The fight against the illegal distribution of manga online is somewhat ironically led in part by a famous pirate character.

Weekly Shonen Jump and other staples of the manga industry have had enough with online pirating. Citing rapid growth in the illegal distribution of comics and manga anthologies since last year, Japan’s Shuppan Koho Center (“Publications PR Center”) is spearheading an effort to bring together several mainstay publishers such as Shogakukan (Weekly Shonen Sunday), Shueisha (Weekly Shonen Jump), Kodansha (Weekly Shonen Magazine), and Kadokawa (Young Ace) and promote awareness of the issue with the general public. Here’s one of the campaign ads that the editorial team of globally popular Weekly Shonen Jump (the home of Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto) shared earlier last week:

“Let’s stop looking at illegal sites of pirated manga! This is a notice for the ‘STOP! Pirated versions’ campaign that many publishing companies are participating in. It’s connected to empowering and protecting manga authors so that they can continue producing new content. We ask for your cooperation.”

▼ An expanded version of the image

The site explains that the illegal industry often collect high profits from ad revenue and website membership fees. For those who are unconvinced about the actual monetary losses on the side of the publishing companies, the following data are backed by several official reports on the subject:

  • Estimated damage within Japan: 50 billion yen (US$448.9 million)
  • Estimated damage within the U.S.: 1.3 trillion yen (US$11.7 billion)
  • Estimated damage from Haruka Yume no Ato, the largest manga pirating ring in Japan: 73.1 billion yen
  • Estimated damage from pirate site Manga Mura: 320 billion yen

The campaign website also describes in a paneled comic strip how the illegal distribution of manga affects the manga creation process, along with six of the most typical methods of illegal distribution that readers should be on the lookout for. 

“Manga is in trouble because of pirated versions. Protect it!! The cycle of creation!!”

Panel 1: Manga artists

Sales have decreased due to the proliferation of pirated copies. Manga artists can’t survive. ‘I can’t eat!’ 

Panel 2: Editors

New talent can’t be cultivated in the manga industry full of hopes and dreams. ‘I can’t find any newbies!’

Panel 3: Bookstore staff

Due to declining sales and revenue, the status of bookstores is in trouble. ‘Manga’s really not selling anymore, huh.’

Panel 4: Readers

If the cycle of manga creation is broken, then ultimately the readers are the ones affected. ‘There’s no interesting manga!!!’

Let’s protect the cycle of creation. STOP! Pirated versions”

Six typical methods of illegal distribution with brief descriptions:

  • Online reading sites–There are actually fewer Japanese sites of this nature and more unauthorized English and other translated versions. Internet users can easily access and read manga on their phones, tablets, or computers (Manga Mura is an example). Sites can also be dangerous for the reader because of easily transmitted viruses, automated redirecting to harmful sites, and other scams.
  • Leech sites–The main type of site found in Japan. They house virtually no ads and most of their revenue is generated through affiliated cyberlockers (storage services). The legality here is a bit of a grey area so efforts are being made to made to address them at the moment.
  • Video submission sites–More common in Japan than overseas. Manga chapters are copied into video-sharing services such as YouTube to create a kind of electronic slideshow of pages. It’s harder to detect and prevent pirated manga through this type of distribution than pirated anime.
  • Spoiler sites–These sites often get their hands on new manga chapters before they’re even published in the official magazines, so they tend to attract the type of reader who wants to keep up with stories as soon as possible. Luckily, illegal distributions via this method have relatively leveled off since a large bust back in February 2017.
  • P2P–Stands for “Peer to Peer,” or files shared directly by users/computers in a connected network. Examples in Japan include Winny, Share, PerfectDark, and Cabos; examples overseas include BitTorrent.
  • Swindling sites–A classic credit card scam. These sites advertise free-to-read manga, but then readers still can’t read anything unless they register their credit card. After a time, they’ll probably notice they’ve been unwillingly charged.

In the words of the Shuppan Koho Center, “Manga is a part of Japanese culture that we are proud to share with the world. It’s a symbol of ‘Cool Japan‘.” For the sake of fans around the world, let’s support the artists and ensure their beloved stories can continue well into the future.

Source: Twitter/@jump_henshubu
Featured image: Shuppan Koho Center
Insert images: Shuppan Koho Center