• Kyodo

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The police have opened an investigation into the now-blocked Mangamura website after publishers last year filed copyright violation claims against the provider of pirated comics, investigative sources said Monday.

The website, which once drew over 100 million visitors a month, has been inaccessible since April, when the government asked internet service providers to address the piracy allegedly being committed by Mangamura and two other websites.

Mangamura hosted unauthorized copies of popular manga titles including “Attack on Titan” and “One Piece,” prompting Kodansha Ltd., Shueisha Inc. and two other publishers to file criminal complaints.

The website, launched around August last year, attracted some 620 million people between September and February.

Publishers’ losses are estimated at about ¥319.2 billion, based on one visitor reading one comic book on the site, according to the Content Overseas Distribution Association, which deals with copyright infringement.

A Kodansha employee said the publisher “hopes investigators will build a case as soon as possible.”

While the ISPs are blocking the sites voluntarily, the government hopes to legislate restrictions in 2019.

Online manga are becoming increasingly popular in Japan, with sales surpassing the print versions for the first time in 2017.

Digital manga sales were projected to have reached ¥171.1 billion in 2017, up 17.2 percent from the previous year. Print sales stood at an estimated ¥166.6 billion, down 14.4 percent, according to the Research Institute for Publications.

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