they might not actually have the rights to the original Doraemon, considering how different it is. Maybe they got a limited license for colored versions of some random chapters. Or maybe they think that scanlations would actually be good promotion since they’re not going to release any more. Like: Hey! Like Doraemon?! NOW YOU CAN BUY A BOOK WITH RANDOM CHAPTERS IN FULL COLOR =A=!!

    Also, just thought I’d chip in — scanlation doesn’t necessarily harm sales. Seven Seas actually posted that they’ve had series with bad sales and series with good sales, both of which are still being scanlated. ^^; I think there are a lot of factors, and that scanlations can possibly boost sales or make them worse.