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Websites that post manga comics without artists’ authorization remain rampant in Japan, posing a serious issue for cartoonists, particularly fledgling ones.

Manga sales in the country are estimated to have hit a record high of ¥612.6 billion in 2020 thanks to such blockbuster works as “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.”

The stellar result was apparently due in part to brisk demand from people staying at home amid the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, however, damage from piracy websites also increased.

ABJ, an organization established mainly by publishers including Shueisha Inc. to tackle the issue of manga piracy, has compiled a list of some 400 piracy sites. The combined monthly number of accesses to the top three such sites reached 326 million in October 2021, skyrocketing from 12.5 million in January 2020, according to the group.

The estimated amount of damage calculated on the basis of the number of accesses to the top 10 piracy websites exceeded ¥780 billion between January and October 2021, far more than some ¥210 billion for the whole of 2020.

Damage from Manga Bank, one of the major pirate sites, alone is believed to have totaled over ¥200 billion. The cumulative number of accesses to the site, which was set up in December 2019, amounted to nearly 1 billion.

Shueisha and three other publishers started talks on combating the site immediately after its launch.

They filed a petition with a U.S. court seeking an order for the disclosure of information about the site’s operator.

In November, the court ordered entities including Google to disclose such information. Although Manga Bank was shut down suddenly in the same month, the four companies remain determined to identify its operator and pursue its legal responsibility.

“The picture quality of pirated versions seen recently is very high and almost on par with that of e-books, and unauthorized works of some manga comics are found on the internet on the very dates when their official versions go on sale,” manga artist Ken Akamatsu, known for such hit works as “Love Hina” and “Negima! Magister Negi Magi,” said angrily.

Noting that damage is particularly great for new and unknown cartoonists who are active only online with their works still not published in magazines, Akamatsu said: “If such artists lose motivation, very entertaining manga works that would have appeared in the future could end up not being read. Keeping away from pirated works will lead to protecting talented artists, so I want people to enjoy manga in their official versions.”

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