Of Fan Translation, Crowd-funding, and Licenses – Where to from now?

kickstarter-aroduc-bannerI was talking to Debono9 about this idea. Not surprisingly, asking for money to translate unofficially is going to get axed quickly (although I still felt it was worth trying). So I suggested, future approach should be to try to get the publishers to agree to receive 50% to 100% of the cut from the kickstarter. (I know how some translators are interested in working for free, in which case the JP devs get 100% of the cut, which is even better of a bargaining position.)

But there are some issues.

I proposed this idea to Debono9, ‘what if you crowd-fund a license?’. So he tried suggesting the idea to Terra (the translator of LuckyDog1) and Terra emailed the idea to Yura (one of the JP devs), but it was rejected.


But what I don’t understand with that reply, is that the Rapelay was a media backlash, not a legal one. CNN was writing in 2010 that Japan needs to “police game makers” against creating games with certain themes and contents, including adult titles in the “rape fantasy” genre. There is no legal defence against a media lashback. So what they mean is, they don’t want to cause meiwaku (迷惑) to other devs by becoming the indirect catalyst to strengthening the Japanese laws against freedom of expression.

But of no relation to Rapelay, perhaps they are also afraid of the authorities and the regulatory bodies. The network of regulations are so thick you need to hire an expert. And this is even more true for oversea releases, which require compliance to a whole new set of laws that they are not familiar with. That is too much trouble to do correctly, And that they don’t have the capital to defend themselves in a law suit (by some effing women’s rights group) when the time comes.
guishen_0067is_cg14_s03aSo that is why I suggest, when you fail to negotiate an endorsed-project, you may have to go the unendorsed route.

The specifics are very important. Basically there are a number of possibilities. But one method is that the company is not to endorse the kickstarter translation, they merely turn a blind-eye to it (altho they still get the money). There are no formal licenses. It is 100% unofficial fan-work. The reason why we have to do it this way, is because it removes responsibility from the JP devs, and it removes the government-added-costs.

Unendorsed means you ‘may’  have to remove any mention of money going to the devs on the kickstarter page (even though the money is still going to them). Which means your project won’t nearly be as attractive, but that’s how it is.

^ Unless. Unless they pull one of these punches.

“(they) had no interest in selling their games in the west because of piracy, to stop because I would be promoting piracy, and that if I wanted to play their games, I should move to Japan.”

Which doesn’t make sense.

1) In a proper deal, the translator would literally be buying a license with the pledged money to produce an english patch. So on the Japanese side of the deal, the monetization is through the license for allowing the creation/distributing of a patch, not through the selling of copies. So you don’t get your money through selling copies (omg). and in Aroduc’s example, he is not selling copies (for he is not). So if you are not monetizing through printing copies, and you monetize through selling Aroduc’s labour, piracy doesnt even come into the equation.

And it is the same if you go the un-endorsed route.

2) Saying english patches promote piracy is the equivalent of saying that banner Ads promote piracy and that you should not put banner Ads. Saying that there is piracy therefore we are not interested in the West is like saying Pledges is Not Money.

Obviously you will have to pick your targets. Smaller companies might be easier to deal with than larger ones. Doujin works might be easier to deal with but their games are usually inferior to commercial. Anyway those are my ideas.

EDIT:  sanahtlig added that the ‘unendorsed’ route would not work because it still does not solve the problem of fear of media lashback if word got out. So I added that for the purpose of the official release,  you take the H-content out of the equation (to avoid law compliance controversies), then ADD it back in through an anonymous fan patch. That, I think is a much more convincing proposal.

About the author


I'm the Fuwanovel community admin and a big fan of Visual Novels. The easiest way to get a hold of me is via a PM on the Fuwanovel Forums, by twitter (@ArchmageTay), or by email.


