The purpose of this paper is to understand participatory consumers who are involved in translating and distributing overseas cultural commodities, without the permission of copyright holders. It intends to conceptualize them as a new breed of cultural intermediaries and discuss implications of their activities for the cultural industries.
The paper conducts a case study of “manga scanlators” who voluntarily translate manga (Japanese comics) to English and share translated manga online with other fans, without authorization from copyright holders. In addition to literature review and analysis of the text of selected scanlation web sites, the author interviewed ten manga scanlators and eight manga industry practitioners and experts in the UK, the USA and Japan.
It is found that participatory consumers, as new cultural intermediaries, challenge the cultural industries by transferring a substantial part of the industries’ intermediary work to the realm of cultural fandom and by developing their own logics of organizing the intermediation process and distributing fan‐translated products.
Considering the lack of research on fan‐translation and dissemination of cultural products, this paper's findings will be a valuable addition to the existing account of participatory cultural consumption. The copyright infringement aspect in manga scanlation is seen as part of the bigger picture of the gradual decoupling of intermediation activities, which are required to bring cultural products to overseas markets, from the market economy of translated manga production and distribution.
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