elwen: (Default)
So I mentioned that the CEO of Digital Manga made a big plug for their new Digital Manga Guild project at Yaoi-Con. He really tailored his pitch to the yaoi fans, so I was left with the impression that he was starting with only yaoi titles and publishers. I thought the idea was great, but piloting it with yaoi not so much. After looking at the site more carefully, and watching the video of his not-tailored-to-Yaoi-Con pitch, I realize that it is not just for yaoi, so now I am even more excited to support it and see where it goes.

So what is it? I'm just going to crib the description I just posted at Baka-Tsuki:

Digital Manga is starting an interesting project that might be worth watching in the area of getting content to fans within the bounds of copyright law. They managed to convince some publishers to go to a revenue-sharing model. So no up-front fee to license a series, which is often a great deterrent to getting many series. Instead, the translators, publishers, and DM will split whatever money comes in. It seems the plan is to recruit translators (and editors and letterers) from the scanlation community and really bring them in from the cold, so to speak. Whether this will work is anybody's guess, but this is probably the only venture I've ever seen that even tries to reconcile the demand for translated content, the willingness of fans to do it mostly for the love of the series, and the need to deliver money back to the authors.


I signed up shortly after getting back from Yaoi-Con, and since then I got an announcement that the tests for translator, editor, and letterer are now open. Of course, I have too busy since then to take the test -- which also does not bode well for my ability to participate in actual translating down the road -- but I really want to at least keep my foot in the door just to see where this all goes.

Of course I encourage any of you who are interested to take a look and maybe sign up, but I also realize there aren't a whole lot of details out there yet. (The video says the revenue split has yet to be decided, but let's be honest here, are people on the fan side really thinking about that? If you're a professional translator, this probably isn't going to sustain you. And if you're a scanlator, I think the legitimacy is compensation enough.) So right now I can't say anything too strongly. But I'll report back on the selection of titles once things have gotten that far.

[I confess, I have this tiny hope that somehow I will find a title I've already worked on, and we could spare everyone some work.]

ETA: Okay, despite the general-ness of their website, their FAQ in the forums says they are focusing on yaoi titles initially. Bah. Well... I guess all the more reason I need to work at it, so hopefully they will keep expanding the venture. :|
elwen: (reading)
Tom Campbell, a Republican, opposes Prop 8. Why? Because Republicans don't stand for meddling in people's personal choices (questionable, if you're a social conservative) and because marriage of any form is good for the economy. Also, I never knew he clerked for the Supreme Court. Neato.

Apple donates $100K to fight Prop 8. So did Google, apparently. Maybe that supports Campbell's point that it's good for business.

JKR won, apparently. I'd kind of stopped paying attention after posting about it last time. The court's decision is kind of disappointing, but at least they rejected the argument that the encyclopedia would interfere with her own. I don't really know what "companion books" they're talking about, so whatever.

Fair use analysis is required before sending a DMCA takedown notice. (Maybe.) Lots of hedging in the opinion, looks like, but at least it's pointing in the right direction. Judge Fogel is one of the most awesome judges in the world, of course, as are all of the other judges in the N.D. Cal. San Jose Division. \o/
elwen: (rage)
Don't you dare tell me, Windows Media Player, that you are the only program compatible with my files. Oh, you're so clever, having your "list of compatible players" link go straight to WMP 10. This is why you will never win the war.

Nothing comes between me and my Winamp, dammit.
elwen: (lol)
For some reason, a PDF of this comic was uploaded to the reading materials folder of our copyright class. XD; [Spoiler: it's called "Library System Terrorizes Publishing Industry" and is a very convincing parody of the reaction to Napster. I wouldn't even have downloaded if it hadn't been cryptically called tom-the-dancing-bug.pdf, which is apparently the name of the strip. @_@]

Speaking of libraries (and piracy), someone needs to sub Toshokan Sensou.
elwen: (english the bully)
The president of Bandai Visual USA is at it again. [You may recall that, last time, he gave a fluffy response to an open letter from anime fans begging the industry to learn from RIAA and MPAA, making it seem like people were listening, but in the end it didn't sound like he'd taken anything to heart.] This time, apparently, he claims that the Japanese anime industry depends entirely on DVD sales for revenue, after "paying Japanese TV stations to broadcast their product." I have two responses.

