Simon says

Manga Jouhou’s Floating_Sakura has additional comment from Libre on its dispute with CPM (found via the ever watchful, consistently insightful, probably not-safe-for-work Simon Jones):

“The license agreements for translations of the publications between BIBLOS Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as ‘BIBLOS’) and Central Park Media Corporation (hereinafter referred to as ‘CPM’) became invalid after April, 2006 when BIBLOS filed for bankruptcy protection.

“Any and all translations of our publications by CPM are based upon the above-mentioned terminated agreements.”

Much more at the link.

Jones also digs up new details on Aurora Publishing, which has been whispered about since April of last year but had yet to yield any concrete information:

“Well… maybe not ‘new.’ Aurora has been around since March 2006, and is a subsidiary of Ohzora Publishing, publisher of the Harlequin manga adaptations in Japan, as well as the ‘Project X’ series of biographical manga.”

Here’s the link to a Comic Book Resources-hosted release from Diamond Book Distributors.

(Updated to clarify some inaccurate phrasing on my part.)

18 Responses to Simon says

  1. Lyle says:

    I’d nitpick not that that update is Libra’s statement on the state of this disbupe, which doesn’t tell me much. From my POV, it’s still a he said/she would rather not comment on an unresolved legal matter situation. I understand that Floating Sakura believes that since it’s extremely unusual for a Japanese publisher to make a public statement then Libre must be telling the truth, but I don’t feel like I have remotely enough information in this case to even make a poorly-informed judgement.

    Then again, maybe I’m just cynical since in American media it’s usually the loudest person who turns out to have the worst case… see Stan Lee Media vs Marvel or Marvel vs. City of Heroes. Sure it might be unheard of for Japanese companies to pull the same kind of tactics, but just because it doesn’t happen doesn’t make it impossible.

  2. Simon Jones says:


    I feel there is actually quite of bit of substance in this new release.

    None of the following are outside the realm of debate, but they do add up…

    1. Thus far, this is not a he said, she said type of situation, because CPM has said absolutely nothing. It has offered neither rebuttal, nor even a simple denial. As such, at the moment there is little reason to doubt Libre’s version of events, as CPM has offered no point of contention.

    2. Libre’s explanation in this release is nothing short of astonishing, yet it actually boosts their credibility in my mind. The claim that CPM never signed contracts, and thus never paid Libre, can be so easily disproved if CPM can provide a paper trail, that I would be just as shocked if it weren’t the case. No competent company would make such bold yet handily disputable accusations without basis, much less the company that inherited the biggest catalogue of yaoi manga in Japan.

    If CPM weren’t paying Libre for these books (and this includes books they published *after* Biblos’ bankruptcy), just whom were they paying?

    3. I agree with you that this is far from over, and anything is possible… CPM may very well have legitimate arguments (for example, they could have paid advances.) But this is not so much a legal issue. I don’t see Libre threatening to sue (yet.) As noted, Libre is the largest BL publisher, and BL happens to be the one profitable print business for CPM. Regardless of who is “legally” right, this does not bode well for BeBeautiful’s future.

  3. Lyle says:

    Simon, that’s the exact reason why I labeled it a “he said, she would rather not comment on an unresolved legal matter” situation. Public silence doesn’t indicate you have no words to use in your defense or that you have no defense but that you’re not making public statements (usually, that’s because its a complicated matter and you don’t want to say something that could be use against you in court, but in a troubled company like CPM I can also see that being a matter of prioritizing getting your contracts in order over composing a public statement) about the situation.

    IMO, this definitely is a legal issue. It became an issue the moment Libre declared CPM’s publications illegal… no, actually, it’s always been a legal issue. It’s all about contracts and trade agreements. It hasn’t gone to court, but from what I can see this is all about the agreements that CPM signed with Biblios as well as the the details in how Libre began publishing Biblios’ properties.

