November 04, 2003

Digital "Manbiki": An unintended consequence?

I am constantly fascinated by situations where there are unintended consequences of a technology being adopted by the general public. Another one has come to my attention: Digital "Manbiki", a kind of copyright abuse that appears to have recently become common in parts of Japan. (In this report from Sept. 5th, 2003, it was reported that 37% of people surveyed knew about the concept of Digital Manbiki. 13% of the respondents thought that there was nothing wrong with doing it.)

"Manbiki" is a colloquial word for "shoplifting", and it goes like this: a person with a new, high resolution digital camera cell phone enters a book store. They find a guide book that they like. They browse the guide book, and find information about a hot spring that they would like to go to some day. They whip out their phone, and before the shopkeeper even knows what has happened, they have taken a picture of that page. At some later date the person can print this picture and use it to call or drive to the hot spring.

With cell phone cameras becoming ubiquitous, Japanese society seems to be absorbing many of these unexpected ramifications of a mobile multimedia communications enabled populace. There are going to be many other problems down the road: invasions of privacy, camera predators, and others. After looking at the thread about Digital Manbiki on Slashdot Japan, I think that the debate about all these issues will be a lively one.

Posted by cyrus at November 4, 2003 10:39 AM | T r a c k B a c k
Copyright 1993-2005 Cyrus Shaoul