*Note: futekiya is a legal publisher and platform of BL manga. This article is intended to give a brief overview of scanlation and aggregator websites. For our official statement regarding the illegal distribution of manga, please read our Stance.
A scanlation is an unauthorized, fan-translated and fan-edited version of a manga, manhwa, or other comics. It is usually shared in the form of digital images. Originally done as a way for fans to freely share their favorite manga with readers who cannot read the original language, scanlations have been, crudely saying, an ethically arguable practice. The ethical questions regarding scanlations have intensified primarily due to manga aggregator websites’ presence, which makes a profit out of it.
Aggregator websites are, in concept, websites that collect data from other sources and place them on their website. In this case, a manga aggregator website takes scanlations from multiple sources all over the internet. It hosts them on one site, most of the time without permission from the scanlators, much less from the official authorities (publishers/artists, etc.) who hold the legal rights to the manga.
Scanlation is a word born from meshing up the words “scan” and “translation.” The term refers to scanning or digitizing manga/manhwa/other comics, and then translating it from its original language to another language.
The history of scanlations dates way back to the 1980s and is linked closely to the history of fansubs. However, back then, what would become “scanlations” were translated scripts of the manga’s text. Until the 1990s, fans distributed these translated scripts via email or CDs passed through physical mail or hand-to-hand. Scanlations only really took off after internet usage became more globally common in the late-1990s. Scanlating began as a way for foreign fans to share their favorite manga with other readers, and many translators used it as a way to practice their language skills as well.
During the mid-2000s, the popularity of manga spiked. As a result, the demand for scanlations also spiked—the drive was arguably no longer about sharing the love for reading manga, but more about getting free manga releases as quickly as possible. During this time, a lot of scanlations were distributed through direct-download websites. Between 2005 and 2006, speed scanning groups became more frequent, releasing numerous titles in record speed. Around that same time, manga aggregator websites were starting to charge readers to download scanlations, and by 2008, online manga reading websites were beginning to surface. Aggregator websites turned to online reading manga sites that make scanlations readily available and more accessible for readers. Such sites were then commonly accepted as the center for scanlation communities.
Scanlation and Aggregator Websites: The Modern Scene
The debate of scanlations’ legality continues even now. While it is indeed a copyright infringement and impacts official manga releases’ sales significantly, scanlations are still being defended as a way to access less popular manga and as free advertising for series that don’t have official releases yet. However, many artists have spoken about these aggregator websites and scanlations and the negative impact they have had on their careers.
Aggregator websites have already changed from its original purpose as merely a way to track scanlations become online readers that profit off fan scanlation through web advertising. Many aggregator sites have also gone beyond only scraping fan scanlations and have illegally ripping official releases of manga. As a result, many newer manga fans may not know the difference between illegal rips and fan scanlations and lead to further confusion as to what are legal sources for manga.
As of 2020, more and more manga series are being legally translated, licensed, and released on digital platforms for increased accessibility. There is still room for the manga industry to improve, and fans who support their favorite mangaka and publishers through legal channels can help the industry grow and better cater to international manga fans.
Manga Mavericks EP. 100 Part 1 – The State of Manga Piracy:
About futekiya: BL manga subscription
In 2018, futekiya began as a Boys’ Love manga news and culture website operated by FANTASISTA, INC., a CG/VR production studio based in Tokyo, Japan. futekiya transformed into a budding global distributor of officially licensed BL manga in 2019.
futekiya launched as an online subscription service for officially licensed BL manga on July 8, 2019. Determined to connect fans around the world with English-translated BL legally and conveniently, futekiya empowers readers to support creators and the manga industry.
Readers who subscribe to futekiya and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. To subscribe, please go to read.futekiya.com and create an account. More information is in our guide.