From baking sourdough bread and working out, people have kept themselves busy in a variety of ways during the pandemic. Manga piracy, it seems, is also one of them.
An organization called ABJ (Authorized Books of Japan) was created to raise awareness regarding manga piracy. According to Jiji Press, the group put together a list of 400 or so piracy sites and over the past year, their web traffic has shot up. In January 2020, the traffic from the top three sites was 12.5 million, but in October 2021, that number had shot up to a 326 million.
Since these are piracy sites, the financial damage they inflict has also increased substantially. ABJ estimates that the financial damage these sites cause went from 210 billion ($1.8 billion) during all of 2020 to 780 billion ($6.7 billion) for the period from January to October 2021.
“The picture quality of pirated versions seen recently is very high and almost on par with that of e-books, and unauthorized works of some manga comics are found on the internet on the very dates when their official versions go on sale,” manga artist Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina and Negima! Magister Negi Magi) is quoted as saying.
The demand for pirated manga is there, which is why, even with the legal risks, sites continue to offer illicit content.
As Kotaku previously reported, there was a global manhunt for the manager of manga piracy site Manga-Mura in 2019. The manager was arrested, found guilty, sentenced, and fined. However, a new site called Manga Bank rose to fill the void. In November 2021, Kotaku reported that four major manga publishers, including Shueisha of One Piece and Naruto fame, are accusing Manga Bank of copyright violation. The site had shut down a month earlier.
“There is no silver bullet, and all we can do is continue doing what we can to stop them,” Atsushi Ito, who heads up the anti-piracy tactics at Shueisha and also works for ABJ, told Asahi.com this summer. “If you give up, the game is over right there.”
“Things are even worse than when Manga-Mura was at its heyday,” he added. “It may have resulted from ‘stay-at-home lifestyles’ under the coronavirus pandemic.”