First, I'm not sure I entirely buy it. Yeah, he probably knows a lot more about it than I do, but he's still the president of a U.S. company, who probably has different incentives from his Japanese counterparts. I'm not saying he'd lie about it, but he might be exaggerating or spinning.

Second, so what? This is no answer to the issue that is at the heart of the piracy debate: piracy is not going to stop. Even if you make a substantial or even a large portion of fans feel bad about it, it will live on. And even fans that feel bad about it aren't necessarily going to buy your $60-for-2-episodes DVDs instead. [American fans always complain about exorbitant prices for anime, but that's what they pay in Japan.] The industry has to adapt. It can work on fighting piracy at the same time, but it simply can't expect that things will ever go back to the way they used to be. If you need to pay stations to broadcast your stuff, maybe you're doing something wrong.

[I can barely imagine how it has worked even up until now, if that's how things really are. I mean, the vast majority of things I only ever watch once. If it's on TV, I'd tape all the episodes and overwrite the tapes as I go. I'd guess that a lot of people are like that. So they're giving a lot away just to make a few sales. How does it work?]

Anyway, I haven't really thought that much about it, and don't really want to, since I suck at business and economics and all those things you'd need to analyze the situation, but . . . I just don't buy it. Either as a fact or as an argument.
elwen: (Default)
Crunchyroll just got $4.05 million in venture funding. WHAT?!

[I link you to this post for background, but only because it's the only one I know of. (I just found this stuff off of AnimeOnDVD and haven't done any searching on my own.) Be warned that it's written by someone who doesn't seem to know anime or Crunchyroll or the industry very well, since he blithely declares that their content is "almost always dubbed for English speaking audience". (Wow, it's been so long since I've had to instruct someone in the difference between subs and dubs... It's like I'm back in my newsgroup days.)]

Even if all the content they have is unlicensed in the U.S., I can't imagine people letting this slide by. I mean, it's moving towards to the model fans dream of: domestic companies using (and preferably paying for) fansubbers' work to get shows to the fans as soon as possible rather than months or years after the Japanese air date. But something tells me Crunchyroll did not go about it the right way. Y'know, with the whole getting permission thing and all. (Almost definitely not from the copyright-holders. Possibly not even from the fansubbers.)

I mean, I have a lot of beefs with the copyright system, obviously, but this goes too far. And here I thought VCs were afraid to touch any company that even vaguely smelled of infringement. All you startups thinking the DMCA "chilled" innovation? It's all clear, come back out!

...man. I just don't know what to say.

But what I'm guessing will happen is that as this gets around, all of that $4.05 million is going straight into Crunchyroll's legal defense fund. I almost wish I was their lawyer.

ETA: I'm kind of annoyed by how AnimeOnDVD on its front page keeps saying $4.5 million instead of $4.05 million. They got it right in the forum post, and, I mean, what's $450,000 or so? 9_9;;
elwen: (Default)
AnimeOnDVD has the following post today:
Attention Japan (03:51 PM EST): Claiming that the lack of region coding on high definition formats is an impediment to releasing there due to the fear of reverse importation is a straw man argument. Considering that the majority of cheap DVD players available worldwide and the easy availability of information on how to unlock them online, making this claim is the same beyond bordering on silly. It's like claiming that having locks on your front door are the most important thing yet you leave all your windows and back door unlocked at the same time. DVD is a completely open and broken format and the people that want to reverse import from Japan to the US are already doing so and have done so for years now. HD DVD is completely region free and Blu-ray has the US and Japan in the same region and has set rules in place to encourage no region coding. This is simple fact and the sooner that companies come to grips with it and move forward with a better plan, the less silly companies will look when posing such straw man arguments.


I thought this was interesting because we basically had the same conversation several times over in my Innovation Industries class: You're not going to stop piracy. You're not going stop circumvention of region encoding. What you need to do is make yourself more attractive than the pirates. Release things fast. Make it convenient. Make it high-quality.

The person who wrote the AnimeOnDVD post clearly is on top of DMCA cases: the locked doors/open windows analogy is what the court used when holding that making third-party toner cartridges that crack the manufacturer's "secret handshake" is not circumvention of a measure meant to prevent access to the printer code. [Courts really like calling it a "secret handshake" instead of authentication, which is kind of endearing and frustrating at the same time.]

