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Manga Publishers Win Major Piracy Case And AI Narration Advances: Self-Publishing News Podcast With Dan Holloway

Manga Publishers Win Major Piracy Case and AI Narration Advances: Self-Publishing News Podcast with Dan Holloway

In this episode of the Self-Publishing News Podcast, Dan Holloway discusses a significant legal victory in Japan where three manga publishers won $10 million in damages from a piracy site, potentially setting a precedent for how lost earnings are calculated in copyright infringement cases. This ruling could reshape the global debate over the impact of piracy on sales. Dan also touches on HarperCollins' partnership with Eleven Labs for AI-narrated audiobooks, exploring the balance between technological advancements and traditional publishing ethics.

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On the Self-Publishing News podcast, @agnieszkasshoes discusses a significant legal victory in Japan where three manga publishers won $10 million in damages from a piracy site. Click To Tweet

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About the Host

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet, and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, He competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.

Read the Transcripts to Self-Publishing News: Manga Publishers Win Major Piracy Case

Dan Holloway: Hello and welcome to another Self-Publishing News podcast from here in Oxford, where summer term, although you would never know it as such from looking at the grey sky out of the window, has started.

So, my life is once again full of overworked academics and frantic students, or indeed overworked students and frantic academics, depending on the day in question.

Japanese Manga Publishers Win Big in Piracy Lawsuit

What has been going on in the news? Really interesting piracy related story. We haven't had one of those for quite some time now. This comes from Japan, and it's a story of three manga publishers who have won compensation in a lawsuit against a piracy site called Mangamura, and the size of the settlement they've won is a not insubstantial 10 million US dollars, that's 1.7 billion yen.

What's really interesting about this, other than the fact that it's always good to be reporting on judgments against piracy sites, so this is just a big story and a big financial story, but what's really interesting about this is the size of the judgment in relation to the size of the claim.

So, this is a claim that was originally for 1.9 billion yen. So, the final judgment at 1.7 billion yen, that feels really close. So, maybe I'm just being cynical, but I'm used to seeing cases where rewards for compensation, or fines for infringements, tend to be a fraction of what has actually been claimed by the plaintiffs.

In this case, it's very close, and what's interesting about that is how the plaintiffs calculated the size of the claim they made. What they did was, it's a very simple, very straightforward back of the envelope calculation. They looked at how many times people had read their work on the pirate website. They looked at what they would have received had those people bought instead of getting things from a pirate site, and they did a multiplication of the two. So, the assumption there is that every view on a pirate site is actually a potential or an actual loss of earnings for the publisher, and that is something obviously. It's a very controversial subject as to the actual impact that piracy has on sales. The implication with this is that one pirate copy equals one sale lost.

That's why the fact that the judgment came in for something so close to the original claim is particularly interesting, because this does seem like an endorsement of this very straightforward, simple, and a lot of creators would see as an intuitive way of calculating the damage that has been done. It will be very interesting to see if this is backed up in future cases.

HarperCollins Partners with ElevenLabs to Produce AI-Narrated Audiobooks

That brings us on rather nicely to HarperCollins and AI. I say rather nicely because one of the things that's interesting is what HarperCollins has said about its latest move, which is to partner with a company called Eleven Labs to produce AI-narrated audiobooks of backlist titles in places where they don't feel that there is any chance of ever getting a voice narrator.

So, this is the standard argument that's used in favour of AI narration is that it's not an either/or. These are things that would never be, you would never get these sales. Otherwise, you'd never be able to make these audiobooks available if it weren't for the use of AI. So, there is no cannibalization of sales, and obviously you can see the juxtaposition here.

Traditionally, the argument is that these are things that would not have been sales anyway. We're not cannibalizing sales because people who download pirated books wouldn't have bought the books if they hadn't pirated them, they just wouldn't have read them at all.

