Kyoto police have arrested four men this week after they leaked a chapter of One Piece to a popular U.S. scanlation website.
Sixty-nine-year-old delivery employee Hidaka Takehisa allegedly got his hands on an issue of Sh?nen Jump a few days before its official release on Nov. 2. Takehisa allegedly gave the full chapter of One Piece that appeared in the issue to his accomplices, who then “scanlated” it and uploaded it to the English-language website Mangapanda on Oct. 29—a full four days before it actually went on sale. Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reports that this is the first time such an arrest has been made relating to an overseas piracy website.
Mangapanda, which boasts more than 4,000 titles, is one of the largest and most popular destinations for English fans to read Japanese comics online. Fan translations of manga have long been a major method fans use to distribute untranslated comics to the Internet. But while much of the manga on scanlation websites like Mangapanda is still unlicensed and untranslated, much of it, like One Piece, is already licensed and being lawfully sold overseas. And regardless of translation status, the majority of the manga on these sites are still under copyright, making them effectively little more than piracy sites.
As the partnership between Japanese and U.S. comics and animation industries has evolved, U.S. distributors have gotten savvier about delivering translations and subtitling of manga and anime faster. Distributors like Funimation and Crunchyroll have begun emphasizing simulcasting as a way of ensuring anime content gets released to overseas fans at the same time it’s released to fans in Japan. Manga distributors like VIZ and the U.S. version of Shonen Jump have begun releasing translations of major titles just a few weeks if not days after their Japanese counterparts.
Yet One Piece is the most popular manga in publication, and as the long-running series inches closer to its conclusion, demand for new chapters is high.
The arrest doesn’t bode well for Mangapanda, which is so harangued with copyright takedowns even its Twitter account is a defunct infringement. Still, the site has continued to thrive even into the rapidly advancing era of instantly available translations of Japanese media. It might take more than individual arrests to fully deal with the problem of manga piracy—especially since all four men have denied the charges.
Takehisa reportedly protested, “I only delivered the books.”
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