Featured image taken from Bungou Stray Dogs Official Twitter Account
Earlier this month, Japan’s major manga publishing companies Kadokawa Shoten, Kodansha, Shogakukan, and Shueisha came together to protest an issue that has been rampant in their industry for decades – the illegal distribution of manga. The campaign titled “STOP! 海賊版” (which translates directly to “STOP! Piracy Edition”) is their initiative to distribute information about the damages caused by piracy sites and the action that’s being taken against them.
The main initiatives of this campaign are anchored around its official website, which contains more detailed information about the many types of piracy that exist and what kind of impact this has on the publishing industry.
This includes some interesting statistics, e.g. piracy site FreeBooks used to have 17.5 million monthly visitors prior to it being shut down, and Mangamura which was recently shut down used to have even more people – up to 160 million visitors a month. That translates to millions upon millions of yen a month in advertising revenue alone.
The website also highlights the many methods pirates have used to distribute manga, including “leech sites” that earn money from cyberlocker file storage services. Those sites simply function as a search engine that redirects visitors to third-party websites where they can download manga chapters. There is usually a pay gate involved to encourage visitors to pay a subscription fee for faster download speeds. Over 430,000 files were removed by publishers in 2016 but most websites tend to reupload files once they have been taken down.
Some pirates also opt to upload manga chapters onto Youtube by adapting it into video format. They earn revenue from Youtube advertising and often garner a steady follower of fans who enjoy the edits or voiceovers that are made to the manga.
There also used to exist what is known as “leak sites” where manga chapters are leaked in advance. Two of the most major sites were taken down in 2017, albeit a bit too late; they had already managed to earn a total amount of 379 million yen (translating to approximately US$3.4 million) in advertising revenue.
Since the campaign’s launch, the movement has been backed by several popular manga and manga distributors’ social media accounts, including Bungou Stray Dogs, Weekly Shounen Champion, and Sailor Moon.
— 週刊少年チャンピオン編集部 (@Weekly_Champion) August 1, 2018
出版各社が参加する「STOP! 海賊版」キャンペーンのお知らせです。海賊版サイトの利用はクリエイターの方々の収入が減るだけでなく、利用者自身に被害が及ぶ恐れがあります。是非下記サイトをご一読頂き、皆様のご協力をよろしくお願い申し上げます。 https://t.co/wiVq9bTGrs
— 文豪ストレイドッグス公式 (@bungostraydogs) August 1, 2018
The Bungou Stray Dogs official account shared the “STOP! Piracy Edition” tweet with an additional message attached: “Utilizing pirate sites not only reduces manga creators’ income, there is also concern that it will cause harm to the sites’ users themselves.”
This fact is backed by the reality of the situation, with some manga publishers having reported an increase in income after the shut down of some major piracy sites. This includes mangakas Toriko Gin, Sakuya Amano, and Mitsuru Yuuki, who all thanked fans for their support after seeing an increase in sales last year.