Japanese Publishers Identify Spoiler Websites As The Next Big Threat In Copyright Violation

Shogakukan led the foray, charging owners of two illegal sites on the same day.

Shogakukan and MangaOne

After giving piracy websites a run for their money, manga publishers in Japan are turning their focus to spoiler sites.

According to publishing giant Shogakukan, they have identified and confirmed more that 300 “spoiler sites.” They have also requested deletion of these websites after consultation with the police.

Spoiler sites are websites or blogs that publish the majority, if not all, of the dialogues from currently serialized manga, infringing on copyrights.

Although Japan has no “fair use policy”, uploading ‘few frames’ from a multi-page manga is permitted.

Hiroki Wada, editor-in-chief of Shogakukan‘s MangaONE, claimed that “spoiler sites” has become a major issue, especially during the pandemic, and has alleged that these sites have earned a substantial amount of advertising revenue from unreleased chapter leaks.

“If a spoiler site gets readers, the mangaka’s revenue will decrease, while others in red will make money. That’s right. Manga authors spend a lot of time making their works, and it feels like they’re being thieved for what they’ve worked on so hard. I want to do something about it,” said Wada.

Shogakukan brought their first claim to the Tokyo District Court in March 2021, when the author of Kengan Omega, Yabako Sandrovich, had flagged a certain website that was posting information and pictures on 63 chapters that had not been released on MangaONE.

The company was not sure if the case can be accused of infringement as there has never been an example of someone being caught focusing on the transcription of storylines and dialogues.

According to Hiroyuki Nakajima, a lawyer who is familiar with copyright issues, legal regulations, and crackdowns on illegal sites, stated that the “spoiler sites” that publish written transcribed sentences are widely recognized as illegal.

Attorney Nakajima said, “It seems that it is okay to partially touch the contents of the manga to write impressions, but there are cases where it becomes a legal problem if all the contents are written. It can be done easily. That’s why it’s easy for the general public to get their hands on the works. However, I want the people to know that there is a possibility of being accused of infringement.”

On Feb 3, 2022, the Fukuoka Prefectural Police charged a 44-year-old owner of a site called, “Manga Le-Free Manga Impressions Spoiler Review,” in suspicion of violating the copyright law, reported NHK.

He was found to have posted spoiler text data using the names of the characters, and images of the manga chapter 60 and 62 of the manga “Kengan Omega,” prior to the release of the chapters on the site without permission. The manga is originally published in the MangaONE digital manga service.

The site was already closed, but the prefectural police believe the man was making money from advertising.

The offender claimed that he wanted to create a site where he could exchange opinions with people who like manga. According to the police, he also said, “I knew it was bad, but I thought it was within the quotation.”

On the same day, Shogakukan announced in a press release, that a male manager in his 30s of the pirated “reach site” named “Manga Heaven” was arrested.

Manga Heaven guided the readers to a pirated site where the manga serialized in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shonen Sunday could be accessed without permission.

On such a site, readers can access a pirated site where they can download mangas illegally by clicking on the covers of many works posted.

The publisher infringed the copyright around December 2019, when they found the cover of Weekly Shonen Sunday in Manga Heaven.

It is estimated that the advertising revenue collected by the operator rounds up to around 1.73 million yen, obtained from around August 2017 to April 2020.

“The site closed itself in March of the same year, but it did not break its malicious stance until the end, such as introducing other pirated sites in the notice of closure. The investigation continued after that, and this time it was caught,” stated Shogakukan.

On Feb 1, Toshihiro was arrested on suspicion of infringing copyrights of Toei and Toho, operating a website that redirected users to another website containing pirated versions of movies, including animated movies.

Source: NHK (link 2), JIJI, Shogakukan Press Release

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