Rightsholders and anti-piracy groups in Japan are committing considerable resources to their fight against online piracy.
While no targets are off limits, site owners who operate inside Japan present fewer challenges than those based overseas. A new report from anti-piracy group CODA indicates that with persistence and smart tactics, solutions can be found in difficult overseas regions.
Pirate Manga Site B9Good.com
Manga piracy site B9Good initially appeared in 2008 and established itself under B9DM branding. SimilarWeb stats show that the site was enjoying around 15 million visits each month, with CODA noting that in the two-year period leading to February 2023, the site was accessed more than 300 million times Around 95% of the site’s visitors came from Japan.
B9Good had been featured in an MPA submission to the USTR’s notorious markets report in 2019. Traffic was reported as almost 16 million visits per month back then, meaning that site visitor numbers remained stable for the next three years. The MPA said the site was possibly hosted in Canada, but domain records since then show a wider spread, including Hong Kong, China, United States, Bulgaria, and Japan.
Chinese Authorities Shut Down B9Good.com
Wherever the site ended up, the location of its operator was more important. In 2021, CODA launched its International Enforcement Project (CBEP), which aimed to personally identify the operators of pirate sites, including those behind B9Good who were eventually traced to China.
Pursuing copyright cases from outside China is reportedly difficult, but CODA had a plan. In January 2022, CODA’s Beijing office was recognized as an NGO with legitimate standing to protect the rights of its member companies.
Working on behalf of Aniplex, TV Tokyo, Toei Animation, Toho, Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), and Bandai Namco Film Works, CODA filed a criminal complaint in China, and starting February 14, 2023, local authorities began rounding up the B9Good team.
Four People Detained by Chinese Authorities
CODA reports that public security authorities in Jiangsu Province, China, detained a 33-year-old unemployed man living in Chongqing on February 14. He was held under suspicion of operating B9Good and later confessed to his involvement.
The man was held until March 19 before being released on bail. His house, reportedly worth around $580,000, was seized by the authorities.
From February 18 to March 21, Chinese authorities arrested three more people. A 30-year-old woman living in Chengdu, a 38-year-old man from Shanghai, and a 34-year-old woman from Fuzhou City were searched and questioned at their homes.
The women were allegedly paid by B9Good’s operator to upload pirated content. The man is said to have uploaded pirated content to file-hosting platforms while earning revenue from advertising.
B9Good.com remained online until March 27. At the time of writing, it displays the following message in Chinese (English translation provided).
In common with many other pirate sites, B9Good also operated from several other domains, including b9dm.com and b9game.com. All currently show the same shutdown message.
Several B9Good copycat sites have been in operation for some time, including b9good.tv, b9good.net, b9good.one, and b9good.one. None seem linked to the original, and at least one seems to direct visitors to legal sources.
At least two new B9Good-branded domains with similar formatting appeared while the alleged operator of B9Good was still detained. Neither appears related to the original site