Is the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal just trying to make us fret over the day when we can no longer Google their articles? The finance paper has had a recent rash of comics/animation related stories. Perhaps the most stark is this account of the dwindling fortunes of Japanese animators:
Morale is low. Industry executives estimate nine out of 10 new workers quit within three years, with the many talented employees leaving for better-paying jobs in areas like videogames. A survey conducted this year for industry executives showed that animators in their 20s made just 1.1 million yen ($11,000) a year on average, while those in their 30s earned 2.1 million yen.
Yasuna Tadanaga, 23 years old, left her position as an animator at a small Tokyo studio last year, only six months after landing what she thought was her dream job. To meet deadlines, Ms. Tadanaga worked 13 to 14 hours each day. During one month, she was given just one day off.
The grim state of the anime workers is because so much work is being farmed out to cheaper studios in Korea and China. Can’t someone do something? We hear Lou Dobbs is free.
¶ While a WSJ article on manhwa is mostly very positive, it’s not a free ride there, no sir. It seems that while everyone is off undercutting Japanese animators, it’s the Korean manhwa artists who are feeling the pinch at home from That Darned Internet. Trickle down economics, for sure.
Now artists are feeling the effects of free online content, despite manhwa’s growing popularity. Ten million Koreans read free Web comics, while only three million choose to pay, according to the Korean Culture and Content Agency, a government-affiliated body that promotes Korean arts around the world. In the past two years, at least 10 Korean cartoon magazines have stopped publication due to a lack of subscribers. South Korea only has 12 such magazines now, compared to 300 in Japan.
Even with the chunk of paying readers, many artists say they don’t receive a fair share of their Webtoon revenues. A Web site publisher usually pays a flat fee to cartoonists, then charges the readers a fee to view the cartoons, Mr. Park says. In this system, the publishers’ revenues hardly reach the artists. He is currently planning a Web site that will give a portion of the fees to the artists, possibly cutting out the publishers. The plan, unfortunately, still fails to address the illegal pirating of manhwa that has become so rampant.
¶ Moving back to the Occident, there’s a very interesting piece indeed on how Wikipedia updating is slowing down as volunteers walk away due to increased regulations and more nitpicking. Comics even rear their head:
Nina Paley, a New York cartoonist who calls herself an “information radical,” had no luck when she tried to post her syndicated comic strips from the ’90s. She does not copyright their artwork but instead makes money on ancillary products and services, making her perfect for Wikipedia’s free-content culture.
It took her a few days to decipher Wikipedia’s software.”I figured out how to do it with this really weird, ugly code,” she says. “I went to bed feeling so proud of myself, and I woke up and found it had been deleted because it was ‘out of scope.'”
A Wikipedia editor had decided that Ms. Paley’s comics didn’t meet the criteria for educational art. Another editor weighed in with questions about whether she had copyright permission for the photo of herself that she uploaded. She did.
¶ But the road to Nina Paley doesn’t end there– another piece breaks down how she manages to make $55,000 by giving away her animated film for free. There’s a lesson there for us all, methinks.
Artwork: A still from Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues.