Mangaka Leiji Matsumoto Discusses the Joys and Tribulations the Internet Brings to Creators

imgWorld-renowned mangaka Leiji Matsumoto ("Galaxy Express 999," "Space Cruiser Yamato" etc) also chairs the Copyright Board of the Japan Cartoonists Association and the Association of Copyright for Computer Software (ACCS). He spoke about the effects of piracy on manga and animation, and how the proliferation of personal computers and the internet has influenced the creative process.

From Nikkei PC Online

It's been 3 years since you first chaired ACCS. How do you view the current situation surrounding copyrights?

Matsumoto: The volume of pirated goods has been increasing to unprecedented levels. I believe that the circulation of pirated goods is well over 100 times that of legitimate retail versions.

I was one of the very first adopters of online publishing in Japan. There was one incident where an overseas website was hosting "The Ring of Nibelungen," which I began publishing online in 1999, in its entirety. However, when I sent contacted them to say "using parts of the work to introduce it was fine, but please don't reproduce it in whole," I received an apology from the webmaster. Things were much more relaxed in those days.

Nowadays, the equipment needed to make copies is available to anybody for cheap, and as a result, we have cases such as one where a single individual was selling 340,000 pirated DVD's. There is no way to stop the chain of copying, where a pirated copy is made from a pirated copy of a pirated copy, and in some cases the end result is that you can't even tell what the original looked like. There are cases where alterations have been made to the original work during that pirating process, resulting in the proliferation of an altered creation.

What sort of steps do you think are necessary to counteract this?

Matsumoto: I think that right now, we are in a transition period where problems are occurring because technological advances are outpacing our means to regulate them. I think that there are going to be 2 types of approaches that are going to be needed.

The first one is the technological approach. I'd like to see mechanisms in place to prevent copying from happening, such as un-scannable printing technology or locks to prevent copying on files on the internet. I'd like manufacturers of copying equipment to aid in the protection of copyrights by implementing countermeasures in their products.

The other one is an education campaign to instill the moral that "you can't sell other peoples' work without permission" in all people. I'd like this to occur on a global basis.

I've seen pirated copies of my own work circulated throughout the world. Even if one author sues or makes an appeal, they get no response, and they're made to feel like they're fighting thin air. The reality is that unless a public organisation comes to the front, there is ultimately no way to negotiate cross-border settlements. I'd love to see the creation of an international copyrighting agency.

Good work has a purpose and objective to it, a reason "why" it was made. The creator is the one sending that message; that's why we need a system in place that rewards the creator. Because he or she is the only person in the world who can create that work.

The problem of piracy can be described as a negative aspect of the proliferation of the internet and information technology.

Matsumoto: In terms of spreading knowledge and recognition, the internet and technological advances contain both positive and negative aspects. I feel pure joy as a creator to have my work introduced to the world and have many people enjoy it. Unfortunately, it's probably true that piracy has a part to play in that as well.

When I was publishing works online, I provided an environment where readers could freely post Christmas messages, in an effort to take advantage of the interactive nature of the internet. This experiment resulted in people sending me opinions like "I felt like I was going on an intergalactic trip within the author's work." These voices from readers are a great source of joy for authors.

The increase in readership was also thanks to the internet. When the website I was publishing my work in Japanese online, I was getting 30,000 hits a day, but when I opened an English version of the site, I got 360,000 hits a day, a 10-fold increase.

What sorts of attitudes or beliefs do you hold about your work?

Matsumoto: I was always careful to make sure that my work did not tread over any cultural, religious or historical beliefs and values that different tribes or countries may have. This was because I didn't want to write anything that would offend somebody in another country. With the proliferation of the internet, this sort of thinking will only become important.

It is fine to create works that pick up on cultural differences based on your strong beliefs as a creator, but you must not pick on foreign cultures or traditions just for jokes and laughs. There is no international friction in the worlds of manga and anime. I think that manga and anime have the same sort of power as sports, to act as a common foundation to connect people.

Mangaka continue creating their work not for money, but because they love writing. When I was talking with fellow mangaka, somebody asked "don't you feel guilty getting paid to draw manga?" and everybody answered "I do." Mangaka truly love manga, so if they really want to write something then they'll do so, even for free. Because of that, up until now they have not been very interested in copyrights. However, we must prevent situations where our works are rewritten without permission by piracy, and we are mistakenly judged according to those pirated copies. I want people to understand that protecting intellectual properties is important for reasons greater than money as well.

- Article by Masahiro Kurata and Shin Sato of Nikkei PC
- Translated by Neuroretadant (

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That's interesting. Well, to

That's interesting. Well, to be honest, any mangaka who doesn't want their work scanlated can easily just mail the scanlation group and have them to stop. I imaigne 95% of the scanlation groups would abid to it due to respect. If they want to kill scanlation altogether, just have enough mangaka do that, and people will get the message after a few months.

In the case of scalators and

In the case of scalators and fan subers a request from the creators to stop probably would work. But for every fan translator out there there are two or three bootleggers who don't give a rat's ass beyond seeing a quick way to make money.