  • On the subject of saying that either move to japan or don’t play the game, isn’t that going to cause more piracy then it would prevent? I mean honestly most people pirate simply because the game ISN’T readily available to them, not because they aren’t willing to pay. By completely stonewalling the U.S with such a biased, and rather insulting view on our morals (most people I talk to in my town wouldn’t know what internet pirating even meant other then some vague mention of music and law suits.) and why pirating takes place at all. I’m not saying that it’s not their right, just rather, eh, blind of them. Even with the presence of pirating, most games are still doing fairly well from what I understand, and some of the more, core, sites of such things openly support and advertise indie games that would otherwise risk going unnoticed. While overall, a lot of the time it’s not the way you should go, it happens, and is, in the smarter businesses being embraced as an advertisement tool, not a hindrance, or someone stealing their property.

  • “So if you are not monetizing through printing copies, and you monetize through selling Aroduc’s labour, piracy doesnt even come into the equation.”
    Perhaps the developers don’t WANT free copies of their game floating all over the Internet? Certain developers that work with Mangagamer *require* that their games be sold with DRM. I can imagine legal reasons for this–DRM represents a good faith effort by the company to ensure only customers that are legally able to buy the game can play it. It also helps keep the game out of sight of those that don’t want to see it.

    The “unendorsed translation” idea is just subterfuge. Pushing money under the table just increases the shadiness; that’s not addressing the company’s concern at all. You acknowledge but don’t fully embrace that running a business is more than just handling a series of isolated financial transactions. Short-term profit does not necessarily equal long term gain.

    • No it does not. an english patch does not cause any more or less free copies to occur than a commercial release does. just because you are extraordinarily angry that your customers share the bits after you’ve sold it to them, that does not mean you can make logic defying statements. And that is EVEN if you are japanese.

      There are 2 groups of people, 1) people who want to pool their resources to see more creation & more translations, and 2) people who are willing to offer either in exchange for a price. Tell me where the long-term-loss would be if these two groups of people didn’t, and will never get to trade?
      I think you are mistaking what is happening here. It’s not lying to people in order to take advantage of them, It’s, you’re hiding yourself from the authorities because the authorities give you a hard time.

      To the people who are paying, and the people who are offering services, we are honest to each other. We don’t fraud each other. Rather we greatly appreciate the other’s work. And we spur each other on with kind words. There is no customer lashback because the customers know that the devs were Forced to hide their connections, on purpose, in order to continue to serve the customers. And that they know if they don’t do this, their ability to serve the customer will be deteriorated. It is in fact, despite the extremely powerful entities in upper society who wish to destroy other people’s commerce, it is despite their prying eyes and vicious laws, that the commerce continues to exist. And that is a GREAT service to the customer, that they would go to such lengths to serve us. (and may it come true). It is in fact a moment of celebration for fans. It is not what you portray it to be, as though the company has been lurking in the shadows and anytime-now ready to backstab the customer. When it happens, it would be largely agreed to be the best course of actions to be taken in order to benefit both parties the most. Also, ‘Goodwill’ and ‘humanness’, are the attributes that customers respond to, the thing that people open wallets for. Not the company-facade.

      In fact I would argue that by opening up an in-road with fans, you establish long-term gain through a steady relationship and a continuous stream of revenue.

    • You’re preaching to the choir. I’m not the one you have to convince; it’s the outsiders looking in that see funds being covertly shuffled to overseas producers of pornographic rape simulators; it’s the developers worried about the attention of these outsiders. The more effort you take to avoid the eye of the law, the greater the scandal when it’s exposed. You’re telling developers that are worried about Western outrage and potential legal censure to take money in the shadows and look the other way. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment: don’t you see how that makes no sense at all from their point of view?

      • Well you make a good point. So basically it can only be done if you take the H-content out of the equation for the purpose of the official release (in order to avoid media lashback) then ADD it back in through an anonymous fan patch. (now taking dibs from moenovel’s konosora)
        Then add the estimated labour cost required to cut out H-scenes into the required budget for the project (Many hackers have done this in the past) and I think you have a reasonably persuasive position.

