The Asahi Shimbun reported on June 17 that according to the Authorized Books of Japan (ABJ), a Tokyo-based association working to crack down on pirated manga, the 10 most popular manga piracy websites are receiving approximately 240 million monthly hits since Japanese-language manga piracy site Mangamura became inaccessible on April 17, 2018.
Comparatively, ABJ tallied that Mangamura gained up to 100 million views a month when it was active.
ABJ found that about 750 manga piracy websites are operational after the shutdown of the Mangamura website.
Asahi Shimbun stated that damage to the manga industry temporarily declined after Mangamura shut down, but the number of manga piracy websites increased in fall 2019. According to ABJ, the top three websites saw a 14-fold increase in views from January 2020 to April 2021.
The head of public relations and legal department of ABJ Atsushi Ito (who also is in charge of anti-piracy measures at Shueisha) stated, “Things are even worse than when Mangamura was at its heyday.” Ito suggested the increase “may have resulted from ‘stay-at-home lifestyles'” during the pandemic.
Shueisha currently files approximately 10 criminal complaints a year and issues about 120,000 monthly requests to websites, server operators, and other related parties demanding those sites delete works that violate its copyright.
Mangamura Shut Down and Arrest Case
The Fukuoka District Court handed down a guilty verdict on June 2, 2021 to Romi Hoshino, a.k.a. Zakay Romi, the alleged administrator of Japanese-language manga piracy site Mangamura, on charges of copyright infringement and hiding criminal proceeds. 29-year-old Hoshino was sentenced to three years in prison, a fine of 10 million yen (about US$91,100), and an additional fine of 62 million yen (about US$565,000). The latter is based on the 62 million yen in revenue that Hoshino earned from the site and deposited to a foreign bank account.
The Mangamura site launched in 2016. Japanese authorities revealed in May 2018 that they were actively investigating Mangamura after Kodansha and other publishers filed criminal complaints with police departments in summer through fall 2017.
The Japanese government officially asked internet service providers in Japan to block access to three pirated manga websites including Mangamura in April 2018. However, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported on the same day that the Mangamura website did not shut down due to site-blocking from Internet service providers. According to the newspaper’s source from a service provider, the action could not have been performed by anyone aside from the site’s administrators.
Hoshino was residing in the Philippines in 2019, and the Philippine Bureau of Immigration took him into custody in July of that year, and extradited him to Japan in September that same year. Police also arrested another alleged Mangamura-related individual named Wataru Adachi in August 2019, as well as two other individuals: a 26-year-old male named Kōta Fujisaki, and a 24-year-old female named Shiho Itō, who were both reportedly friends of Hoshino. Fujisaki pleaded guilty, while Itō pleaded innocent in their arraignment in September 2019.
According to Japan’s Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA), between September 2017 and February 2018, users accessed Mangamura about 620 million times. The association estimated that this caused 319.2 billion yen (about US$2.92 billion) worth of damage to copyright holders in Japan during that time.
Source: The Asahi Shimbun (Hidemasa Yoshizawa, Tatsuya Sudo)