Yeah, it would be a lot

Yeah, it would be a lot smarter to put a stop to pirates before trying to stop scanslators and fansubbers. At least they love anime/manga.

I buy the manga I read

I buy the manga I read online - like Eyeshield 21 - because nothing beats the actual hardcopy. I'm even learning (trying to) mandarin so I can buy the manga that won't be translated into English anytime soon if ever. The thing is I was introduced to anime and manga THROUGH scanlations & fansubs. You're always going to get sad little leeches but the scanlators are also doing their bit and promoting mangakas works to true fans.

Manga in Japanese can be

Manga in Japanese can be controlled in Japan by their own national laws. Most people outside of Japan can't read the material in its original language. Enter scanlators. However, the informal and amateur nature of scanlating is usually frustrating and unsatisfactory for the online fan.

What would happen if the original publisher maintained its own staff of translators and editors, and hosted the series on line in major market languages (English, French, etc.) for a nominal fee, or just licensed the series for tranlsation on line?

I personally would be willing to pay at least what I'm now contributing to several scanlation sites for what would be a more ethical way to obtain translated manga, especially if it was released almost concurrently with the Japanese versions.

It would NOT provide as much revenue to the original publisher or mangaka as if all online piracy disappeared, but let's not kid ourselves; that is never going to happen. This is a way for the manga industry in Japan and other countries to recoup some of their losses, and it's one I would prefer to patronize.

Well, to be honest, I'm

Well, to be honest, I'm happy to stop any scanlation I'm doing if any publishers (American or Japanese) thinks that my scanlating titles not-availble to english viewers is actually damaging their profit. I just find that really hard to believe right now, I mean, who's going to buy a copy of Japanese manga that they've never heard of and don't understand. If it's not for scanlation, 80% of the manga titles wouldn't be known to english speakers, leave alone getting them to buy it. Of course, that's my 2 cents.

FS -- It's been my

FS -- It's been my contention for some time that if scanlation was to disappear, translated hard copy sales would fall, not rise. Most people discover manga through the Internet, then learn they can buy books as well.

Without the online fan base, the publishers would have to invest an enormous amount of money to raise their public profile. So I don't think it's wise of them to try to discourage scanlators too much.

Regardless of how it is promoted, I think manga is never going to be more than a certain percentage of the book market. It's a specialized interest, and only so many people are going to get into it. If publishers are watching hit numbers on scanlation sites and thinking all those could be book sales, they better think again.

Did you know that the

Did you know that the "hard-core fanbase" only accounts for approximately 5% of the overall anime/manga market in the United States?
That 5% probably reflects about 10% of people that download fansubs/scanslations... which meand 90% of "hard-core fans" are participating in poisoning the industry.
Good going guys!

i only use scanlations and

i only use scanlations and fansubs as a way to "preview" certain anime/manga that are licensed in the u.s. and if i like them, then i'll buy them. if not, i wont read them

Scanlation groups aren't the

Scanlation groups aren't the problem, people scanning and selling are. Likewise, with anime, it's not the people that are fansubing, it's the people taking those sub, burning it to a dvd, and selling the dvd.

i gotta agree with

i gotta agree with floating_sakura. i was first introduced to manga through the net (scanlators) of course i do get the books for the licensed ones but the fact is, if it weren't for the scanlators, i wouldn't even be interested in manga.
i do understand why piracy pisses ppl off, but i gotta admit, w/out that, i wouldn't get the original copies. that's just my opinion

I don't think that copying

I don't think that copying technology should be restricted in any way. HOWEVER! I do believe that piracy should be dealt with, and there should be an international standard for copyright protection.

i would love to buy the

i would love to buy the orginal if there was any around here. Unfornately, here, manga can only be bought in the national capital.

I completely agree with Kona

I completely agree with Kona about hosting series online. Where I live, one can't just walk into a local store and buy a hard copy - I have to buy online and pay ridiculous international postage fees (that is, if the seller gracefully agrees to ship here) and for what? Licenced titles are more often than not outdated by the time they become available to me...Is it any wonder, then, that I prefer to "preview" my purchases by following the comic online via scanlation sites before actually going for the hard copy?

Major publishers should simply hire internal translators and DTPers and sell e-copies of the books; with shipping and printing fees out of the picture, I can't imagine many manga fans saying "No" to such a deal.

There is an Irony to observe here.

I don't know but, the creator of Space Pirate Captain Harlock is speaking out against piracy?!? He's a hero... who is a pirate. Protecting the rights of a pirate not to be pirated, hmmm ... sounds like it could be self-endorsement. Are you for pirates, ... or against them?

I don't think that copying

I don't think that copying technology should be restricted in any way. HOWEVER! I do believe that piracy should be dealt with, and there should be an international standard for copyright protection.

You can't really apply the

You can't really apply the laws of copyrighting when it comes to comic books. One can't publish a comic book similar to another but he can use he's talent to draw it and publish it online. The internet killed the copyright. A friend of mine started drawing Christmas trees few years ago and developed some skill and now he can reproduce any character from any manga ever drawn.