    I’ve followed most of the links I’ve seen in this case and this is the first time Libre has taken the key step of explaining the basis of their claim. Previously, I’ve seen people speculate about that on message boards but the only thing that’s clear to me from those discussions is that Libre didn’t buy Biblios and, therefore, didn’t purchase all their licensing agreements… so what are the details of the deals that lets them publish Biblios’ books? Did they buy out Biblios’ ownership of the right to publish those titles? Did Biblios’ bankruptcy revert ownership to creators, who Libre made deals with?

    The claim that Biblios’ bankruptcy voids CPM’s agreements are very strange to me because I know nothing about Japanese bankruptcy laws and in watching Western entertainment business, I can’t recall ever seeing that happen. In American business, the properties and agreements the bankrupt party owns aren’t voided, they get sold off (hopefully) to pay the creditors. At this point, I’d feel okay to judge this situation if one of those message boards I checked out had someone explaining how bankruptcy works differently in Japanese courts, but instead I only found people speculate that this agreement must mean that those agreements were void without explaining their basis for the conclusion.

    Still, once again, I point out my biases… I’ve seen these battles among western entertainment companies. I’ve never watched the aftermath of a Japanese company going bankrupt or watch an American company that did business with them try to navigate those waters. The idea that bankruptcy makes that company’s commitments go poof is a strange one to me.

    CPM definitely owes someone licensing fees and Libre says its them, but from what I can see that’s the dispute (which may extend to what publishing rights Biblios were allowed to sell to CPM). I don’t think CPM is obliged to show us proof that they’ve paid money to Libre until Libre meets their obligation to show a paper trail that shows them as the people that CPM owes those licensing fees to (that became their obligation once they made a public accusation of illegal activity). At this point, CPM is obliged only to show that they’ve made good faith efforts to figure out who they owe money to and have taken steps to ensure that they will be able to pay that party when it’s clear who that party is.

    Gah, apologies for all those dangling participles.

    But my initial point is that the way David quoted Manga Jouhou made it sound like Biblios & CPM agreements being voided were a matter of fact when, when I checked the link, it was Libre’s position on the case. It’ll probably take a bankruptcy judge to decide if CPM’s agreements were voided by the bankruptcy as Libre claims.

  4. Simon Jones says:

    Ah, sorry, I mis-read your “he said, she said” sentence.

    And yeah, I’ll opnely say this is all speculation, and I do it because I’m a jerk. 😉 I just want to defend them, as well as the comments on MJ and the like, as more than just poorly-informed judgement.

    As to whether contracts are terminated if one party ceases to be, I’ve covered it a little bit previously, but the gist is this… it may be stipulated in the contract that if a company were to become bankrupt, then the contract would become null and void. I don’t know if it was in CPM’s contract, I’ve heard from knowledgeable people that this is the norm for Japanese contracts, and such a provision was certainly in my contract with my Japanese licensors.

    (This actually keeps me on my toes, because the artist may also decide to terminate the contract at any time. We make sure our products meet at least their minimum standards.)

    Regarding CPM’s obligation to produce a paper trail… I don’t mean CPM need to make them public, but certainly in the event of a lawsuit these papers would be reproduced if they existed. So I don’t think Libre would make such a baseless claim. And given that every other licensee of Biblos renegotiated with Libre, I find it hard to believe that CPM could have secured something with Biblos that would have shielded them from the same.(That’s my bias, anyway.)

    Regarding whether Libre needs to prove they own those books… I think it’s self-evident that they do. Or more accurately, they have the exclusive right to negotiate these manga for their manga artists. In Japan, generally manga artists grant all rights to the publisher, but can revoke that right at any time. This would be the expectation and understanding of any publisher entering into licensing agreements.

    Anyway, to take my view regarding the legalities a little further… it’s less significant as a legal issue than one of just how CPM allowed its relationship with the biggest BL publisher in Japan to go sour. That’s certainly how I view it… the amateur-hour legal discussion is really just in service to sorting out why the situation is where it is now, not who’s version of the events that let to it accurate (though admittedly, after reading the latest letter from Libre, I’m slowly tilting towards Libre’s corner.) Whether CPM is in the right or not, it doesn’t change the fact that Libre now seem to really, really dislike them. That’s the real news. Even if CPM has a right to these books, those rights would probably expire in another couple of years anyway, max. That’s why the legalities are far less significant, and it’s less a legal issue for CPM than trying to figure out how to soothe and repair relationships if at all possible.

