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Court: Ad Agency Must Pay Damages For Placing Adverts on Pirate Manga Site

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The Tokyo District Court has ordered two advertising companies to pay damages to a cartoonist whose work was offered illegally on now-defunct pirate manga site, Mangamura. The Court found that by posting adverts on the site, the agencies assisted in the copyright infringements of the site's former operator.

Following its launch in 2016, pirate manga site Mangamura grew to become one of the most successful sites of its kind. With this growth, however, massive pressure from copyright holders and anti-piracy groups wasn’t far behind.

According to Japan-based anti-piracy group CODA, over a period of just two years Mangamura caused around $2.91 billion in losses to the industry but in April 2018 the site’s progress came to a juddering halt when the platform shut itself down.

It transpired that a criminal investigation was underway into the site’s activities which eventually led to the arrest of operator Romi Hoshino in Manilla.

Hoshino was later deported to Japan where he was arrested by local authorities who put him on trial. On June 2, 2021, he was sentenced to three years in prison and fines in excess of US$650,000, much of it representing a clawback of revenue generated by advertising.

Now, more than six months later, two of the agencies involved in placing ads on Mangamura have been found liable for assisting the site in a way that helped to cause losses to a local artist.

Agencies Participated in Mangamura’s Infringement

According to a report from Anime News Network, manga creator Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina, Negima!, UQ Holder!) filed a lawsuit against MM Lab and parent company Global Net.

Akamatsu alleged that his manga titles were illegally posted on Mangamura and since the advertising companies supplied ads and were involved in generating revenue for the site, they should be held liable for his losses.

This week at the Tokyo District Court, Judge Koichi Tanaka found that the two companies can indeed be held liable for their part in the Mangamura platform. The Judge said that the operator of Mangamura committed copyright infringement and the agency that paid the advertising fees to the operator helped to fuel that infringement.

MM Lab and Global Net were ordered to pay 11 million yen (US$96,184) to Akamatsu, whose attorney noted that this is the first time that an advertising agency has been held liable for placing ads on pirate manga sites.

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