Movie Piracy Site Operator Faces Five Years in Prison After Arrest in Japan

Teddy Sagi
Reading time: 3 minutes

In Japan, police have caught a man who apparently runs a piracy site with links to more than 3,300 Japanese and Western movies. The 51-year-old man was a suspect in stealing from Bandai Namco and King Records. Although he told the police that he just wanted to share his love of movies with others. Under local law, he could go to jail for up to five years.

People who liked downloading content without paying for it felt pretty safe in Japan in the 2000s. Even people who ran torrent sites had less worry than their American counterparts.

It couldn’t stay that way forever. Even though it was already illegal to upload copyrighted content, in 2012, Japan made it illegal to download movies and TV shows without a license. This is punishable by fines and up to two years in prison. In 2020, the Japanese government took action by making it illegal to download pirated manga.

But a law that made indexing sites illegal was probably the most crucial change. In Japan, they call these online platforms “leech” or “reach” sites. They don’t host their copyrighted content but instead link to other platforms that do. After changes that went into effect on October 1, 2020, anyone who runs such a site could face a fine of up to 5 million yen, five years in prison, or possibly both.

It looks like not everyone got the message.

Suspected ‘Reach’ Site Operator Arrested in Japan

CODA (Content Overseas Distribution Association), a group that works to stop piracy, says that officers from the Gunma Prefectural Police Cyber Crime Division and the Takasaki North Police Station have arrested a man on suspicion that he ran an unnamed “reach” site.

According to CODA, the site’s domain name was registered in February 2018. At first, it was a place to learn about movies and watch their official trailers. Later, though, the site started linking to copies of pirated movies uploaded to file-hosting platforms in other countries.

Local reports say the site had links to around 3,300 Japanese and American movies. CODA highlights two popular recent anime titles: “Gundam Reconguista in G Movie III: Legacy from Space” and “Knights of Sidonia Atsumu Guhoshi,” as well as the copyright owners Bandai Namco Filmworks and King Records Co. Ltd.

The man told police he just wanted to share

Police caught the suspect, a 51-year-old unemployed man in Yamagata Prefecture’s Asahi Town. He is being investigated for copyright violations and is said to have made money from ads. He told police he wanted to share because he liked movies so much.

“I like movies, so I wanted everyone to see them,” he said.

CODA sees things differently. They point out that “reach”/indexing sites are a key part of the piracy ecosystem. They make it easier to find content that would be harder to find otherwise.

“Various copyrighted works are illegally uploaded to overseas storage sites. In many cases, information such as the title of the work is not described, and the file name is a list of meaningless characters, so the user cannot reach the content without a guidance window provided by the reach site,” the anti-piracy group says.

“CODA continues to investigate copyright infringement on the Internet, including reach sites, and will endeavor to promote sound regular distribution in which content is properly protected.”

In February of this year, the Gunma Prefectural Police went after the suspected owner of another indexing site. The man was arrested for giving links to thousands of movies and TV shows, some of which were made by the companies Toei and Toho.

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