The publishing industry, not surprisingly, sees as a somewhat spurious argument, but it's very interesting to see that they use a very similar argument themselves when it comes to AI narration. Using the effective argument, we're not stealing jobs from voice actors because these are books that, without AI wouldn't, would never have become audiobooks. So, it's not that we're stealing anyone's income, it's just that we are doing something extra, we're getting extra ears and eyes on the books.

I won't make any further comment. You can draw your own conclusions, but it's very interesting to see that HarperCollins has gone down both this route of doing this, but also this method of justification.

Leaked Recordings Reveal Big Tech’s Intent to Use Authors to Train AI Models

That brings us to the big story of the week, which is also a story that features AI and mainstream publishers, and that is the news that leaked recordings of emails from inside Meta, the parent company of Facebook, of course, that show that Meta was seriously considering trying to buy Simon & Schuster.

As you all know, if you've been following this column or the news in general, Simon Schuster was up for sale for quite some time. One of the big five publishing houses, they were going to be bought by Penguin Random House, but the US antitrust decision makers, legal bods, decided that this would be anti-competitive, that the resultant company would be too large.

If you remember, there was all sorts of fantastic arguments about what the impact would be on author's fees, what the size of advances in the market were. There was this thing whereby, on the one hand people were saying that an advance isn't big unless it's six figures and that there wouldn't be any impact on these big advances, and on the other hand, there were people saying that no one was actually paying this or being paid this.

It led to all sorts of discussion amongst authors of what their actual advances were, and they seemed to bear very little relation to the figures that were being banded around in court.

But in the end, anyway, it was decided that it would have a negative impact for consumers and for authors if these two publishing houses merged.

So, in the end Simon and Schuster, they didn't get taken over by Penguin Random House. At that stage, Meta got really interested in buying them. It seems like they were having almost daily meetings to discuss how they might go about doing this, and what's really important is that the reason they wanted to buy Simon Schuster seems to be that they wanted access to their catalogue in order to train their own AI.

The other thing that was discussed, apparently it seems from these meetings, is paying a one-off fee per book. They were like, maybe if we can't buy them, we can pay a fee for each of their books.

So, it's really interesting that there clearly is a big financial value that these big tech platforms place on high-quality creative content, and what they are willing to do to get their hands on that seems to be more extreme than anyone thought.

They're actually prepared to, not just to make offers of money to writers or offers of money to publishers, but actually to buy their own publishers just to get their hands on these catalogues.

The implications of some of the conversations in these meetings seem to be that if they couldn't get their hands on things that way, they would find other ways around it. There would be other material they could use. They would use any means to get their hands on the material that they need to get their hands on in order to train their AIs the way they want to.

It's very clear from this, as I said last week when I was talking about the UK government's approach to AI and publishing, that these are two industries with several zeros between them.

Big tech is so much bigger than publishing that, if the courts allow them to, they really could just buy up the whole industry out of loose change. That obviously has implications for our world and for the future of our world. The world of creating, of writing, of art, of voice narration. All the things that we hold dear.

If these big tech companies could just buy up all our stuff out of their loose change, then clearly, we need protection. It will be really interesting to see whether any limits are placed on the use of works that have been acquired in this way. So, if they own the copyright because they've actually just bought the companies who have the copyright, then are they really breaching copyright if they do use that to train their AI. It's a really interesting question.

Whose rights are these that are in these books? What's the difference between the author's rights and the publisher's rights? What happens with rights reversion? If things have already been ingested into and embedded in an AI, then if the rights revert from the publisher to the author, what happens then, what happens to that AI model?

There's so much legal uncertainty in this area that it really does feel that we are playing catch up, but it feels also that we need to catch up really quickly because of the financial disparities and the fact that big tech has huge deep pockets, and it does seem that it is thinking seriously about using them.

I will leave you with that. I will get back to my beautiful grey day, and I will speak to you again, hopefully with some really happy news next week. In the meanwhile, take care, and I will speak soon.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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