French Comics Pirates Scan 30,000+ Titles, Offer Translations

In Europe by Olivia Snaije

According to a new report, the best-selling paper comic books in France are also the most pirated ones.

By Olivia Snaije

PARIS: Europe’s most important comic festival opens this week in Angoulême, France, with Art Spiegelman leading the jury. It’s perfect timing for the release of a study on the state of pirated comic books in France, by Le MOTif, the Paris regional government’s book and writing “observatory.”

The third in a series of reports on piracy that began in 2009, Le MOTif zoomed in on comics, as this is the category of books that is pirated the most in France. Comic books make up 10-14% of France’s global book market, but the availability of comics in e-book format does not meet the readers’ needs — resulting in organized teams of pirates (up to 100) that have scanned 30-35,000 comics, of which 8-10,000 are accessible to a larger public, which might not know about specialized sites.

Dupuis, along with Delcourt and Dargaud, are among the most pirated publishers.

The MOTif report reveals that of the 50 best-selling comics, 58% of these are not available as e-books. Pirated mangas are often streamed, whereas comic books are scanned. These generally good quality files, either PDFs or images, sell for an average of $15, slightly below the price of the equivalent paper book.

It is also interesting to note that these pirating teams are well organized and able to scan new mangas that are released in Japan. They even provide professional quality translations (including footnotes). The pirated comics are then sold online until the legal version appears in France, at which point they are removed. (After Japan, France is the country where the most mangas are sold.)

LeMOTif concluded that the results of their investigation are paradoxical; although the number of pirated comics is increasing, the number of paper comic book titles being sold is also increasing. The best-selling paper comic books are also the most pirated ones, which means that for the moment publishers are not panicking.

“The act of piracy is somewhat compulsive, as are comic book readers,” noted Vincent Monadé, Le MOTif’s director.

SURVEY: Are Book Pirates Fulfilling Unmet Demand?

About the Author

Olivia Snaije

Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris who writes about translation, literature, graphic novels, the Middle East, and multiculturalism. She is the author of three books and has contributed to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Global Post, and The New York Times.