Digital Piracy Delivers ¥2 Trillion Blow in 2022

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Takayuki Sugiura, left, of the Japan Hackers Association tries to identify the operator of a pirate site in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on April 26.

Japanese revenue losses from digital piracy totaled about ¥2 trillion in 2022, according to an estimate by the Content Overseas Distribution Association, a Tokyo-based organization comprising major publishers and broadcasters.

The figure is five times higher than the estimated losses in 2019 from pirated material such as manga, anime and games, data released last month by CODA showed.

Although authorities have had success in shutting down pirate sites in recent years, operators have started shifting operations overseas to evade detection.

Identifying the operators of pirate sites is essential in the fight against digital piracy. However, operators try to evade detection through such methods as geo-blocking, which can be used to block access to sites by users in certain regions, and domain hopping, which involves changing the name of a site from “” to “.net,” for example.

“No matter how hard they try to hide their identities, we can always find information on them through their websites,” said Takayuki Sugiura of the Japan Hackers Association.

CODA sought the help of the Tokyo-based group in 2022 to help identify pirate site operators, and Sugiura and his team got to work last year.

The five-person team claims its strike rate in identifying operators is as high as 80%. CODA is consolidating evidence gathered by the team and cooperating with authorities in Japan and abroad to shut down pirate sites.

In February, Chinese authorities cracked down on the operators of one of the largest pirate sites hosting Japanese anime, B9GOOD, based on information provided by CODA through its Cross-Border Enforcement Project, which began in April 2021.

In the same month, action from Brazilian authorities led to the shutdown of 36 pirate sites hosting Japanese anime such as “Jujutsu Kaisen” and “My Hero Academia,”

“The project is now beginning to bear fruit,” said CODA’s representative director, Takero Goto.

The widespread availability of broadband internet access and high demand for content among people staying at home amid the coronavirus pandemic have been cited as reasons for the rapid rise in pirate sites.

CODA estimates indicate Japanese revenue losses linked to pirated video, music, games and printed material hit ¥1.95 trillion-¥2.202 trillion in 2022, compared to ¥333 billion-¥430 billion in 2019.

The operators and users of sites that host pirated Japanese content were often based in Japan in the past, but digital piracy operations have shifted overseas in recent years.

Pirate sites with Japanese content translated into foreign languages have also been uncovered. It is said that losses have recently been caused especially by Vietnamese manga sites and South American anime sites.

To tackle the problem, international cooperation is needed. The International Criminal Police Organization helps in this regard, but Goto said, “Copyright infringement is seen as a low priority.”

CODA established a Beijing office in September 2021, registering it as a non-governmental organization, and launched full-scale operations in January 2022.

Last month, the office exchanged a memorandum with China’s Capital Copyright Society to strengthen cooperation in the fight against copyright infringement.

Zhu Genquan, chief representative of CODA’s Beijing office, said: “Many pirate sites are still being run by Chinese nationals. We’d like to protect Japanese content in cooperation with the authorities.”

Key to the fight against piracy is reducing the users of pirate sites, which often generate income through ads based on the number of page views.

Atsushi Ito, who is in charge of anti-piracy measures at major publisher Shueisha Inc., said, “To avoid eroding the hard work of creators, we urge people not to read pirated manga.”