InterviewsSTOP! PIRACY

Why do Rippers Illegally Upload Manga? We Find Out with Cobalt001 of 001_Rips

Simply put, I am stealing content from others and uploading it to the public, not the most heroic thing.”

As argued in countless forums and articles, readers and scanlators consider scanlation a legal and moral “grey zone.” Falling back on narratives such as scans build audiences for official English releases or scans let readers enjoy manga that would never be licensed, defenders of scanlation emphasize the positives and highlight how it differs from illegal uploads.

Ripping, the act of taking official English translations of manga, webtoons, and comics and illegally uploading them onto other websites, is outside the scanlation grey halo. However, rips often find themselves beside fan driven scanlations on manga aggregator websites like Mangago and KissManga. Although MangaDex has banned uploads of original releases (raws) and official English versions, Mangago and KissManga continue to host these illegal rips, much to the dismay of many artists who struggle to remove them. Additionally, many readers fail to realize the difference between scans and rips.

For our past handful of interviews, our sister website futekiya and I have talked with scanlators, artists, and professional localizers. We had yet to speak with rippers despite discussing how they impact the lives of GGANG-E, White EaredMingwa, and Seru. Thanks to an anonymous tip to our ongoing Scanlators and Readers Survey, we made contact with Cobalt001 of 001_Rips.

What is 001_Rips?

001_Rips Cobalt001

001_Rips is a group with three members dedicated to uploading official English translations of webtoons and manga onto Batoto, Kissmanga, and their Google Drive. Founded in July 2018, 001_Rips has already ripped 28 series that include Back to the Highteen, The Sensual M, What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. In their “Comments” Google document, the group states they don’t accept monetary donations since they “avoid turning this into a way for us to make profit.” They do, however, accept chapter donations and offer to teach others how to rip.

Familiar with various webtoon websites, they have ranked them from easiest to hardest to rip with additional commentary on “001_Rips Updates.”

001_Rips Updates Webtoon Ripping ranks
001_Rips Updates is a document where the group lists all of their releases along with news and comments.

“Yes. I believe people should have the choice whether or not to pay.”

Manga Planet: Could you please introduce youself and your group?

Cobalt001: Hello, I am Cobalt001 from 001_Rips.

Manga Planet: I understand that you refer to your activities as “rips uploads.” Would you characterize “ripping”?

Cobalt001: Yes. Ripping is essentially taking images from chapters directly from a host website, like Tapas. We then re-upload those chapters on other sites that host the content for free.

Manga Planet: How and when did you start ripping?

Cobalt001: I started ripping at the beginning of July, this year. Therefore, I’m fairly recent in the ripping community, yet have still uploaded a great number of chapters. I began with the series Back to the Highteen from Spottoon. It started as just a means for me to read the series offline because I have terrible internet. A few of my friends wanted the series too, so I decided to upload it to Batoto and other sites. I had no idea how popular it would get, and my ripping habits just grew from there. So basically, I started ripping because I had crappy internet.

Manga Planet: You mention a “ripping community.” Would you say this community is cohesive or as large the scanlation community?

Cobalt001: No, it really isn’t. The community isn’t that big when compared to the scanlation community. I’d even say maybe 2-3% of the size. Also, we aren’t really cohesive, but we do help each other out sometimes. For example, there was a day that I was just too busy to rip and a lot of people were rudely complaining about it. In response, Digital Scan uploaded some chapters in my place to quell the comment section. In turn, I’ve helped Digital Scan finish the series Bloody Sweet. It’s that sort of minimal communication relationship most of the time (or at least that’s what I’ve noticed so far).

Manga Planet: How long does it typically take you to rip a chapter?

Cobalt001: It varies by the website. For Spottoon, about 3.5 minutes per chapter, and for TappyToon, about 7 minutes per chapter. The main reason I tend to avoid Tapas series is because they take 15-25 minutes per chapter to rip. In the end, it really does vary by the site and how it hosts its images.

Manga Planet: Do you believe manga/webcomics should be free for everyone to read?

Cobalt001: Yes. I believe people should have the choice whether or not to pay. This is the main reason I rip and upload comics today. I want to give people the choice to read a webtoon for free or to pay for it the legal way. If they really liked the series, they would probably be willing to pay for it to begin with or willing to donate to the author. On the other hand, if they never intended to pay to begin with, then the site was never going to make money from them anyway, whether or not I upload their comics elsewhere. I rip and upload to share content with people who can’t afford it or don’t feel comfortable paying for it. In my opinion, Webtoons is the ideal way to share webtoons, giving it out for free and offering Patreon as an optional payment method to support the author. (Which is why I never rip their comics.) I just wish more sites would follow suit.

Manga Planet: Could you clarify more by what you mean by ” don’t feel comfortable paying for it.”

Cobalt001: A lot of webtoon readers I know are not sure if they’ll like the series enough to justify their purchase or can’t be sure that the series will stay consistent in quality, causing them to avoid purchasing the material out of uncertainty.

Manga Planet: What is your response to authors and artists who ask people not to rip their comics?

Cobalt001: Honestly, I am so sorry. I know my apology is nowhere near enough to compensate for what I have done, but I’d like to apologize anyway. I know that what I am doing is wrong, yet I will continue to do it because I believe that webtoons should be free. At the very least, I purchase most of the chapters I rip, even if I have the option not to.

Manga Planet: Do you find a lot of people think you are a scanlation group?

Cobalt001: Yes, far more than I thought would. I have only really translated one chapter ever (Bridge ch.0), and it was nowhere near a quality translation. I don’t deserve credit for these translations, and so I try my best to correct people. To combat this problem, I’m actually going to add a note clarifying this at the end of the first 15 chapters of every series I upload from now on. If we do end up doing translations in the future, we will probably create a new group called 001_Scanlations to emphasize the difference.

