Translation Piracy: goes with the territory

By | February 13, 2017

Several months ago,  a reader of my blog was nice enough to take a few of my translations and post them to the site Novel Updates. Overall, it’s been a good thing for my blog, getting me more readers, more feedback, and helped me meet a few new people.

But one day when I was looking through my referrer statistics, I saw a site name I didn’t recognize, and when I checked out the site I discovered they had basically cut and paste several chapters of one of the stories I was translating. To make matters worse, both my name and the name of the original author were omitted, and when I sent an email requesting they link to my site instead of cutting and pasting, there was no response. Ironically, at the end of each chapter was a link to my original article, but after reading the entire thing why would anyone want to click on that anyway? (Well, at least a few people did, which is how I discovered the site in my referrers.)

Of course, the reason the site and others like it are doing this are to make money from ads on their sites, and putting a link instead of the entire content would drastically reduce the time spent on their site, therefore the amount of people who click on adds and their income. Why would they not list the original author and translator, but still put a link to the original site? This does seem strange, it may be either simply a lack of thought, or some mechanism used to counter claims that credit wasn’t given.

So far I’ve been focusing mostly on a specific site, but there are others which may give less or more credit, and I found at least one that gives no link at all back to my site.

Interestingly, this phenomenon doesn’t seem to occur for all my stories. The odds of it getting pirated seem related to how popular the story is, or potentially how ‘good’ the pirate thinks it is, such that it has the potential to keep users reading, and hence keep clicking on ads.

I’ll admit when I first discovered one of my translated works was being pirated I got pretty upset, and did some research and experimentation about how to prevent it. I found a mechanism which seemed to work pretty well, though it caused me a little extra work and also there was at least one user who had a usability issue with it. I also think that some of the mechanisms used to reduce piracy may reduce the searchability of the works.

By the way, as part of my research effort, I tried to simply add a copyright in several places throughout the text. But of course the person who copied it managed to read through the whole thing, removing all the copyright statements. Somehow this actually made me feel a little better to know someone was reading through the entire thing, as opposed to just a script cutting and pasting it.

It isn’t my intention to go over the techniques I’ve researched and tried myself, as that might actually help them out. But, it seems that the more work you require for them to pirate something, the less likely it will be pirated. Surely, with a little extra work they could find ways around many of the tricks out there. I’ve read about some other techniques that are more advanced and would cause the pirate even more woes, and while they are technically interesting I’ve decided to not escalate things to that level, at least for now.

After calming down for a few weeks, now I see the whole piracy thing as actually a compliment, that I was able to do a good enough translation of good enough works so it catches their attention. By no means am I saying it is OK, and it still upsets me to no end that they would purposefully remove a copyright, and give little to no credit. But the works involved here are actually available totally free in their original Japanese, and someone could copy those if they wanted as well.

While I have had ads on my blog before and have considered putting them back someday, even if I do that the amount of money I would expect to get is pretty small. Even if a work were to be pirated, while that would frustratingly allow someone to make money for the work of the original author and myself, at the same time it doesn’t directly take any users or money from my pockets. It also increases the readership of my translations, though if my name is not quoted the effect is much less. But if a user liked one of the works enough, he or she could easily find my blog out.

In summary, while I fully understand the feelings of other translators (or authors) who take active measures to prevent piracy, for the time being I’ll probably be less aggressive on this front. I may do it on some of my selected stories, but I surely will not do it on all of them.

A final way to reduce piracy would be to stop allowing my posts to be linked on friendly sites like Novel Updates, since I have a feeling this is where the pirates do some of their fishing. But then I would loose the extra traffic and readership gained, something I am not willing to give up now.

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One thought on “Translation Piracy: goes with the territory

  1. Darwen Gwein

    The aggregate sites are totes annoying. I slip little disparaging remarks into almost all my translation works, white-texted of course. I know logically I have pretty much no way of stopping them myself like that, but the only way they’re going to get a clean swipe of my effort is if they go through their copy-pasta line by line to delete the offending lines, which means they’re likely to read my offending lines and feel at least somewhat worse about themselves, so mission accomplished as far as I’m concerned. After all, when you can’t fix something, might as well arrange it so you feel a bit better about it, right?


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