      • Well you make a good point. So basically it can only be done if you take the H-content out of the equation for the purpose of the official release (in order to avoid media lashback) then ADD it back in through an anonymous fan patch. (now taking dibs from moenovel’s konosora)
        Then add the estimated labour cost required to cut out H-scenes into the required budget for the project (Many hackers have done this in the past) and I think you have a reasonably persuasive position.

  • In short: crowd-funded licenses do work. There’s a website of Russian company licensing and translating anime and manga. Some time ago they proposed to community to crowd-fund license for anime, and they managed to gather required money. It worked few times as of now. “Народная лицензия” means “people’s license”. You buy some certificate from company, and the money they get from selling these is used to buy a license. If they do not manage to gather required amount in time, they refund you back and give some little present for your support. Much like Kickstarter.

    But the reason it worked is that Reanimedia is a normal business company, not some private person. Unless you manage to open legal business I don’t think anyone will consider your ideas seriously. And I guess even then no one will allow you to buy a license and distribute translated game for free.

    So I think it only works like so: start business, decide on licensing terms with JP devs, gather money from kickstarter, buy a license, translate, send people who helped funding a free copy, sell translated game normally.

    Good luck.

  • The issue why Japan brings up piracy and the Rapelay incident is to deflect from the real issue: The Japanese generally hate change.

    It starts from the top of corporate leadership. Japanese subordinates, culturally, may willingly embrace their superior’s decisions, wait for their boss to leave the workplace first, go to restaurants after work with their boss, order food the boss recommends they get… Japan lacks employees who are willing to stand up for the status quo. They suck their bosses dick out of respect, fear, etc. This leads to lack of innovation.

    What’s worse, Japan’s subordinates are adhering to the decisions of mostly old men as denoted by Japan’s increasingly alarming age gap. How many of you guys have/had grandparents stuck in their old ways? Getting these old men to reach out to the western market is like convincing them to play World of Warcraft!

    I’m resigned to the idea if you want these kinds of games, you either have to learn Japanese or find someone who translates them discreetly.

    • Yes. “The Japanese really hate to change.” And they really don’t care about market outside Japan. They just think everyone outside Japan pirated their game.

  • It’s the main reason that I’m critic of eroges, companies are engaged in blatant xenophobia.

    Personally, regarding Romanesque, I’m contacting Oyari Ashito (the main illustrator) to notice this injustice. Also, I’ll see if this can be subject to legal action, since it’s 100% pure xenophobia.

    • well they dont not like westerners, they dont like westerners playing their game because they think their jobs should not be even remotely threatened because of a non-customer. it sends shivers down their spine.

      also they are racist.

      it’s not moral, but theyre allowed to be.

      legal action would be inappropriate,… or immoral even. so i dunt not understand how u see it as injustice. i dunt think it is tho

  • Well, at least it’s not always like this. Here’s a more positive story with regards to fan-translations, albeit in the Indie RPGMaker scene instead.

    I contacted ILL of Circle-Shoegazer about a possible English version of Dungeons and Prisoners (see: Initially, he was against it, for many of the same reasons stated here (piracy etc). However, when I announced I wouldn’t do a translation, he gave me the all-clear via e-mail, stating that provided it was “unofficial” it was all good. So the translation was back on. When I suggested that he could use the translation on English DLSite, he was for it.

    Of course, all this was “unofficial” until ILL made his debut in the ULMF Dungeons and Prisoners thread (somewhere in: Fastforward a bit more and ILL is very active in the English-speaking community, has set up an English blog (see: and has managed to get a significant amount of donations from English fans.

    So, all in all, a happier ending.

  • If you provide translators with free accounts on translation platforms such as, they would surely be grateful to do it for you. This platform makes their work a lot easier due to its memory functions, so any volunteer job will become more pleasant this way.

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