Manga Piracy: Chinese Authorities Punish MangaBank’s Owner

Teddy Sagi
Reading time: 4 minutes

A man in his thirties has received a sentence for running MangaBank. This large manga pirate website was shut down in 2021 due to a complaint from Japanese publishers and a criminal investigation in China. However, they acknowledged that the man’s actions violated the public’s right to free speech. There were also no copyright violations in China.

Japan’s four biggest manga publishers are Shueisha, Kadowaka, Kodansha, and Shogakukan. They’re all out to stop piracy in any way they can.

A partial application for information discovery to be used in a foreign proceeding was submitted to a California district court by a law firm representing Shueisha in late October 2021.

In our first research, we provided a list of sites that might interest Shueisha. All of which shared ties to the significant manga piracy website MangaBank. The website at the time ranked 44th in popularity in Japan, with an estimated 81 million monthly visitors.

MangaBank went offline shortly after the publication of our report. The website owner told TF that his platform received a DDoS attack of about 50 Gbps/s from an AS in Japan. At the time, MangaBank used Cloudflare, but the attackers were aware of the IP address of the site’s backend server. Mangabank never went online again.

After being quiet for months, news from China

In early March 2021, there were signs that the person who ran MangaBank may have had ties to China. Under the country’s e-commerce laws, telecommunications companies and access providers don’t have to give out users’ personal information. Ultimately, that didn’t stop the publishers from reaching their goals.

Shueisha, Kodansha, Shogakukan, and Kadokawa said in November 2021 that they were getting ready to file a criminal complaint against MangaBank’s operator. The Fukuoka Regional capital Police also helped the publishers because they had worked on the famous Mangamura case.

The investigation eventually discovered that MangaBank left Chongqing, China. The Japanese anti-piracy group CODA got a request. They were asked if the office in China be used to take action.

MangaBank’s setup stopped piracy in China

Using geo-blocking, MangaBank ensured that no one could access the site in China. This is an interesting part of the case. Chinese authorities could not confirm copyright violations in their own country. They concluded that “no actual infringement” had happened, at least in their own country. CODA didn’t lose hope and kept trying.

“[W]hen CODA filed a petition for administrative punishment with the Chinese authorities based on a petition summarizing the enormous damage situation in Japan, its punishment and the importance of detection, and various information, it was accepted,” the anti-piracy group says.

MangaBank’s Operator Sentenced

China’s “Regulations on the Protection of the Right to Disseminate Information on the Information Network,” say that anyone or any organization that makes the work, performance, sound recording, or video recording of another person available to the public must first get permission from the person or people who own the rights.

According to a notice on the People’s Government of Wanzhou District website in Chongqing, MangaBank’s owner did not get the necessary permission. The owner violated Article 2 of the Chinese Constitution.

“[His] behavior of providing the works of others to the public without authorization through the information network violates Article 2 of the Regulations on the Protection of the Right to Disseminate Information on the Information Network,” the announcement reads.

The administrative punishment given to MangaBank’s operator comprises two parts. Misuse of illegal gains (16,409 yuan, or $2,427) and a fine for violating the right to communication (30,000 yuan, or about $4,437). Together, they add up to $6,864.

Comparing it to penalties for similar crimes in other parts of the world, especially the U.S., this one seems pretty low. But in 2021, the average annual pay for workers in China’s cities was 62,884 yuan, or about $9,300.

CODA thinks the site did much more damage than this penalty shows. It says that they will spent more time figuring out how bad the infringement is. Also, the rightsholders plan to get their money back.

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