In my blog post that talks about whether the manga publishers are legit or a scam, I did say that the best way to determine if the company is legit or a scam is to have a look at the copyright page.
If the manga or the light novel that you bought doesn’t have a copyright page at all, then it’s more likely that the manga and the light novel that you bought is a bootleg one.
While it may seem easy enough for someone like me to tell the difference, it can still be tricky for those who aren’t familiar with the publishing industry.
Sure, it’s simple enough for me to say that you should look for the copyright page.
But how can you be so sure that you’re looking at the right page?
And most importantly, which part of the page tells you whether the company has a legal right to the work or not?
If the idea of going through the copyright page is enough to make your head spins, then what I’m going to share with you will give you a clue whether the company is legit or a total scam.
Just to let you know that I’m not a lawyer. So, everything that I share in this blog post is merely a guideline and based on my experience and observation as an author and a reader.
Let’s get this one out of door
It bears repeating here that a bootleg manga and light novel doesn’t have a copyright page.
So, how can I be so sure that the bootleg manga and light novels don’t even have a copyright page at all, you ask?
Well, I have the bootleg Death Note manga that I came across a long time ago to thank for.
Unlike the rest of the manga that I have, the Death Note manga doesn’t even have any copyright page at all.
The only information the manga has is the name of the company and the name of the printing company, nothing else.
Same goes for plenty of the bootleg Doraemon manga that I came across for as long as I can remember.
As far as I recall, none of them have a copyright page anywhere in the book.
What’s more, you can see them being sold alongside the legal ones too!
Of course, you can only see that scenario in the newsstand, though. You’re not going to see that in a bookstore.
And yes, even in the independent bookstores.
The copyright page in a nutshell
Now that you already know that the bootleg manga and light novels don’t even have a copyright page, what does the page even look like, and where you can find the page?
While the look of the page will vary depending on the publisher, what the page will entail is the same across the board.
And it’s not that hard to locate the page either. You can find the page on the front or the back portion of the book.
So, what are the details that the page tends to have? This is the information that you can find on the copyright page in general.
The name of the book and the author
If the name of the book is translated into a different language, then you will see the translated name first.
It was only further down the page that you’ll see the original name of the book. And the original name can be in English or Japanese, written in romaji.
This is what I see in the Malay version of Bungo Stray Dogs. You will see the name for the Malay version, Ejen Luar Biasa, as the main name first. And you’ll see the original name, Bungo Stray Dogs, further down the page.
This is also applicable to the English version of the manga where the original title is in Japanese. Depending on the publisher, they may or may not include the original title in Japanese.
That seems to be the case for most digital editions of the manga under Kodansha.
The company who owns the translation right
You’ll see the name of the company that has the legal right to publish and distribute the books in a translated language along with the company address.
If you have ever bought any manga published by Shueisha, you can see that Viz Media has the legal right to publish and distribute the manga they publish in English.
I’m not sure what kind of licensing agreement they have with Viz Media. But I’m guessing that Viz Media has a worldwide right for the English version of any manga that Shueisha licensed to them.
And the agreement will include the digital version of the manga as well.
The company who owns the copyright to the original work
This is the crucial part of the page since it tells you whether the copyright owner does give the translation right to the said company or not.
It also tells you in what language the company can publish the book and in which country the company can distribute the book.
Except for companies that hold the worldwide right to the book, companies such as Kadokawa Gempak Starz can distribute any books that they have the translation right to in Malaysia only.
It is clearly stated on the back cover of the manga and light novels that they publish, in case you’re wondering.
While the copyright owner tends to grant the company the translation right for one language only, it’s possible that they may grant the company the right for more than one language.
That seems to be the case for Kadokawa Gempak Starz where they have the Malay and English translation right for Hyouka and Bungo Stray Dogs manga.
Same goes for Comic House where they also own the Malay and Chinese translation right for Dragon Ball manga.
The name of the people behind the translated version of the book
This is where you’ll see the name of the people who translated the book, the editor, and also the people in charge of the design for the book.
In some cases, you’ll also get to see other people that the author consults for specific scenes and theories in the story and also the references that they used.
That seems to be the case for Dr. STONE manga where they listed the people that they consulted for the scenes and the references that they used in the story.
Just to let you know that I listed down the references that I used in my book as well. Rather than listing them on my copyright page, I list most of them in the author’s note instead.
The date of publication for the original version of the book
This is where you’ll see when the original version of the book was published. Depending on the book, it’s not surprising at all that most books have been around for quite some time already.
It only feels new since the manga and light novels finally get licensed outside of Japan.
The date of publication for the translated version of the book
While you’ll get to see when the translated version of the book was first published, you’ll also get to see whether the book that you get is the first print run or not.
Unless you buy the book right away upon its release, likely, the manga or the light novel you bought may already have more than one print run.
It’s not that hard to know whether the book that you get is the first print run or not. If the book has more than one publication date, it means that the book that you have isn’t the first print run.
Well, this isn’t a big issue for many of us unless you’re thinking of auctioning the book to the highest bidder.
The copyright page will never be complete without having a disclaimer. While you will see the usual disclaimer such as the story being a work of fiction, you will see the disclaimer from the legal standpoint as well.
This is something that you won’t see in the bootleg manga and light novels. They can’t add a disclaimer anywhere in the book since they don’t have the legal right to the work.
Where the publisher print the book
Depending on the publisher, some of them will even state the company in charge of the printing. They even include the address of the printing company too.
But for the most part, they will only mention the country where they print the book.
Not surprising that many manga and light novels that are in English are printed in the United States.
And in some cases, the books can be printed in Canada as well.
The book’s ISBN
While some publishers will also include the book’s ISBN on the license page, most of them will only put the ISBN on the back cover of the book.
See the barcode at the back of the book? That’s where you’ll find the book’s ISBN.
This is another thing that differentiates the legit manga and light novels from the bootleg ones.
The bootleg ones don’t have ISBN since you need ISBN for the distribution to bookstores and libraries.
That will only limit their distribution to newsstands and individual online sellers since having an ISBN is not a requirement if they want to distribute the books to newsstands.
They can just create a page to make it look legit, right?
Well, you’re not wrong to think that they can simply create a fake copyright page to look like they have the legal right to the book.
And it’s not that hard to do that either.
Despite how easy it is for them to create a fake copyright page, they still don’t do it.
The reason for that is simple. Creating a fake license page will only put them at risk. Not only the company that has the legal right to publish the book will come after them. But they will be putting themselves at risk of getting sued by the copyright owner as well.
And worst of all, they’ll be arrested for copyright infringement.
With such a high risk of getting caught, it’s not worth doing it just to make themselves look legit.
Keep in mind that these companies would only do this because there’s money to be made. And in some cases, they just want to capitalize on their passion while serving the underserved market.
If they want to do this, they prefer to do it discreetly.
It’s that simple.
P.S I admit that this topic can feel a little heavy for many people. But if you’re in the mood to read something fictional while learning something new, then you’re most likely will enjoy reading my light novels.
Wondering what kind of light novels I write? You can take a look at them at my Payhip store.
Interested in buying any of the books? Don’t forget to use the coupon code SEKINAMAYUBLOG during checkout to receive 25% off on your order.