The minori controversy: are VN translators no better than narutards?
While unauthorized fan translations of copyrighted material are not a legal grey area (it's pitch black almost everywhere in the world, except in very limited special cases), I've usually agreed that some are worse than others. For example, people like Henry Jenkins have argued that anime fansubs, at some point at least, contributed to the emergence of a viable commercial market for anime in the US (and a case can be made that, nowadays, some of that is occurring in developing countries where no legit anime industry exists yet). In order to have a moral, if not a legal, leg to stand on, however, there are minimal standards of conduct that fan translators need to comply with: don't compete with an existing legal offer, don't profit financially from your illegal activities, don't put your dirty names in the staff roll as if you had a part in making the product, respect the creators and their demands, etc.
With respect to these ethical standards, the bottom of the pit is probably somewhere at the level of the American scanlators of Naruto, or even worse, of the ad-supported sites that host them. It's piracy in the vilest sense. And until now, I believed the other end of the spectrum to be visual novel translation: the people involved can claim with a semblance of truthfulness that they sincerely love the medium, that they're trying to promote it outside of Japan, that the current legally-translated offer is very limited and that they actually encourage their audience to buy the original products by only providing translation patches as opposed to complete translated games.
Although I was never part of that community, it seemed to me as an outsider that there was a pretty strong sense of righteousness running there. One translation group called No Name Losers once gave birth to a meme, “BREAK THE SUPPORT DISK,” by pushing their pretense of legitimacy to somewhat ridiculous extremes after their 2007 release of minori's game Wind ~a breath of heart~. It is sadly ironic that the same group, NNL, is threatening to bring the entire VN translation scene down to Naruto scanlator level today by wilfully disregarding the demands of the same company, minori.
The sequence of events, as described on encubed, goes like this: yesterday, an employee of minori blanked the TLwiki pages pertaining to the translation of minori's game eden*. An edit war ensued, with TLwiki members reverting the blanking multiple times and sending a copious amount of profanities minori's way. When minori eventually threatened the site with legal action, the owner of TLwiki removed the targeted pages for good, although invectives have not stopped. Concurrently, cease-and-desist letters were sent to the groups currently translating minori products (eden* and ef). At least one of the groups working on eden* has issued a proper notice that they had stopped all work on the project, but the translators of ef, NNL, have been much less understanding. They're currently running a poll on their website asking whether they should proceed with the release, despite minori's clearly stated intent to pursue legal action if they do. I also understand that NNL has been meaning to release a full game rather than a translation patch, and that they have been publicly trumpeting their laughable fandub project.
What I do not understand is why so many people seem to support their stupid course of action. A game company has every right to ask you to shut down your illegal translation operations, and they don't have to be fair-spoken or well-mannered when doing so. I don't care that you've been working on this for this long. The only legally and ethically sound response is to comply immediately. Certainly not to fight back the very people whose interests you claim to be serving by releasing their game to an English-speaking audience. They don't want you to, so don't.
In that particular case, it's not even like minori's move came as a huge surprise. Ever since the Rapelay controversy broke out, they've been very touchy on how eroge are received abroad (blocking their website to foreign IPs, for example), and understandably so. Illusion has been forced to pull a product off the shelves in Japan because an idiot in the UK was selling illegally translated copies on Amazon, and some American extremists heard of it that way. That's a liability that minori, which, like many visual novel companies, probably isn't the most financially stable operation you can think of, doesn't want to incur. They have stated that they were open to negociations of official licensing rights provided that proper steps are taken to ensure that the game is sold in accordance with local laws and regulations (which probably means changing characters' ages and cutting some ero scenes), but they don't want pirated copies escaping their control, falling in the wrong hands and threatening their business. You don't have to agree with their reasoning, but you do have to respect it.
The displays of egoistical entitlement by eager leechers on /jp/, on the TLwiki or on the NNL poll are bad enough already, but if NNL doesn't quickly back down, it could all turn really ugly. Do you really want an actal lawsuit to be filed? Something like that would taint the VN fan translation scene permanently, and possibly also cause considerable difficulties for those few people who abide by the rules and try to obtain official translation and distribution rights for VN and ADV games.