A week or two ago, Justin Sevakis at ANN wrote an open letter to the anime industry that was a nice follow-up to my post about Gonzo's president lamenting the demise of anime at the hands of pirates.

[I've been too caught up in end-of-semester stuff to really read and digest the letter, but I guess I should gather all the pieces together now. I'll write more about it later, especially since I'll be writing a paper on copyright infringement over break. I'm also creating a tag called "digital copyright", since I seem to write about these issues enough to warrant it. I guess I am, and will always be, a copyright dork.]

A few days ago, the president of Bandai Visual USA responded to the open letter. Apparently AnimeOnDVD thought this was a coup, saying what was needed was for high-ups in the industry to talk about this, and for people to tell U.S. fandom directly about the Japanese side. Personally, I found the response pretty unsatisfying. Along the lines of, "Thank you for your feedback. It will receive due consideration." And then back into rhetoric about "please buy our DVDs and recommend series to your friends" and "boo hoo, look at us, we're trying so hard". Maybe I'm exaggerating, but it just seems like they didn't want to give serious thought to this at all.

Like I said, I haven't actually read the entire letter yet, but the first thing I got from it was: "Please, please, let's show that we have learned from the RIAA and the MPAA." And I really wish we could. But it doesn't seem like the industries are interested in learning.

I vaguely remember the days when DeCSS flew around the internet with the industry desperately chasing after it and trying to put it back in the bag. [In case you don't remember, DeCSS is a program for decrypting DVDs. When it first came out, the industry started filing lawsuits and sending takedown notices left and right. In response, people kept spreading the code farther and wider -- on t-shirts, as domain names, etc. The only part that really stuck with me was that people started singing it in songs, clearly trying to assert some kind of fair use defense. Only now do I know that, sadly, there is no such broad fair use defense for anti-circumvention.] If the industry ever wanted to show how utterly powerless it was, I think that was it. So after that fiasco, I thought they would have figured it out: the more you try to suppress something, the more the libertarian masses on the internet are going to fight it.

That's why I was shocked to find out in Innovation Industries that the exact same thing happened with HD DVD. Smart computer people discovered the key that encrypts HD DVD, a set of hexadecimal values that starts with "09 F9". They posted it online. The people in charge, AACS, responded by filing lawsuits and sending takedown notices left and right. In response, people started putting it on t-shirts, as domain names, etc. They kept posting it on Digg and voting it up so that the entire front page was covered with it. At first Digg tried to cooperate with AACS and took it down as fast as they could. Then they realized that the mobs were against them, so after they recovered from the server crash that resulted from everyone voting up the 09 F9 posts, they gave up and even posted the key themselves. AACS came out looking ridiculously impotent. Not to mention stupid, because the key is useless in the hands of most people -- not many people know how to write software that actually uses the key to be able to rip HD DVDs.

Of course, both DeCSS and 09 F9 were indirect threats to copyright protections. Piracy is direct. But the point remains: you just can't stop it. But the hysterical "fansubs are the devil" line of rhetoric suggests that they haven't really learned that what they really need to do is either preempt or coexist. Direct, head-on attacks just won't work.

Anyways. More thoughts later.
elwen: (Default)
The President of Gonzo International blames fansubbing for all of the anime industry's problems.

First of all, I find it hard to trust the president of anything when he uses multiple exclamation marks at the ends of sentences. Given his bias, I already suspect that he is exaggerating, but the punctuation really seals it. I seriously expected to see a "1" slipped in there somewhere.

More substantively, I have two major problems with what he is saying, which were pointed out in the comments as well: (1) it's generally impossible to identify a single source that's responsible for the entirety of an industry's problems, and that's true here as well. Maybe also blaming rising oil prices specifically is a little silly, but yes, it does cut into disposable income. The bottom line is that there have got to be other things at work, too. (2) where are the numbers and the analysis? All he really said was, "The anime DVD industry is doing worse than the overall DVD industry. Thus, piracy is to blame." Which ignores the fact that English DVDs have problems with piracy as well -- possibly more problems, because it's much easier to release rips of American shows and movies than to release a fansub. [I bet it's a close question on what kills a fansub group faster: a C&D letter or the lack of translators.] I want at least some kind of factual narrative of what the numbers reflect that shows fansubbing is the problem. Maybe it's obvious to him, but it's not to me. As commenter Cameron pointed out, what does a comparison of a niche market to the mainstream market really tell us?

