Mangamura Operator Handed Three-Year Prison Sentence, $650K in Fines

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The former operator of Mangamura, a now-defunct site blamed for causing billions of dollars in losses to the Japanese manga industry, has been sentenced in Japan. Romi Hoshino, 29, was sentenced by the Fukuoka District Court to three years in prison and fines in excess of US$650,000.

Romi HoshinoAfter being founded in 2016, pirate site Mangamura was said to have caused huge damage to the local manga industry.

According to Japan-based anti-piracy group CODA, in just two years Mangamura caused around $2.91 billion in losses but in April 2018 the show came to an abrupt end.

Just days after the government in Japan announced emergency websites blocking measures against several sites, including Mangamura, the download platform shut itself down. At the time the move appeared to be voluntary but serious developments were taking place behind the scenes.

It transpired that a criminal investigation was underway into the Mangamura’s activities, which eventually led to the arrest of the site’s operator, Romi Hoshino, in Manilla.

Hoshino was later deported to Japan where he was arrested by the authorities in advance of a criminal trial. Close to two years later, Hoshino has now discovered his fate.

Three Years in Prison, Heavy Fine

On Wednesday at the Fukuoka District Court, Hoshino is reported to have appeared all in black and sporting a ‘buzz cut’. Nikkei notes that he maintained the same expression throughout as Judge Hiroshi Kamihara handed down a guilty verdict.

According to the Court, the 29-year-old breached copyright law and concealed the criminal proceeds from Mangamura by depositing them into a foreign bank account.

Judge Kamihara sentenced Hoshino to three years in prison and fined him 10 million yen (US$91,146). The Judge also levied an additional fine of 62 million yen (US$565,105), an amount equal to the advertising revenue earned from Mangamura between December 2016 and November 2017 and banked overseas.

Justifying the sentence, the Judge noted that the punishment handed down was appropriate given the scale of the offending and the implications of allowing piracy to run away unhindered.

“There is a risk of destroying the profit structure of copyrighted works from the ground up and hindering the development of culture. It is highly illegal,” he said.

Publisher Shueisha Welcomes The Sentence

After the decision was handed down, a spokesperson for publisher Shueisha welcomed the sentence and expressed hope that it would deter others.

“If a work created with heart and soul is released for free, it will damage the soil where interesting works are born. The prison sentence is appropriate. We expect it will have a deterrent effect,” the company said.

Update: Statement from CODA (Content Overseas Distribution Association) Representative Director Takero Goto

On 2nd June 2021, Fukuoka District Court sentenced the former operator of Mangamura (now defunct) to 3 years in prison, a fine of 10 million yen, and an additional imposition of about 62 million yen. Given the magnitude of the blatant violation of the Copyright Act and the enormous damage and harm caused by the piracy site, CODA considers the sentence fair and reasonable. We would like to take this opportunity to express our respect to the publishers and the investigators who greatly contributed to this ruling.

On 13th April 2018, the Japanese government named Anitube and MioMio, in addition to Mangamura, as the 3 most malicious piracy sites. These 2 websites were operated overseas and, accordingly, CODA filed a complaint with the Brazilian police for Anitube and the National Copyright Administration of the People’s Republic of China for MioMio respectively. However, it was difficult to identify the operators, to proceed with legal proceedings, and to pursue legal responsibilities against them.

Eventually, the operator of Anitube was indicted in October 2017 and a criminal trial is expected to begin soon. Also, CODA successfully made the operator of MioMio shut down the website and provide a sworn statement that the suspect shall not operate the illicit site again in March 2020.

In October 2020, link sites were regulated in Japan with the amendment of the Copyright Act earlier in the year, and the main battlefield of pirate sites has now been shifted primarily to overseas.

There are ever strong demands to strengthen international co-operation and enforcement. CODA shall continue to take multifaceted measures to eradicate piracy in co-operation with international partners.

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