Manga Planet: In your document, you mention that Lezhin is a “site should just go die in a fire. Terrible pricing with no alternatives, infuriatingly annoying ripping procedure, bloodthirsty takedowns, and over commercializing itself in each chapter.” Could you possibly tell us what you mean by “commercializing itself in each chapter”?

Cobalt001: Lezhin loves to put info about sales and recommendations at the end of every chapter. I don’t see this happening on any other paid webtoon site, most likely because you paid for the chapter so you shouldn’t have to deal with ads. TappyToon and Spottoon understand this, and Tapas goes a step further by making chapters flow into each other which is nice for reading, little to no unrelated content seen.

Manga Planet: Right now we are conducting interviews with Lezhin artists as well. Below are some of the responses we have received. I understand that you do not rip Lezhin works and you have given a general response in a previous question. However, would you like to comment on these artists’ answers?

Mingwa (BJ Alex): And worst of all, dealing with illegal sites directly as a creator is mentally draining and depressing: illegal sites are a great source of stress for us, making this even more difficult to resolve.

White Eared (From Points of Three): Frankly, I’m really sick of this. It seems the more popular my work gets, the more it gets illegally uploaded. I’ve noticed new illegal sites pop up in search results that have never appeared before, and every day the pageviews and comments on illegal manga/manhwa aggregators I keep track of go up. I can only wonder what it would have been like if even half the viewers bought my work. The thought that I’m always being robbed keeps tormenting me.  

GGANG-E (A Man of Virtue): I hope you know what you are doing. Stop justifying yourself. Reading manga illegally is same as ruining artist’s life and dream.  If you can’t afford it, don’t read. If you can afford it, buy. If you don’t casually kill other people and steal their stuff in your daily life just for fun, don’t do it online.

Cobalt001: I can’t confidently respond to any of these arguments without just attacking the Lezhin service in general. They all raise great points which I can’t respond to without sounding hypocritical. When it comes to Lezhin series, the problem lies in the service, not the people.

Manga Planet: Regarding your apology to artists, do you believe the “bad guys” are the publishers?

Cobalt001: If I’m being honest, I don’t think that anybody is really a bad guy in this scenario (except me). You can’t blame them for wanting to make money. I just think they could do it in a better way, like with non-intrusive ads. Again, citing Webtoons as an example.

Manga Planet:  Would it be possible to know why you characterize yourself as a “bad guy”?

Cobalt001: Simply put, I am stealing content from others and uploading it to the public, not the most heroic thing. Last I checked, stealing was actually pretty bad.

Manga Planet: Do you believe ripping webcomics can make a change?

Cobalt001: I think it can get the webtoon/manhwa community more involved with more content accessible. A lot of discussion is generated for these webtoons. As far as how much money businesses like TappyToon make, I am under the belief that most people who were gonna pay before, will still pay after I rip it. For those that don’t pay anymore after I rip it, I can attract new viewers to the series that might end up paying for the series to make up for those the site lost. I know a number of people asked me how they could support the author/translator of What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim.

Manga Planet: You  say, “I am under the belief that most people who were gonna pay before, will still pay after I rip it.” Where did this belief come from? (I have heard this from scanlators as well.)

Cobalt001: Actually, I got the belief from scanlators as well so I guess you’ll have to ask them. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it was the most logical way to justify our actions because it does have some validity to it.

Manga Planet: In your document, you stated that you would stop ripping in 2019. Why do you have a specific date, if it is possible to know?

Cobalt001: September 2019 is the start of something new in my life that will prevent me from ripping and uploading completely. I don’t feel like saying exactly what it is. Just understand that it will be next to impossible for me to rip after that point, with few exceptions. That said, I might end up uploading in those periods but they won’t be very big updates.

Manga Planet: Do you have a message to readers who read rips?

Cobalt001: To those of you who read rips of official series, I’m sure you have your reasons. Whether it’s not being able to afford the series, or not being sure of whether you will enjoy the series, I only hope you have a justifiable reason. I’m fine with that and understand those reasons. If your reason is simply, “Why would I pay for it if I can get it for free” when you enjoy the series and have the money to easily afford it (and it’s set at a reasonable price), then you really should be buying the official release or supporting the author in some way. To those of you who believe that you (in some way) support the industry by reading rips, you’re wrong. In no way are you supporting the webtoon industry or the author of a series by reading rips, that’s a fact. The number of people who have tried to rationalize it this way is sickening. Reading rips is not a good thing. You may be able to argue that reading rips is not a negative thing, but it definitely isn’t positive. Overall, if you can afford the material, then pay for it. If you can’t, then turn to reading rips. I think that is how it should be.

Manga Planet: Is there anything you would like to know or talk about that has not previously been mentioned.

Cobalt001: I rip series because it’s a way for me to connect with the community and spark new discussions. I fully understand that ripping is not a good thing, but I believe that it is important to give people the option to pay, rather than require payment. Many people search out alternate ways to read a series simply because payment is required. If payment was optional from the beginning, most people would simply read the material on the official platform to begin with, eliminating the need to search for illegal uploads. I truly hope that the industry transforms towards this concept, similar to what Webtoons did, and look at how well that worked. I’m sure that people wouldn’t mind ads too much either as long as the material is free, so profit would still be generated for chapters. Until then, I will continue to rip series to share them with others and I will promise to never rip any series that was released for free because no one has any reason to do something like that and it should’ve never happened to begin with. On behalf of 001_Rips, I thank you for reading.

Do you want to find out how scanlators can turn pro? Our sister website futekiya talks with Local Manga, a manga localization company that hires former scanlators. Also, are you a scanlator, reader, or artist and want to talk to us? Be sure to fill out our survey and we will be in touch! 

From Points of Three White Eared Interview

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