Operation Anime: Full Scale of Anti-Piracy Crackdown Revealed in Japan

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When Brazil's Ministry of Justice announced in February that two of the largest anime piracy sites in the country had been "taken down," we suspected there might be more to it than 'just' that. We can now confirm that this wave of 'Operation Anime' was led by anti-piracy group CODA and involved several police operations, plus "knock-and-talks" at pirates' homes. In total, 31 sites were shut down and another five threw in the towel.

brazil operation animeAn announcement by the Brazilian government in February revealed that “the two biggest digital anime pirate sites” in Brazil had been “taken down” in Operation 404 offshoot, ‘Operation Anime’.

The Ministry of Justice and Public Security said the objective was to “repress crimes committed against intellectual property” on the internet; more specifically, piracy of Japanese cartoons, better known as anime.

The Ministry of Justice reported that the operation received support from the Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA), an anti-piracy group that protects anime content in Japan and overseas.

While no sites were named at the time, our initial report named Animes-Vision and AnimesOnline among the most likely candidates. We also suspected that the crackdown may have been broader than the authorities in Brazil had stated at the time, with Animeyabu and Animesbr among a growing list of sites apparently heading for the hills.

CODA Confirms True Scale of Operation Anime

For operational reasons, anti-piracy group CODA was unable to comment on the February crackdown as it was taking place, but it is able to do so now. Information made available to TorrentFreak shows that while two of the largest sites were indeed targeted, the scale of the operation went far beyond that.

“From February to March 2023, several malicious piracy sites of Japanese anime in Brazil, including ‘goyabu.com’ and ‘animeyabu.com,’ were shut down due to accusations by CODA members,” CODA reports.

“These pirate sites were publishing Japanese anime with subtitles in Portuguese, the local language, on the Internet without the proper authorization from the rights holders.”

Search in Brazil (Image courtesy of CODA)

CODA operation Brazil-1

As part of Brazil’s Operation 404 anti-piracy initiative, Operation Animes was the first crackdown in Brazil against sites specializing in Japanese cartoons, targeted at a local audience. It’s also the first time that CODA’s members have filed a criminal referral against pirate sites focusing on an overseas market.

Criminal Referral, Raids, Shutdowns

“In November 2022, TOEI ANIMATION CO., LTD., TOHO CO., LTD., and Bandai Namco Filmworks Inc. filed criminal referral through CODA against four pirate sites in Brazil that infringe on Japanese animation,” CODA reveals.

“The investigation revealed that two of the sites were opened by the same operator. In response to this, since February 8, 2023, raids and other investigations have been conducted in each of the three cases, and a total of 13 sites have been closed down, including these four sites as well as nine related sites operated by the suspects.”

CODA reports that its investigations opened up opportunities for direct confrontations with site operators, also known as “knock-and-talks”. The operators of nine sites found themselves involved in these direct negotiations which led to their sites and affiliated sites – 18 in total – being shut down as well.

Scene from Brazil (Image courtesy of CODA)

CODA operation Brazil-2

In total, 31 sites were shut down as a direct result of CODA’s involvement, but since news travels fast, the actual number of closures surpasses that.

Knock-On Effects

During a press conference today at the House of Councillors, the upper house of the National Diet of Japan, CODA director Masaharu Ina provided even more detail on the events of February and March. In response to the 31 sites directly shut down, another five sites decided to close voluntarily, making 36 shutdowns in total.

CODA reports that the average monthly traffic for these sites, in the three-month period spanning December 2022 to February 2023, was approximately 83 million visits. The closure of the 36 sites means that 12 of the top 20 most popular anime piracy sites in Brazil, detailed in Mr. Ina’s presentation, were removed from the market.

masa-coda-slide anime down

At the time of writing, CODA reports that 22 of 36 domains have been signed over to the anti-piracy group. Many currently direct to the CODA shutdown notice below.

CODA-shutdown notice

With the details of the operation now being made public, it’s clear that Operation Anime was indeed bigger than the authorities suggested back in February and it remains ongoing.

Most Domains Being Handed Over, But Not All…

Documents seen by TorrentFreak indicate that there are still some loose ends to tie up, with the operators of five sites (animesonehd.cc, animesonehd.xyz, anizero.site, animesup.biz, animesup.cx) still in negotiations to transfer their domains.

After agreeing to help CODA in future investigations, the operators of two targeted sites will be allowed to keep their domains, but obviously not for piracy purposes. Inevitably, however, a stubborn minority seem happy to risk another throw of the dice.

CODA operation Brazil-3

These photographs were taken when police visited a suspect’s home on February 8. His site is believed to have received around 1.3 million visits per month but on this occasion the alleged operator’s whereabouts couldn’t be established. Despite his site being DNS blocked in Brazil, the slide suggests that may not deter him from his work.

Finally, it’s worth noting that despite the strongest of suggestions that the two key sites mentioned in February had been “taken down” by the authorities in Brazil, it now appears that what their press release really meant to say was that the sites’ operators somehow learned about CODA’s work and decided to shut themselves down.

Since sites as large as those rarely surrender, the stronger, clearer message may have been missed.


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