Nine Japanese citizens were arrested for operating or contributing to a pirated manga website. They were arrested on October 31st, just days after an industry panel said that manga piracy was rising in Japan.
The arrests led to the closure of Haruka Yume no Ato, which was one of the largest leech sites that linked to pirated manga. It was founded in 2008 by the “Kousekikai Group,” which consisted of nine men and women between the ages of 22 to 55.
They were arrested after police searched and seized evidence from their homes and offices in July. It was a joint investigation that involved police from nine prefectures, including Osaka and Chiba. The arrests were made in Osaka and Kanagawa Prefecture.
The site’s operators would encourage users to post links to pirated mange including works published by Shueisha, Square Enix, and Kodansha. They also uploaded pirated manga to a different website before linking to them at Haruka Yume no Ato.
Haruka Yume no Ato is believed to have linked to over 500,000 pirated manga files. The Association of Copyright for Computer Software (ACCS) says the site cause 73.1 billion yen ($645 million) in damages towards publishers and mangaka. Mangaka typically only get royalty payments per manga volume sold, so piracy hurts them the most.
Leech sites are difficult to crack down on due to how copyright laws are written. The sites serve as a linking portal to hosts, and since leech sites don’t contain the actual pirated files, they tend to be exempt from law enforcement.
However, the police argued that the site’s combination of the massive amount of links, the site’s operators encouraging users to share links, and offering to pay for uploaded files led to an investigation.