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Following a complaint from Japanese publishers and criminal proceedings in China, a man in his 30s was convicted of operating MangaBank, a massive manga piracy site that shut down in 2021. Authorities locals found no copyright infringement in China but accepted that the man’s behavior violated the right of communication to the public.
Japanese manga publishing giants Shueisha, Kadowaka, Kodansha and Shogakukan are on a mission to disrupt piracy in any way they can.
In late October 2021, a law firm acting for Shueisha filed a ex parte application to a California district court requesting the discovery of information for use in a foreign procedure.
In our initial report, we listed several areas of interest for Shueisha, all with one common denominator – connections to the huge manga piracy site MangaBank. At the time, the site enjoyed around 81 million visits per month, making it the 44th most popular site in Japan.
Shortly after our report was published, MangaBank went offline. The site operator informed TF that its platform had already been subject to a continuous DDoS attack of around 50 Gbps by an AS in Japan. MangaBank was using Cloudflare at the time, but the unknown attackers knew the site’s main server IP address. Mangabank never came back online.
After months of silence, news from China
As early as March 2021, there were signs that MangaBank’s operator may have ties to China. Under the country’s e-commerce laws, telecommunications companies and ISPs cannot be compelled to disclose the identifying information of Internet service users. This did not prevent publishers from finding their target in the end.
In November 2021, Shueisha, Kodansha, Shogakukan, and Kadokawa said they were preparing to file a criminal complaint against the MangaBank operator. The publishers also received help from the Fukuoka Prefectural Police, who had previously worked on the infamous Mangamura case.
The investigation eventually led to the operator of MangaBank in Chongqing, China, and a request to the Japan-based anti-piracy group CODA to use its office in China to take action.
MangaBank setup ensured no hacking in China
An interesting aspect of the case is that MangaBank allegedly used geo-blocking to ensure that the site could not be accessed in China. This meant that Chinese authorities could not confirm local copyright infringement, leading them to conclude that at least locally, “no actual infringement” had occurred. CODA has not given up.
“[W]When CODA filed an administrative penalty petition with the Chinese authorities based on a petition summarizing the huge damage situation in Japan, its penalty and the significance of the detection, and various information, it was granted. It has been done,” the anti-piracy group says.
MangaBank operator sentenced
According to China’s “Regulations on the Protection of the Right to Disseminate News Network Information”, any organization or person who makes available to the public the work, performance, sound or video recording of a other person must first obtain permission from the rights holders.
According to an announcement posted on the website of the People’s Government of Wanzhou District, Chongqing, the operator of MangaBank failed to obtain the necessary authorization and was therefore found guilty of violating Section 2
“[His] the conduct of providing the works of others to the public without permission via the information network violates Article 2 of the Regulations on the Protection of the Right to Disseminate Information on the Information Network”, announcement bed.
The administrative penalty imposed on the operator of MangaBank has two parts – confiscation of illegal earnings (16,409 yuan / 2,427 dollars) and a fine for violation of the right of communication (30,000 yuan, approximately 4,437 dollars) – a total of $6,864.
Compared to the penalties imposed in similar cases elsewhere in the world, notably in the United States, the sentence seems rather low. However, the average annual salary for employees in China’s urban areas in 2021 was 62,884 yuan, or about $9,300.
CODA believes that the site has caused considerably more damage than this penalty suggests. He says more time will now be devoted to clarifying the extent of the infringement and any means of recovery available to rightsholders.