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Weekly Shonen Jump manga pirate given three-year suspended prison sentence in China

Apr 29, 2020

The long arm of Japanese publisher Shueisha’s manga law reaches all the way to Shanghai.

On Tuesday, Shueisha, the Japanese publisher of manga anthology Weekly Shonen Jump and smash hit titles such as One Piece and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, issued a statement saying that a conviction had been made in the trial of a man charged with illegally uploading Shueisha manga to a website he administered. The man has been given a suspended prison sentence and will be required to pay a large fine.

Given the Japanese legal system’s traditional lack of tolerance for pirating entertainment media, that might not ordinarily seem so surprising. What makes this situation unique, though, is that the court case took place in China, a country that tends to have a far more lenient attitude about the concepts of trademark and copyright.

The trial in Shanghai’s Xuhui District People’s Court, which ended last Friday, brought to an end the legal fight against the site administrator who police in Shanghai arrested on October 30. According to investigators, since approximately 2013 the man had been running a website which hosted illegally uploaded manga, primarily titles published by Shueisha, with Chinese translations to the website, posting them even before the chapters’ corresponding issues of Weekly Shonen Jump went on sale in Japan. Shueisha claims the site, which also hosted paid advertising, had some 400,000 unique users and caused significant damage to the company and its authors.

The man admitted to the charges, and following his conviction has been given a three-year suspended prison sentence (effectively a form of probation) and is being ordered to pay a fine of 80,000 yuan (US$11,300). He also wrote a letter of apology to the publisher, a portion of which reads “During my time in incarceration, I have been reflecting on the error of my ways, and sincerely regret my actions…I apologize deeply for the ill effects of my infringement.”

In addition to the completed criminal case, Shueisha is also pursuing civil court charges against the man, and in its announcement of the court ruling also pledged:

“To fulfill our obligation as a publisher to protect the works that their creators have poured their hearts and souls into making, Shueisha will continue to take a firm stance against damage to our creators, both inside Japan and abroad, working with investigators and civil organizations.”

The Shanghai conviction is the latest chapter in Japanese publishers’ expanding fight against overseas piracy, following the forced repatriation of one wanted pirate from the Philippines to Japan (where the authorities wasted no time, arresting him as soon as his plane entered Japanese airspace), and a multi-publisher lawsuit against pirate sites filed in New York last autumn.

Source: Shueisha via Animation Business Journal via Anime News Network/Rafael Antonio Pineda
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