Major Manga Publishers Try to Identify Operators of Massive Pirate Sites

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Manga publishing giants Shogakukan, Shueisha, Kadokawa and Kodansha have a new batch of pirate sites in their collective crosshairs. In one action they have asked a US court to help them obtain the identities of several 'pirate' operators pulling in a few million visits per month. In another, just two domains are pulling in a staggering 290 million visits per month.

mystery manAs we have reported on many occasions in recent years, the lowly DMCA subpoena can be a powerful tool to discover the identities of those running pirate sites.

Cheap to file in court and rarely given much scrutiny, DMCA subpoenas are regularly served on third-party service providers such as Cloudflare and domain registries, requiring them to hand over customer data.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect, however, is how these pieces of paper often act as an early warning signal of much bigger things down the line.

A prime example can be found in a DMCA subpoena application that targeted the now-shuttered pirate manga site Mangabank. It provided an early heads-up on a later proceeding used to support a criminal investigation in Japan.

It now appears that manga publishers have yet more pirate sites in their crosshairs, some of which are huge and could face a similar fate.

Manga1000 and Manga1001

The first DMCA subpoena application was filed by Shogakukan, Shueisha, Kadokawa and Kodansha in a California district court last month. It noted that under the DMCA it is seeking information sufficient to identify people infringing its copyright works.

In support of their application, the companies supplied DMCA takedown notices previously filed with Cloudflare requesting the takedown of URLs linking to pirated copies of works including One Piece, Kujo No Taizai, and Attack on Titan.

All of the URLs were present on the domains manga1000.com and manga1001.com. At the time of writing the sites appear to be up but show Cloudflare “Access Denied” errors in some regions. Nevertheless, the significance of these domains cannot be understated.

According to SimilarWeb stats, manga1000.com pulls in around 110 million visits per month, making it the 160th most popular domain in the world. In Japan, from where the site attracts 94% of its visitors, it is the 17th most popular site, period. But even this giant is dwarfed by manga1001.com which attracts 180 million visits per month, 92% from Japan.

Whether this new request will yield any useful information on the operators of the domains is unknown but it appears to represent a second bite at the cherry. Last year Shogakukan obtained a similar DMCA subpoena targeting both domains, again against Cloudflare. Perhaps they will get lucky this time around.

DMCA subpoena documents here (1,2, pdf)

Shueisha Targets Eight More ‘Pirate’ Domains

In a DMCA subpoena application filed this week, Shueisha is again trying to obtain the assistance of Cloudflare to identify the operators of several piracy-linked domains.

The first to catch the eye is manga1002.com, which follows on in sequence from the domains listed in the earlier application. Whether it is connected to them is unclear but traffic is currently more modest at around 600K visits per month, with just over half coming from Japan.

With 2.9m visitors per month, the domain i9i9.to is the most popular in the batch but again, Cloudflare “Access Denied” messages stopped us from accessing the site at the time of writing. In any case, 94% of its visitors hail from Japan, making it very significant locally.

Cc-comic.com is another domain in the subpoena application that does well in Japan, pulling in 92% of its 1.4 million visits per month from the country. A similar situation can be found in hakaraw.com with 1 million visits, 89% from Japan. Four other domains – upanh.org, rawbis.com, uk.leoi.info, freemangaraw.com – complete the list.

In all cases the publisher wants Cloudflare to hand over pretty much everything it holds on the sites’ operators including names, addresses, telephone numbers, billing information, payment methods (including card numbers and bank account details), plus all logged IP addresses.

Where the investigations will go from here is unclear but criminal and civil prosecutions are certainly possible, particularly against the larger operators.

The DMCA subpoena documents can be found here (1,2,3 pdf)

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