The Tokyo District Court ordered two advertisement agencies, MM Lab and Global Net, to pay 11 million yen (about US$96,303) for soliciting advertisements on Japanese-language manga piracy site Mangamura. Manga creator Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina, Negima!, UQ Holder!) filed the lawsuit against both agencies, claiming that his manga had been illegally posted on Mangamura. His attorney-at-law stated that this was the first time an advertising agency was being held liable for manga piracy.
Judge Kо̄ichi Tanaka ruled that as Mangamura infringes copyright through its piracy, the agencies that pay the advertisement fee to the website operator also assists copyright infringment. He also found that sales of Akamatsu’s manga had decreased due to the piracy.
The Fukuoka District Court handed down a guilty verdict on June 30 to Romi Hoshino, a.k.a. Zakay Romi, the alleged administrator of 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.
A representative from Shueisha held a press conference after the verdict, and stated they believed the sentence was appropriate, and hoped the verdict would serve as a deterrent. The representative also said, “if the works that those who have given their all to create are given away for free, it damages the foundation for the creation of interesting works.”
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. Mangamura then became inaccessible on April 17, 2018. However, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported on the same day that the site 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.