Japan’s Pirate Manga Site ‘Leak’ Isn’t a Failure, It’s Potential Education

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The popularity of Japanese manga comics fuels rampant online piracy on a massive scale, with some sites generating more traffic than the largest movie piracy platforms. A list of pirate manga sites, accidentally 'leaked' on a government website, was quickly taken down recently after causing excitement on social media. On one hand that's understandable; on the other it might be a missed opportunity.

bleachmangaMulti-point, ongoing collisions between rightsholders, pirate sites, pirates and copyright law, are what fuel our daily reporting. The pumps rarely run dry for long in these wars.

The polarized nature of the debate, which regularly pits decent law-abiding content creators against shadowy thieves hiding in the recesses of the web, is good for headlines but a hopeless anti-piracy tool.

Casual pirates, who represent the majority, routinely dismiss this type of messaging as either completely untrue or blatant propaganda. Yet when unfiltered piracy information leaks out unexpectedly, people suddenly develop an interest in what anti-piracy groups have to say.

Redacted Document Wasn’t Redacted

Many months ago, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs published a document which contained a list of pirate manga sites generating high levels of traffic from within Japan. As the image below shows, the names of the sites were considered sensitive enough to completely redact. The redaction wasn’t effective.

jpn-manga- redacted

Hovering a cursor over the blacked-out area revealed what should’ve been hidden and click led directly to the site considered most damaging to the home market in Japan.

That’s highly relevant information but when the Agency of Cultural Affairs was alerted to the buzz on social media, the information was immediately taken down.

The Case for Sharing More Information, Not Less

There’s a theory in anti-piracy circles that mentioning pirate sites by name makes them more popular. If we assume that’s the case, let’s see how that’s working out.

The slide with the unredacted text above covers the period June-July 2022. The slide below is from a more recent report covering September-October 2022. This time the names of the sites are properly redacted but we can still see data related to the site in the top spot.

jpn-manga- sep-oct2022

In September 2022 the site had very little traffic but then a 23,642% surge over the next few weeks led to the site pulling in 61 million visits in October 2023 alone.

These massive figures may be linked to a site switching domains/brands but with these kinds of numbers, sites don’t stay secret for long. Simply mentioning a site’s name would have no effect but it would help people to understand the bigger picture.

Japan Sets The Standard on Transparency

Minor redaction issue aside, when it comes to sharing information, Japan deserves zero criticism. From anti-piracy strategies in operation today to those it hopes to develop in the future, the various companies and anti-piracy groups involved publish incredibly detailed reports, all available to the public on sites like bunka.go.jp.

Japan’s public yet understated reporting offers regular insight into a significant anti-piracy program that faces huge challenges but continues to progress. Open documents catalog progress to date, plans for the future, details of any setbacks, and concerns over looming threats.

Equally importantly, Japan’s reporting feels real; there’s no drama, and information isn’t put out selectively in a way that distorts the facts. In that respect these reports feel more like an education than a puzzle to unpack, after first discarding the marketing.

Overseas Players Dominate Local Market

The reports are compelling, including those that reveal that at any one point, seven of the top ten pirate sites targeting the Japanese market are believed to either have links or are based in Vietnam. Each month, citizens of Japan visit those sites at least 200 million times and recent reports reveal growing concern at this persistent overseas threat.

“Sites often drastically increase their traffic in just a short period of time. There is a sense of urgency that at any moment, access to these sites could explode and we could be back to the worst,” one reads.

“The reason for this is a sense of crisis, problems are piling up. The Vietnamese system…still no arrests have been made. Therefore, new sites from Vietnam are appearing one after another.”

Whether the situation will improve in Vietnam is unclear but anyone who wants a relatively unfiltered window into the action moving forward, the link is [redacted].


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