  5. davidpwelsh says:

    “But my initial point is that the way David quoted Manga Jouhou made it sound like Biblios & CPM agreements being voided were a matter of fact when, when I checked the link, it was Libre’s position on the case.”

    Good point, Lyle. I’ve changed the phrasing.

  6. […] Anyway, for a more rational discussion of the situation, check out the comments section in David Welsh’s post on the […]

  7. […] on the Libre/CPM dispute. And he refers us to the comments on Precocious Curmudgeon, where a lively discussion […]

  8. gynocrat says:

    I’ll opnely say this is all speculation, and I do it because I’m a jerk.

    I don’t think anyone’s being a jerk, and I think some of us who’ve dealt with Japanese licensor’s and have actually signed contracts that stipulate creators do get their properties back when the publisher goes bankrupt–have a tad more insight into things and can speak on them–than say, someone who just ‘watches’ the industry. 0_0.

    If these mangaka got their rights back, and then sold them to Libre, then those editions that CPM brokered with Biblos aren’t exactly ‘illegal’, but…who’s collecting royalties on them? That’s the question. Not the mangaka–obviously, because they’ve sold their rights to those titles, to Libre and thus collect royalties through Libre–who’s taking royalty checks [if there are any] being cut for the Biblos acquisitions that CPM has re-printed since the bankruptcy? That’s all I want to know. I could care less about anything else. ^^

    And I think speculation on our parts, is fine. I’m tired of all these people saying we ‘should watch what we say because we don’t know everything’, well that’s silly. LOL! We can say what we want in our blogs, that’s what some of our our blogs are used for, to put out ideas on issues, and have discussions about them with our readers. We’re a bunch of fans, creators, and small publishers, talking on the internet about an issue that some of use are connected to because it’s the genre we’re in vocationally, or we’re fans of. Honestly, is Time magazine going to quote me, Ed, or Simon, or any of the fen at Yaoi Suki? 0_o. Not even I think I’m so self-important that I must watch everything I say for fear of changing the world as I know it. Fan speculating is fun, it’s better than talking about Make Five Wishes, or watching Heidi and Dirk take pot shots at each other, over issues that are obviously deeper than comics vs. manga. LOL!

  9. ChunHyang72 says:

    I don’t think we can read too much into CPM’s public silence. Whether your client is charged with bumping off his parents or is embroiled in a contractual dispute, most responsible lawyers don’t try their cases in public. They work behind the scenes to resolve things without setting toe in court. Only the flashiest (or most foolish) lawyers let their clients speak freely about a pending legal matter. My guess is that CPM is just being “jurisprudent.”

    That’s my wild act of fan speculation for the day.

  10. Lyle says:

    Simon, thanks for answering my questions about how Biblios’ bankruptcy might have voided their agreements, I’ve been looking for that explanation, so your comment helped me understand this situation better. This story has been a frustrating one for me to follow since I haven’t seen enough detail to feel okay playing amateur legal hour myself. I’ve become a bit spoiled by how in the internet age, legal documents eventually become public giving me a chance to understand each side’s case. As I said, my American pop culture geek bias tends to go against the party making the worst accusations… OTOH, having worked at a company struggling to stay afloat I’ve seen how the “It’s better to seek forgiveness than permission” principle goes into place when you’ve got a dilemma that would cut off revenue.

    You’re right, the most interesting bit is that a major relationship for CMP is having a public crisis. Even if Biblios’ agreements with CPM continue to be valid, CPM will eventually have to negotiate an agreement with Libre, which could be an opportunity for another publisher.

    David, thanks for the edit.

