The Legality of Scanlations


My feelings have been in turmoil recently after reading various comments and gripes people have shared about the chapter of “Thou Shalt Not Die” that I worked on.

Firstly, I was quite disconcerted when I saw how quickly my addition of the first chapter to Batoto was spread around to other manga sites. It’s good for distribution and introduces the material to a broader audience, but I retain less and less control over it. It will be extremely difficult to make any further changes or updates to it should that become necessary–I am working on a few edits; mostly fixing the R-to-L reading throughout.

And then there are the incessant inflammatory or “flame” posts regarding my work. It’s probably beyond reason to expect the Internet to always offer constructive criticism. 4chan is filled with mindless drivel that no self-respecting individual should ever read. Gamefaqs is hardly much better; both of which often resemble the never-ending poo-spewing comments often seen on YouTube.

I would like to say many things to these people, but I would only be lowering myself to their level by doing so. I have made my stance on watermarking my work whether some people spit at or belittle me for doing so. This is the only way I am able to claim the work that I’ve put into these productions as well as protecting the original work.

Unlike many scanlation groups, I am a solo producer. I purchase the source material, scan, edit, translate, typeset the material myself. I do not claim to be perfect in any of these methods, but it would be nice to receive a little gratitude. My final stance on this is: If you don’t like it, then you can purchase the source material yourself. There is no need to profusely complain about the quality if you took no participation in its creation.

That being said, these “flame” comments have also prompted me to think more deeply on the issue of Copyrights.


Regarding Copyrights

Technically speaking, any and all scanlation endeavours are a breach of Copyright laws if an individual does not receive written confirmation allowing for its use by the Copyright holder. This means, that the great majority of any scanlation group is breaking Copyright laws of the rightful owner, who can then legally send a cease and desist order to the offending party at any time. So, there is very little grounds for any scanlation group or individual to get anywhere with Copyright issues.

Here are a couple interesting definitions on the subject:

A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, a bridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.
— Digital Law Online

Translations, cinematic adaptations and musical arrangements are common types of derivative works.
— Derivative work definition on Wikipedia


The most important exception to the exclusive rights of the copyright holder is the “fair use” doctrine. This doctrine allows the general public to use copyrighted material without permission in certain situations.
Intellectual Property and Fair Use


There are exceptions to copyright, of course, but none of them are really applicable to the issue of scanlation. Fair use, in particular, is not a defence – the wholesale copying of the entirety of a copyrighted would never be considered “fair use” by a court.
Anime & Manga Stack Exchange


Lee said she had spoken to one Japanese publishing house that was not particularly happy about the unauthorized translations, but the industry has yet to engage in coordinated action, with many publishers seeing scanlation as an overseas phenomenon.

The lack of legal threats could have something to do with the way in which the majority of scanlators operate, as Lee discovered in her research.

For example, scanlators will try whenever possible to buy a copy of the original work and, if and when the Japanese original is translated, they will generally stop scanlating that particular work.
The Japan Times

The only reason I have been scanlating these chapters is to share the work with the larger, international fanbase that would otherwise not have access to the source material. When at all possible, I have also made it possible to assist fans who want to purchase the original item. However, I may have instead come to an impasse on the issue on the legality of scanlations.

Another reason why I’ve been working so hard on this material is because of my great respect for its creator, Yoko Taro. I, in no way, wish to damage his works, diminish monetary income gained from purchases of the source material, nor cause a problem legally.

Therefore, I will be formulating an official request from whomever to ask for written permission to continue my work on the scanlation. I don’t expect Square Enix to give me any sort of permission to do this, however; and should they refuse, I will be removing all of my scanlated pages. I will also refer their decision to other related scanlation groups.