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No More Pirated Manga?

By: Eric Mormon

The Japanese Parliament revised Japan’s copyright laws to address manga piracy, and the new laws went into effect on October 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021.[1] Anime and manga have become increasingly popular worldwide, and industry stakeholders have been looking overseas for future growth.[2] However, the international popularity of anime and manga have ironically harmed the industry.[3] Prior to January 1, 2021, Japan’s copyright laws prohibited the illegal downloading of anime, movies, and music, while manga downloading was not covered.[4] Manga piracy became a serious issue, and the pirate site Mangamura caused the Japanese manga industry to lose about $2.91 billion.[5] This led the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry to create the Manga-Anime Guardians Project.[6] This project made sixteen pieces of manga regarding manga piracy in order to educate people before the revised copyright laws went into effect.[7] Therefore, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The revised copyright laws addressed manga piracy in two ways.[8] First, pasting links in, operating, and creating leech websites, which are websites that contain links for downloading torrent files, is now illegal.[9] Additionally, leech apps are also prohibited.[10] Anyone that violates the leech website law will face a punishment of up to five years in jail or a maximum fine of five million yen (about $46,000), or both.[11] Second, the revised copyright laws prohibit the illegal downloading of manga, magazines, and academic texts.[12] Repeat offenders of the illegal downloading law will face a punishment of up to two years in jail or a maximum fine of 2 million yen (about $18,000), or both.[13] However, these laws only apply to offenders located in Japan and do not apply to offenders located in other countries.[14]

The overall effectiveness of the revised copyright laws remains unclear.[15] Popular pirate sites like KissAnime and KissManga appear to have been shut down because of the revised copyright laws, and similar pirate sites could be shut down as well.[16] Nevertheless, there are still some flaws in the revised copyright laws because manga shown through a “picture-story-show” is not prohibited.[17] This is because no downloading is required to view a manga if it’s in a picture-story-show on a website.[18] Moreover, pirate sites have servers overseas, so cooperation with other countries is required for enforcement.[19]

The shutdown of KissAnime and KissManga has led to many anime and manga fans expressing their frustration with the fact that they no longer have access to free pirated anime and manga.[20] While it is true that manga is no longer as easily accessible across the world because of the more stringent copyright laws, these laws were necessary to help prevent the manga industry from going extinct.[21] Further, there are still many legal ways to view anime and manga for people outside of Japan. For example, anime and manga can be found on Netflix, Crunchyroll, and the Shonen Jump app, as well as at your local bookstore.[22]

In conclusion, the long-term effects of Japan’s revised copyright laws are still unclear. As mentioned earlier, manga piracy could still be an issue in the future because the laws only apply in Japan and “picture-story-shows” are not covered.[23] Therefore, Japan may have to revise their copyright laws again if pirate sites take advantage of these loopholes. 


[1] Daryl Harding, Japan Enacts New Copyright Laws to Curb Illegal Manga Downloading, Crunchyroll (June 11, 2020, 11:30 AM), https://www.crunchyroll.com/en-gb/anime-news/2020/06/11/japan-enacts-new-copyright-laws-to-curb-illegal-manga-downloading.

[2] Spencer Baculi, Anime and Manga Sales Continue to Grow as Industry Takes Notice of Expanding Overseas Markets, Bounding Into Comics (July 10, 2019), https://boundingintocomics.com/2019/07/10/anime-and-manga-sales-continue-to-grow-as-industry-takes-notice-of-expanding-overseas-markets/.

[3] Chris Hubbard, Japan in ‘Crisis’ Over Manga and Anime Piracy, ComicsVerse (Apr. 18, 2018), https://comicsverse.com/manga-anime-piracy/.

[4] Harding, supra note 1.

[5] Andy Maxwell, Alleged Mangamura Admin Arrested By Japan During Deportation Flight, TorrentFreak (Sept. 25, 2019), https://torrentfreak.com/alleged-mangamura-admin-arrested-by-japan-during-deportation-flight-190925/.

[6] Andy Maxwell, Manga Anti-Piracy Campaign Hopes Artists Can Persuade Fans Ahead of New Law, TorrentFreak (June 16, 2020), https://torrentfreak.com/manga-anti-piracy-campaign-hopes-artists-can-persuade-fans-ahead-of-new-law-200616/.

[7] Id.

[8] Harding, supra note 1.

[9] Kyodo News, Japan bans pirated manga downloads under revised copyright law, ABS-CBN News (June 9, 2020, 4:05 AM), https://news.abs-cbn.com/life/06/09/20/japan-bans-pirated-manga-downloads-under-revised-copyright-law.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Theo J. Ellis, Japan’s NEW Manga Copyright Law Is In Effect Today, But What About Anime?, Anime Motivation, https://animemotivation.com/japan-copyright-law-2021-anime/.

[15] Kyodo News, supra note 9.

[16] Nicolaus Li, Pirate Streaming Sites KissAnime and KissManga Have Been Shut Down Permanently, HYPEBEAST (Aug. 19, 2020), https://hypebeast.com/2020/8/kissanime-kissmanga-shut-down-permanently-info.

[17] Kyodo News, supra note 9.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Anuka Roy, KissAnime and KissManga taken down permanently as Japan tightens piracy law, Internet mourns ‘end of childhood’, MEAWW (Aug. 15, 2020, 12:12 AM), https://meaww.com/kiss-anime-kiss-manga-taken-down-by-japan-leech-piracy-law-parliament-manga-anime-copyright-websites.

[21] See Hubbard, supra note 3.

[22] See Evan Valentine, One of Anime’s Biggest Piracy Sites Has Been Taken Down, Comic Book (Aug. 15, 2020, 12:11 PM), https://comicbook.com/anime/news/watch-anime-kissanime-streaming/.

[23] Kyodo News, supra note 9.