  11. […] further discussion at Precocious Curmudgeon, in which Simon Jones (he of the good discussion but NSFW site) argues that Libre’s claim is […]

  12. Everyone, including Libre it seems, are working from the assumption that CPM’s contracts are with Biblos. I can’t think of any contracts I’ve seen that were with the publisher. All contracts are negotiated with the artist through the publisher who is acting as agent. If the agent goes belly-up does the contract become null and void? Certainly the artist’s contract with the agent is canceled, but are all contracts negotiated on behalf of the artist by the agent canceled also? My guess is no.

    I understand why people would assume that the contracts are with the publisher rather than the artists since the publishers have enormous power over the artists. But the ultimate right rests not with the publisher but with the artist, and is there for the artist to assert. (Some artists have asserted their rights with their Japanese publishers and use their own agency rather than the publisher to arrange for foreign licences of their work.)

    From Libre’s point of veiw, they now have the right to negotiate contracts on behalf of the artists, but CPM is working on contracts that don’t include a percentage for them (and probably at lower-than-present-market rates for the artists). I can see them getting upset over this. But I rather doubt that Libre’s legal assertions are correct.

    Just to note: I was in editorial and not licensing, and I have no background in law. My experiences with licensing (although many and varied) are mostly from how the licenses affect editorial, and from long talks with licensing people.

  13. Adam says:

    There is one side to this whole situation that hasn’t been touched on… what it means for CPM’s ability to license more manga. Since Libre has come out about CPM, what they have effectively done is try to get CPM “blackballed” in Japan. That can never be a good thing.

  14. Simon Jones says:

    Mr. Flanagan–>

    Actually the working assumption *is* that the contracts were with the mangaka, because mangaka retain their copyright… technically, most licensing contracts are probably structured this way. Hence I’ve made comments elsewhere that 1) suing the artists is a possibility. Not a great move, but it’s there. And 2) artists standing up for CPM may be the only way to counter Libre without bloodshed.

    The chances of that happening diminishes with each day, though I suppose there’s the slim possibility that Libre is doing this under the artists’ noses. But if that were true, I doubt they’d have posted the original message on their website, in both English and Japanese…

  15. […] at David Welsh’s blog, William Flanagan, who worked for CPM’s editorial comment (keep in mind this is […]

  16. Mr. Jones,

    I’m sorry, I was thrown off by your comment that Libre owns the books. (And by a general assumption that seems to pervade manga-blog/forum world that the contracts are with the publishers.) If anyone is unclear, the publishers lease certain rights from the artist. Apparently, Libre considers itself to have obtained the right to negotiate foreign-language rights on behalf of the author, including those books where the foreign-language rights have previously been leased.

    I’m missing something in your comment. Why would CPM sue? A lawsuit won’t get them new contracts, and they already have old contracts in hand. I could see Libre suing CPM if they think that their contracts with the artist supercedes CPM’s contracts with the artists. But can’t see what you think CPM’s suing the artists would accomplish.

    Also, to anyone who read my above comment and assumed (on reread, quite naturally) that I was in CPM’s editorial department. Sorry, I wasn’t. I didn’t mean to mislead anyone, it was just thoughtless commenting on my part. A few years back, I headed up the editorial department at Viz, and that’s where my general knowledge of the licensed-manga world comes from.

  17. Simon Jones says:

    Mr. Flanagan–>

    Well, a lawsuit would be to assert the validity of the contracts they hold. That is exactly what is under contention by Libre, and by extension, the artists. And just to be clear, I agree with you completely that a lawsuit from CPM would accomplish nothing… I originally brought it up only as a strawman argument. It’s an option, and a very poor option, but one that’s there because they may have technically licensed from the artists via, as you say, the publishers acting as agents.

    Until some mangaka makes his/her disagreement known otherwise, I would have to assume that Libre is acting out his/her wish. Honestly, I’m hoping the mangaka of the contested books are on CPM’s side… it would just be more and more unlikely the long this thing remains unresolved.

  18. […] interesting wrinkle in commentary on the CPM/Libre grudgematch: In the comments section of David Welsh’s blog, translator William Flannigan pops in and offers some food for […]

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