Several major Japanese news media, including NHK, Asahi, Mainichi, Sankei, and Nihon TV, reported on Wednesday that Kumamoto Prefectural Police arrested five people who posted scanned pages of Eiichiro Oda's internationally popular manga One Piece and Sui Ishida's Tokyo Ghoul:re on their "netabare" (spoilers) sites before the magazines' official release day. It marks the first arrest case for an infamous "manga netabare" site in Japan.
The suspects are: 30-year-old male self-employed worker from Okinawa, Yo Uehara, who had two accomplices including 23-year-old female freelance writer from Tottori, and 31-year-old male web designer from Akita, Ryoji Hottai, who acted in collusion with his 33-year-old female partner.
According to the police investigation, Uehara got copies of Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump and Weekly Young Jump at a so-called illegal "hayauri (flying-get)" store before the magazines' official
release day (Monday for Shonen Jump, Thursday for Young Jump), then scanned the pages of the two
manga to post on his netabare site between July 2016 and July 2017. Meanwhile, Hottai reposted the
One Piece manga images taken from Uehara's site onto his own netabare site.
Their sites had been known as "the big two netabare sites" in the net and had attracted more viewing
numbers than the legitimate publisher Shueisha's official sites did. With the affiliate ads on their sites,
Uehara had earned at least 74 million yen (about 677,600 US dollars) since May 2012, and Hottai had
made over 305 million yen (2.8 million US dollars) since September 2014.
The two principal offenders, who were arrested on charge of copyright infringement (a violation of literary
property right), have already admitted to the crime. Hottai says, "I needed to pay my living expenses."
Shueisha has made a statement on the crime, "We are furious at the fact that the manga works created
by the copyright holders with all of their energies were posted in a very impertinent way and that the
suspects even made a profit from it. We hope that this arrest becomes a strong warning to the endless
pirate acts and illegal uses of our publications."
As we reported several times, posting/reposting copyrighted materials, including scanned magazine pages
(before and after the official release day), onto the internet without copyright holder's permission is illegal
in Japan. The criminal act can result in a 10-year jail sentence or a fine of 10 million yen (about 91,600
US dollars) in the worst case.
"One Piece" manga image on the thumbnail © Eiichiro Oda/Shueisha