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Japan vs. the World: Ethics of Magazine Preservation



There are two websites in the world providing original scans of Japanese gaming magazines.  Retromags, which offers a small collection of Japanese mags scanned mostly by me.  And RetroCDN, which hosts low-resolution scans provided by a native Japanese scanner.

It's no mystery why these scans are coming from people living in Japan (well, the two of us, anyway.)  We have the easiest, cheapest access to the mags.

But what's interesting is that all of these scans are being hosted by websites based outside of Japan.  For me, well sure - I'm an American, even if I've been an expat for 9 years.  But the other scanner is Japanese.  Why not host them at a Japanese site?

Well, because there is no such site.  There simply aren't any magazine preservation sites in Japan.  The entire thing is seen as not only illegal, but unethical by the majority of Japanese (whereas I think it's safe to say that we here at RM may acknowledge the technical illegality of providing magazine scans, but have a far more lenient view on the ethical implications, so long as the mags being offered are old enough to meet our cut-off dates).

I recently was reading a thread on 2ch, a textboard that is probably Japan's largest and most influential online community (which ironically and fittingly, was founded by a Japanese while attending university in America).  In it, users were discussing websites that offered high resolution scans of gaming mags.  All sites referenced were foreign, and none were offering complete scans of entire magazines, just select pages.  Also, to be fair, these were relatively new mags being discussed, not old stuff like we offer here.

The following is my translation of select comments.



"Of course, we can count on foreigners for such things."

"I guess we should report this"

"Can we make a report to foreign countries?"

"I've decided to report it to the publisher.  It's copyright infringement"

"You can buy Famitsu every week for 400 yen.  Furthermore, you can get it on your smartphone or tablet.  Scanning is unnecessary."

"The police allow it because it's overseas."

"Sometimes when looking at useful information in a scanned image, I'll decide to buy the magazine."

"I fell into self-loathing after looking at (the scans).  This is terrible.  I will buy this weeks issue."

"You will be arrested if you do this in Japan.  Report it."

"To be honest, it can be very useful when you want to see a back issue."


As you can see, there were a couple of people OK with the idea, but most seemed appalled.

Btw, lest anyone think that the Japanese are as puritanically ethical regarding copyright as these posts might make it seem, I'd like to point out that in the years following the mass acceptance of CDR burners, countless shops in Japan opened up "CD rental" sections, allowing you to rent music CDs.  And there, either right next to the CDs themselves, or else right by the check-out counter, spindles of blank CD-Rs were also being sold.  But I'm sure the two had nothing to do with each other.:rolleyes:

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  • Retromags Curator

Yeah, it's like all the head shops here in the US that don't sell bongs, but do sell "water pipes".

CD rentals though...there was a time when that might have been a useful service. I mean, I admit, that time was 'twenty-five years ago', but still...somewhat entrepreneurial. :)

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10 hours ago, Areala said:

CD rentals though...there was a time when that might have been a useful service. I mean, I admit, that time was 'twenty-five years ago', but still...somewhat entrepreneurial. :)

Especially in Japan, where at the time a normal CD sold for $30.

Also, btw, Japan is probably the only technologically advanced country in the world where CD sales are still higher than digital sales.  In Japan, "twenty-five years ago" is right now.  But at least CDs are for more reasonably priced these days.  Now they only cost $25.:P

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