Chinese Online Manga Copyright Issues - Poisoned Wine Mixed with Honey
When you get past the advertisements and flash animations, what you will find on most Chinese manga portals are news, informations, discussions, and last but not least, a large amount of downloadable contents such as manga, anime, and more (some free, but most require a paid membership). This growing trend of offering downloadable contents without license has raised concerns within the Chinese manga community over the future and growth of the manga community in China as a whole.
Below is a translation of a Chinese article that uses the acquisition of a large Chinese manga download site to illustrate the problems involved with copyright issues, and voices concern over the future of China's online manga community.
Not long ago, the largest and the most complete Chinese manga download site Greedland was purchased by a certain company. Shortly after the acquisition, old staffs of the download site quit one after another. After Greedland's purchase, the company made an announcement stating that the reborn website will now carry on a new spirit. It will devote itself to the growth of the manga market and support the creation and download of original manga.
Both before and after the acquisition, original staff members of Greedland expressed concerns regarding secret deals made during the acquisition, which eventually caused their departure. Nonetheless, the fact is that Greedland has been purchased, and with many changes having been made to the website, its number of users has dropped.
Despite the pros and cons of this incident, it gives us a chance to take a look at Chinese online download sites, which in turn allows us to focus on a more important issue at hand - Online Copyrights.
In todayâs world, the internet has already become an important part of our lives and provides us with many benefits. This is especially true to manga and anime fans. Downloading manga and anime has become extremely common. Just by installing a small program and with a click of the mouse, one can keep up-to-date with the newest manga or anime in Japan.
Even though debates regarding online copyright issues have increased in recent years, and some foreign companies have been taking serious stand against online downloads (a man from Hong Kong was sued for providing large amounts of torrents of movies for people to download, he was later fined heavily and sentenced to one year of prison), but enjoying free downloads has already become a habit for many.
In order to protect their own popularity, all major Chinese anime and manga websites have added to their content a large amount of manga and other materials for download. Without these, the number of visitors will drop. Yet it is not as if these websites did not consider purchasing a license or copyright, currently there is no balance between the purchasing power of Chinese on the internet and the soaring prices of international copyrights. Also the amount of time one has to wait when buying a copyright is another major roadblock for these networks. Waiting for copyright means the network will lose the superiority in their speed of uploading new series, and losing their speed means losing their rank and popularity. No one wants to wait a month to read the newest series that just came out in Japan.
Perhaps the acquisition of Greedland at a very low price had something to do with it providing downloads without license for an extend period of time, and as a consequence not being able to support itself later on. However, the current Chinese trend of providing download to manga and other material without license is like a cup of poisoned wine mixed with honey. The deal tastes sweet when it first goes down one's throat, but nobody knows when the poison will spread through the body. If the government suddenly begin hunting down license-less online download sites, most major websites will go down, and perhaps the Chinese online manga community, which took years to develop, will become extinct in one night. Don't believe it? Imagine if you go to your usual download website one morning and find nothing there, would you continue to visit that site?
That is why the copyright issue is still the biggest and the most stubborn illness for these Chinese online manga websites. No one knows how many foreign companies are watching these websites, ready to bring them to court when the chance arises. Perhaps the company that bought Greedland already thought about this problem, resulting in its decision to renew the network's business strategy to take a legal path with the help of its community. Even though Greedland is slowly replacing its illegal contents with legal ones to rid itself of potential trouble, but will its future be secure? As a website that grew on providing downloads to its users, will people still visit the site when the thing they're looking for is no longer there?
Currently all Chinese manga websites are facing the "threat" of either being purchased or changing the way they operate. With no successful precedents, by changing the way they operate, these networks will quickly lose its user base and eventually die. Even though Greedland showed us the problems of being purchase and changing its style, it shows that all Chinese manga sites are facing a similar problem. When these problems caused by copyright issues appear, who will be there to ensure their survival?
Everyone should stop and take some time to think about the situation, both for themselves and for the future of China's online manga community.