Romi Hoshino, a 29-year-old alleged Mangamura administrator was sentenced to 3 years in prison by the Fukuoka District Court. He received a 72 million yen (approx. 650 thousand USD) fine as well.
The infamous manga piracy website, Mangamura, shut down in April of 2018. Previously it became a target of an investigation by Kodansha, Shueisha, and two other publishers. Pirated content on the site included popular series such as One Piece, Kingdom, and Attack on Titan.
Mangamura administrator, Romi Hoshino, earned 62 million yen from advertising revenue on the website, which he then deposited into his overseas accounts. He was arrested in the Philippines in July of 2019 and then extradited to Japan. The defense tried to argue that the manga was already available on other websites, therefore not directly hosted on Mangamura. However, the court rejected this argument, citing the fact that Hoshino made the works available to the public, thus infringing the Copyright Act. A Shueisha representative commented on the verdict, saying that they find it appropriate.
Mangamura launched in 2016 and at its peak would attract around 100 million users a month. Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA) estimates publishers’ losses at around 319 million yen. Besides Hoshino, three other operators of Mangamura were also arrested in the past. Wataru Adachi’s arrest happened in 2019, along with Kota Fujisaki and Shiho Ito. All three are awaiting sentencing.
Piracy has been an ever-present issue in the anime and manga industries. Sales of digital copies surpassed sales of physical releases for the first time in 2017. This makes the content more accessible for users, but also pirates. While publishers try and fight the pirate websites, many fans read their favorites illegally. The issue is especially present with new fans, who sometimes unknowingly stumble upon pirate websites instead of buying releases.
In 2020 Japanese parliament passed a new Copyright law, targeting illegal manga downloads. Those who break the law face up to two years in prison and up to 2 million yen fines. Among the anti-piracy initiatives are ABJ’s Stop Kaizokuban campaign and CODA’s initiative.
Piracy related takedowns are becoming a more common sight, with popular illegal websites frequently shutting down.