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Japan's Manga Piracy Crackdown Continues

Billions of dollars worth of manga content are estimated to have been pirated online

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Pictured is a row of One Piece manga with one issue pulled out, showing the One Piece skull and bones symbol.
Japan is serious about fighting manga piracy.
Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP (Getty Images)

In 2019, there was a global manhunt for the manager of manga piracy site Manga-Mura. The manager, a Japanese citizen named Romi Hoshino, was arrested in Manila on copyright violation charges. In June 2021, he was found guilty, sentenced, and fined. If you thought that was the end of Japan’s piracy crackdown, you were wrong.

After Manga-Mura shuttered, a new site called Manga Bank rose to fill the void. NHK reports that four major manga publishers, including Shueisha of One Piece and Naruto fame, are accusing Manga Bank of copyright violation and are set to move forward with a lawsuit.

According to the publishers, entire issues of their manga were uploaded to Manga Bank without permission. A court in the U.S. has now ordered Google to disclose data on Manga Bank’s operations, including the individual’s name, address, phone number, and IP address.


Manga Bank launched in late 2019, but shut down earlier this month. Kyodo News reports that the Authorized Books of Japan, an organization dedicated to fighting piracy, has estimated that 208.2 billion yen ($1.8 billion) worth of manga content was uploaded to the site during that time. In comparison, Manga-Mura, the worst copyright violation in Japanese history, supposedly cost an estimated $2.93 billion in copyright violation damages.

An official for Shueisha says that publishers must protect the work of the creators and must ensure that manga are released properly.

This crackdown isn’t only an effort by major manga publishers. Last year, the Japanese government updated its internet piracy law to strengthen regulations and ban the downloading of pirated manga. Earlier this week, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said that “government and relevant ministries will closely coordinate to take effective measures” in combating manga piracy sites.

Hiroyuki Nakajima, a lawyer for the manga publishers, points out that even if the operators of illicit sites use servers outside Japan, they can be identified through legal filings. Nakajima added that he hopes the action being taken against Manga Bank will dissuade others from launching similar sites. That did not seem to be the case after Hoshino’s arrest.