Stooping to conquer?

It seems distasteful to ask publishers to license additional titles when so many people are worried that the currently licensed properties will see completion, so I think I’ll put the license requests on hiatus for a while. As we all ponder the future of the manga industry, I thought I’d share an email entitled “Fighting back against manga piracy” pointing to an approach that I find unsettling:

“It’s written by somebody who decided to attack the manga aggregator sites by going directly to their ‘sponsors’ and complaining about child p__n. This one action caused a chain reaction that got several piracy sites black listed from AdSense. Without ad money these sites can’t support themselves. The readers won’t donate or buy memberships. Most sites mentioned in the above link have found alternative sources of ad revenue.

“It’s important to note that going directly to Google would have done nothing. Only those who actually pay for the ads can make the ad software providers act. Those paying for the ads don’t care about piracy per se, but the notion that their money is supporting content that sexualizes teenagers and children and bankrupting the youth of America will motivate them to demand changes in a hurry. They simply don’t know where their ads are appearing but they should be informed, repeatedly.

“I just wanted you to know that there is a way for people who care about the manga industry to fight back. And win. This is the only way.

“But you didn’t hear it from me…”

I’m not going to link to the site, as the URL is a positive mine field for unwanted attention and comment spam, but you’re all bright enough to do a search and find it on your own.

Now, you all know that I find these aggregator sites revolting. They attempt to turn a profit without compensating the original creators, and they do so with a sheen of artificial legitimacy that too often goes unchallenged by uncritical journalists. But this approach – demonizing the content in an effort to hinder its unethical purveyors – strikes me as counterproductive in the extreme. Instead of pushing Google to respect copyright and intellectual property and vet its advertisers, it pokes at Google’s worst and most reactionary impulses while fostering the kind of lurid suspicion that has always plagued manga to some degree.

I don’t doubt that the approach works, just as charging mobsters with tax evasion works, but it seems like there’s a concomitant level of damage to the product and the industry you’re trying to protect. You’re smearing the comics in an effort to keep people from pirating them, and while that probably keeps aggregators on their toes, it gives manga the kind of black eye that lasts longer than the inconvenience created for aggregators.

And as I said, I’d love for these aggregators to sweat. But I want them to sweat because they’re illegally profiting off of the work of others and damaging a legitimate enterprise through their selfishness and greed.