(Note: this editorial was used with permission from a usenet posting; sections deemed irrelevent were removed)
Traditionally, when manga was translated by fans into English, people wrote up text files as an accompaniment to the original manga. The text files were aids to the original work; they were not meant to be used as a substitute for it. In order to get the most out of the text-only translations and summaries, it was imperative that one go out and buy the corresponding volume(s). Nowadays, most text translations are set up so that if you don't have the corresponding volume in front of you, it would be nigh impossible to get a grasp of what was really going on -- it'd be like watching a movie with no video.
Obviously, summaries of Dragon Ball won't cut into sales of their comics at all -- they're only summaries, and by nature, only provide a general gist of what is going on. Text-only translations, however, could pose a threat, as they are translations of the original work and might compete with the domestic product by persuading others to look for the original Japanese volumes instead of the commercially available product here. I don't have any problems with text translations personally; as a matter of fact, I will take a text translation over a fanscan due to 1) small download size, 2) overall better translation because one isn't restricted to shortening sentences to fit in bubbles, and 3) even if it takes the profit away from those who publish the domestic product, that money will most likely be used towards another legal product -- the original Japanese tankouban.
Fanscans are an entirely different matter.
Because fanscans include both a text translation AND the original art, you're getting an entire package -- using the analogy above, you're getting audio AND video -- the whole movie. The need to buy the original tankouban to see the art and understand how the text-only translations fit into the work is greatly diminished, and in some cases, completely eliminated. Sometimes people will not even bother to buy either the original Japanese tankouban or the domestic English-language product simply because they have the fanscan, and that is doing nothing but taking money away from the copyright holders, artists, and everyone else who worked hard to bring that work on both sides of the Pacific. For every one person I know who vows to buy either the Viz version or the original Jump Comics version of Dragon Ball, I know four who won't because they have the fanscan. That's scary.
I know you realize that this sort of mentality exists, Eric -- in fact, I notice that it's the topic of your latest poll (what are the results so far on that, by the way?). Don't get me wrong, I too would like to see all of Dragon Ball someday translated into English; I just have problems with the idea of the fanscan and how it's being used in this case. I don't mind fanscans as long as they are used in good faith -- a couple of pages here and there are fine to generate interest in the work, but when entire books are scanned, the idea just gets abused. This is one of the main reasons why I'm very hesitant to reissue the files on Suushinchuu -- people were downloading the music files on it and in many cases not bothering to look for the CDs, which is what I wanted them to do in the first place.
In retrospect, I should have offered only samples and snippets of songs, instead of entire tracks. You live and learn, I suppose.
If Viz is fine with all these fanscans running about, then that's alright by me. It's not my company, after all. I'm just a little disappointed that people aren't showing their support for the manga that they love by putting their money where their mouth is and buying either the domestic products or the original Japanese volumes (surely, $5 for a Dragon Ball volume in Japanese is not that expensive, and they are ALWAYS readily available from many online stores, because Dragon Ball is reprinted practically every other month). I blame fanscans for that.
Eric, just to let you know, I really admire what you are trying to do; I just don't agree with the method you've chosen to accomplish that goal. If your intention is both to provide fans with translations of Dragon Ball as well as promote the manga, then that is indeed a very noble cause to work for; however, I still believe that that end could be met just as easily via text-only translations, which cannot readily serve as substitutes for the original work.