Can I read From Points of Three for Free?
Last month, our sister website Manga Planet published an interview with A Man of Virtue‘s GGANG-E. GGANG-E has continued to speak out, and many artists have added their voices to the plea against illegal uploads. These artists include Byeol Narae and From Points of Three’s White Eared, who denounce not only rips of their official translations but also scanlations. Although fans, scanlators, and artists alike have responded with support for these artists, manga/webcomic aggregator websites still host these creator’s webcomics, and readers still seek these illegal rips and scanlations.
The difference between scanlations and rips of official releases is obvious for most scanlators and knowledgeable readers. From the perspective of Lezhin creators, however, illegal rips and scanlations have the same impact-the illicit distribution of their work bolsters pageviews for manga/webcomic aggregator websites and hinder their ability to work.
“Frankly, I’m really sick of this.”
There’s a lot of feedback coming from the article about “Don’t use pirate sites.” Thank you for your support.
But on the contrary, there are people who criticize me, even mock me, and write long sentences that justify their mistakes. https://t.co/07kbX5r9jn
— 🦐흰귀🦐 (@whiteeared) August 21, 2018
Following GGANG-E’s interview, White Eared approached us for an interview concerning uploads and scanlations from a creator’s perspective.
For context, Lezhin began publishing White Eared’s From Points of Three in Korean since Aug. 27, 2017, and launched the English translations on Oct. 15, 2017. Lezhin simul-published the English and Korean releases from Dec. 10, 2017 to Aug. 2, 2018. A popular BL series, the webcomic currently ranks 24th out of 66 on Lezhin’s English website.
Illegal rips of the series started showing up on Mangago and Manga Hasu, popular aggregator website for BL/yaoi fans, on Nov. 20 2017. The first episode of From Points of Three‘s rip resembles a scanlation with a notice crediting White Eared and linking the official English translation.
This notice lacks the typical credits to a group. From Episode Two to Episode 27. 5, a small note asking readers to “please support this comic on Lezhin if you can!” from “Gem” appeared at the end of each chapter.
At of the time of publication, Mangago still hosts the rips and has blocked those in South Korea from accessing it.
From Points of Three has received scanlation treatment as well, though White Eared’s tweets concerning scanlations have helped to curtail it. A French scanlation team has ceased scanlating White Eared’s series, citing that they wish to respect the author’s wishes.
La scantrad FR de From Points of Three est officiellement abandonnée par la team Pyunamiki Scan. Pour plus d’informations, je vous invite à lire l’article ci-dessous. https://t.co/077J4SWrLl pic.twitter.com/zknmFdSMok
— Pyunamiki (@pyunamiki) August 22, 2018
On the English front, however, official releases fell a week behind the Korean ones on Aug. 2. Readers quickly picked up on this, and Mia of Random Fujoshis released an translated English transcript for the most recent episode, a move that harkens back to the early days of scanlation and falls into the so-called “gray zone.”
“Let me be clear: illegal sites are not a grey area.”
White Eared kindly took the time to speak with us about the impact of illegal rips and scanlations. Below follows a translation of our interview. Mangago could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
futekiya: How and when did you discover your work illegally posted？
White Eared: I found out while searching for reader responses after Lezhin began publishing From Points of Three. Illegal sites are easy to find by searching the title in Korean or English. They often appear at the top of search results or are mentioned in reviews about where to read the manhwa.
futekiya: Did you contact the illegal websites? Did they respond?
White Eared: I’ve been unable to contact every site individually. Usually I request Lezhin Comics to take action, but I’ve virtually given up due to their number. It’s unlikely the websites will respond appropriately, either. An example I cite frequently is Mangago, which continues to post my work. I’ve already requested them to stop three times through their webmaster’s email address, but they’ve remained silent.
futekiya: How have the illegal uploads affected your life and career？
White Eared: Illegal uploads [of officially licensed and published work] are an issue directly affecting my income since my manhwa is released on a pay-to-read basis.
In a system where I get a cut of the revenue from readers buying my work, the more people read it from illegal sites, the less money I make.
I can’t rule out the effect of illegal sites while my income decreases. If I hadn’t known my work was being illegally posted, I simply would have attributed the reason to its content, level of reader interest, lack of publicity, or other intrinsic factors. Of course, the decline in income might actually be due to a number of reasons. But having to worry about the effect of “illegal sites” on top of my own abilities is extremely stressful. It got worse after reading an article about the online traffic of illegal sites surpassing that of official webtoon platforms. Despite it being a Korean article, I’m sure the situation is true for overseas sites as well.
Frankly, I’m really sick of this. It seems the more popular my work gets, the more it gets illegally uploaded. I’ve noticed new illegal sites pop up in search results that have never appeared before, and every day the pageviews and comments on illegal manga/manhwa aggregators I keep track of go up. I can only wonder what it would have been like if even half the viewers bought my work. The thought that I’m always being robbed keeps tormenting me.
futekiya: Currently, your webcomic is available on Lezhin. Has Lezhin taken any action and can Lezhin take action against illegal uploads?
White Eared: Media coverage on the issue says Lezhin is taking measures by exposing illegal uploaders of webtoons, self-monitoring, and joining the COA (Copyright Overseas promotion Association).
However, creators personally feel little has changed.
If I report to Lezhin the large number of illegal sites that appear in Google search results, I can see the links disappear soon after. However, this only blocks access to the sites via search; the site itself hasn’t disappeared. After a while, the same site begins to pop up in search results, and the cycle repeats ad nauseum.
In reality, it’s very rare for illegal sites in Korea to be shut down or for their webmasters to face punishment even when they are reported and investigated. The webmaster of Korea’s largest illegal webtoon site was arrested a while ago, but contrary to what I expected, similar sites are still up and running without major repercussions.
I don’t know what measures creators can expect from their companies in conditions like these.
futekiya: Do you have a final message to readers?
White Eared: The truth is [we] creators have had enough.
Some readers ask, “Why are you so upset when other creators kindly leave us alone?” as if illegal sites have become a condoned grey area.
Let me be clear: illegal sites are not a grey area. Most creators have simply given up on “voicing their opinion” in an unjust system [where illegal sites post our work without repercussions]. This is because nothing changes even if they take action.
Moreover, one of the biggest complaints we hear from overseas fans when we raise the issue is “I’m forced to read pirated translations since it isn’t officially released in my language.” I want them to know, however, that pirated translations do nothing to increase the number of official language releases.
Of course I want my manhwa to be translated into more languages and exposed to new readers. But illegally posting my work doesn’t help Lezhin Comics expand their business of currently contracted manhwa or draw up new contracts with licensees in other regions, or whatever the case may be.
(On top of that, such justifications of illegal sites make little sense when most uploads on the illegal manga/manhwa aggregators I follow are in Korean and English–languages already officially released by Lezhin).
I want fans reading webtoons on illegal sites to consider what kind of consumer environment they are contributing towards.
Edited/translated by Paul H. Kim. For inquiries, contact at firstname.lastname@example.org