That said, I don't buy the theory that fansubs encourage watchers to become buyers more than they discourage would-be buyers from spending money. I wish he had been a little more clear on this point, but, as I've already said, detailed theories are not his strong point. I was very confused about the distinction between fansubbing and illegal piracy -- his argument seemed to be that fansubs are okay in themselves, but they hurt the industry because they lead to piracy. Whaa? Maybe he's saying that series are shared more once they are fansubbed, because fewer people will seek out raws?

There were two things I commend about his responses:

1. His recognition that the ultimate root problem is that companies are not getting anime to fans fast enough. I really appreciated that his answer to the "How are you trying to stop infringement?" question was not the RIAA "let's sue the crap out of our fans" strategy. Making huge swaths of now-common consumer behavior malum prohibitum is not really the answer to this problem; the industries need to adapt.

2. His reminding people that fansubbing is hurting the creators. People might not feel that much sympathy for the big companies, but I don't think any true fan would not feel guilty that the brilliant minds that wrote the story, created the characters, or drew the art are going to stop because of their actions. Then again, I don't buy this argument from the RIAA's mouth, so maybe it's not so plausible here either. There may be some credit to the comments about there being a glut of anime that's not well-targeted.

Anyway, back to studying a form of intellectual property I'm actually learning about this semester: trademarks.
elwen: (thought!)
Amen.

[For those of you who don't click on links unless you know what you're getting into: Ian Rogers, who works at Yahoo! Music, says "no" to DRM: "I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience. I will tell Yahoo! to give the money they were going to give me to build awesome media applications to Yahoo! Mail or Answers or some other deserving endeavor."

I also rather liked Phillip Lenssen's comment on Google Blogoscoped: "Maybe one day we’ll look back and laugh about all this... the dark period of the late 1990s and early 2000s, right between after cassette tapes (allowing easy remixing, sharing, recording from radio etc.) were lost and real digital music (allowing easy remixing, sharing, recording from web radio etc.) arrived."]
elwen: (thought!)
I went to an awesome talk about the history of copyright yesterday. It was given by Karl Fogel, the webmaster of QuestionCopyright.org. I think pretty much everything he mentioned is also on the site, but I'll summarize the points I found really interesting, since they're somewhat scattered over the pages:

  • Copyright began as a form of censorship. Britain gave the Guild of Stationers a monopoly on printing presses so that government censors could control what was being published. When they lost their monopoly, the Guild presented Parliament with the idea that artists have a natural right in their works and can transfer this right by contract, with the goal of retaining their own exclusive rights. From the start, copyrights have been advocated by and designed to protect the publishers, not the artists.

  • Most people think copyrights are designed to protect artists from plagiarism, i.e. from losing credit, not revenue. (And groups like the RIAA work hard to reinforce this link between copyright infringement and plagiarism, since the latter carries a huge stigma, even among children.) But plagiarism isn't the problem with things like file-sharing.

    Actually, there are some crediting problems with file-sharing, such as mistagged songs, but I don't think that's really high in anyone's consciousness when they talk about the issue.

  • The vast majority of artists don't depend on their copyrights to make money. Most music artists make money by performing. Writers get advances. The royalties these people get, if they get them, are usually tiny.

In the end, I don't think there's anything immediately revolutionary in what I learned, but dispelling the link between plagiarism and infringement is probably the first step towards copyright reform. Obviously all these ideas that infringement is evil hasn't stopped file-sharing and the like, but it probably gives people a lingering guilt over the matter -- they feel like it's wrong, even though they can't quite figure out whom they're hurting. Whatever people thought about the music industry's response to file-sharing, many of them probably felt that it still had the moral high ground. And as long as the public thinks copyrights are fundamentally desirable, there's no impetus for Congress to change the current system.

I'm not a problem-solver, so I couldn't begin to say what should be done. I'm guessing most talks like the one I went to are just preaching to the choir. Even the internet may not be the best vehicle for spreading this kind of information. But it's good to know and to think about, anyway.

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