Over the weekend, manga websites such as onemanga.com and mangafox.com have started shutting down operations of putting up manga scans (manga are Japanese comics, normally printed in black-and-white, with weekly/bi-weekly releases) for online reading, free. The operation involves a very tedious process--volunteers (scanners) get weekly copies of series from Japan, translate the words to English, scan the pages, clean the word balloons, and type the translations in them. All for the happiness of manga fans all over the world.
The reason for the cessation of the service is that manga publishers have issued their stand of disapproval for the practice. It's the typical copyright infringement battle: the scanners have no license to copy and distribute the comics, and of course, by reason of the "distribution", publishers are losing sales.
I remember a question raised in class, on whether or not lending a book to another person constitutes copyright infringement. Of course it doesn't, as no part of the book is reprinted and sold or used for profit. But this is the rule applicable to printed material after all.
The playing field has changed due to the free sharing of information over the internet. Published manga and other reading material have been copied or scanned and shared for free. While scanners make it a point to state that they derive no profit from the practice, publishers nonetheless feel the consequences of the particular distribution, arguing that since people are getting them for free, why bother purchasing from them (in this regard scanners are in fact really polite as they constantly tell readers to support authors by buying the comics).
What makes this more frustrating is the fact that there are still countries who do not receive printed copies of the manga or the books. Sometimes we do, but only after months of waiting. This is how countries, developing ones in particular, lose out to stringent intellectual property laws. It's either we don't have access to information at all, or it just costs too much.