Yusuke Tabata, a reporter with NHK who has been closely following the actions of the team fighting the piracy websites, explained the reasons why it is hard to completely eradicate manga piracy sites in a recent interview.
While, the desire of fans to read manga for free was the main reason which enabled these sites to stay afloat, Tabata added that there were a couple of other reasons too which were equally important.
The first was the presence of overseas advertising companies who place ads on these piracy websites and help them earn revenues from the website.
“As I mentioned in the program, advertising revenue is indispensable when talking about piracy sites. This is because advertising revenue is a major source of funding for the operation of pirate sites. The program featured a European IT company that was distributing advertisements on Manga Bank,” Tabata told Comic Natalie.
“The company’s official website featured the words ‘THE MANGA AND ANIME MARKET IS BIG BUSINESS’ along with an illustration of Nami from One Piece. Naturally, they would not have obtained permission to publish Nami’s illustration,” he added.
According to Tabata, it was almost as if the advertising company was promoting the use of the pirate website.
There has been a lot of media coverage related to piracy sites, the stigma they are, and also the campaign to identify such sites and shut them down. This has created an awareness among Japanese advertising agencies to be wary of distributing ads on manga piracy websites.
However, Tabata believes that overseas advertising companies lack an awareness about the losses that publishers face or the damage that a manga piracy website causes.
This is aptly represented in the European IT company’s phrase of manga and anime market being a big business. While these agencies recognize the potential of Japanese content overseas, they do not take into account the various low to mid-level manga artists and publishers who are out of a job owing to the piracy of their works.
“The existence of pirate sites is taking away legitimate earnings for manga artists. Although pirate sites mainly deal with popular works, manga artists as well as publishers do not receive any money and are unable to run their businesses,” Tabata said.
“If publishers do not have the strength, they cannot ‘put up with it even if sales of their works are a little sluggish’. Even if the damage caused by pirate sites is not directly visible, it will go around and crush the budding manga artists. It is truly a ‘cultural crisis,’ a crisis of manga culture,” he added.
The second reason why manga piracy sites continue to be a thorn in the publishers side is because of the numerous hurdles in the investigation process against such websites, especially when in comes to international co-operation.
With manga’s popularity increasing globally, a lot of overseas websites have started putting out manga and other Japanese content illegally. This has increased the number of websites that pirate manga overseas.
Out of the 1000 manga pirate websites that ABJ (Authorized Books of Japan) has identified, 830 of them were for overseas audiences with content translated to English. This made the publishers realize the importance of international co-operation.
While CODA is working hard to establish international relations, not all countries are equally interested in weeding out these pirate sites.
“Because it is a crime that crosses national borders, there are limits to what investigative agencies in one country can do, and international collaboration is essential. CODA, which was interviewed in the program, is working to establish international cooperation, but the degree of enthusiasm varies from country to country.”
Tabata worked closely with anti-piracy specialists for over six months since November 2021. He believes that simply accusing the readers of lack of literacy in matters of piracy won’t improve the situation.
“How to solve this problem is a topic we have to keep thinking about,” Tabata said, ending the interview.
An earlier survey by ABJ reported that the manga industry has lost a total of 1.19 trillion yen (approximately US$8.76 billion) in 2021 as a result of illegal consumption via piracy sites.
Source: Comic Natalie