SuBLime is an imprint of Viz Media that publishes yaoi manga (love stories between two men). When they publish digitally, it is usually in the form of a PDF download, which means that is it basically DRM-free—it can be readily moved from one device to another and won’t disappear if the publisher or the app does. It’s the digital comics format that a lot of fans want (and some demand).
The problem with PDFs is exactly the same as their strong point: They can be readily moved from one device to another, so they are prime material for pirates.
The SuBLime folks decided to take that chance, although I believe they watermark their PDFs, so if one escapes into the wild they will know immediately who owns it. The other thing they have going in their favor is the strong sense of community among yaoi readers. That’s why, when one of their manga showed up on a pirate site, the fans immediately let them know. The SuBLime staff addressed this in a post on their website, saying:
I have made it very clear from the start that if fans abuse the system and do this that we would stop making this available. Please understand the consequences of this. This doesn’t just prevent us from doing it, it also makes the Japanese publishers less interesting in letting any manga publisher do this. Do not punish the fans of this genre or any genre through your actions.
If you do this, we will suspend your account and you will lose all access to your purchased books.
What other consequences? If you like visiting your scanlation aggregator sites and wish to see them continue, bringing them to the attention of a publisher that has a legal department is not a good idea. We can go after the entire site for illegal content. Do we want to do this? No. We want to publish our books for our fans and not deal with this at all, but in order to do that we have to make money from the sales of our books to pay for the licensing, the printing, and not to mention to provide financial support to the many employees and freelancers who work so hard to bring these books to you.
SuBLime allows both streaming access and downloads, so presumably what they are cutting off with the first measure is just streaming. It’s not clear whether the pirate site took the illegal manga down, but SuBLime readers took to the forums to denounce the upload.
This seems like an excellent alternative to the type of DRM that makes you hate the publisher so much you want to pirate their stuff just for spite. SuBLime’s copyright protection system has two parts: An invisible watermark and a loyal community of readers. There’s nothing to get in your way—unless you try to steal the content.
(Hat tip: The Fandom Post)
A former book editor and newspaper reporter, Brigid Alverson started MangaBlog to keep track of her daughters¹ reading habits and now covers comics and graphic novels for Comic Book Resources , School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Robot 6, and MTV Geek. She also edits the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. Brigid was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards. Send her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org