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A man suspected of running a piracy website that offers links to over 3,300 local and western films has been arrested in Japan. The 51-year-old, who is suspected of violating the copyrights of companies including Bandai Namco and King Records, told police he simply wanted to share his love of films with others. Under local law, he faces up to five years in prison.
In the 2000s, Japan was a relatively safe place for people with a penchant for downloading content without paying for it. Even those running torrent sites have been relatively carefree compared to their counterparts in the United States.
It would not necessarily stay that way. While uploading copyrighted content was already illegal, in 2012 Japan criminalized unlicensed downloading of movies and TV shows, punishable by fines and up to two years in prison. In 2020, the Japanese parliament subsequently criminalized those who download pirated manga.
But perhaps the most significant change was a law banning indexing sites. Known as “leech” or “reach” sites in Japan, these are platforms that do not themselves host copyrighted content but link to external platforms that do. Under the changes, which went into effect on October 1, 2020, anyone operating such a website faces a fine of up to five million yen, a five-year prison term, or possibly both.
It seems some people didn’t get the memo.
Alleged “Reach” site operator arrested in Japan
According to a report by anti-piracy group CODA (Content Overseas Distribution Association), officers from the Cybercrime Division of the Gunma Prefecture Police Department and the Takasaki North Police Station have arrested a man suspected of running an unnamed “Reach” site .
CODA says the site’s domain was registered in February 2018. At least initially, it was used as a movie information site that provided movie details alongside their official trailers. However, at some point later, the site began linking to copies of pirated movies that had been uploaded to foreign file-hosting platforms.
The site covered both Japanese and Western films and offered links to around 3,300 titles, according to local reports. CODA highlights two popular current anime titles – Gundam Reconguista in G Movie III: Legacy from Space and Knights of Sidonia Atsumu Guhoshi – as well as affected rights holders Bandai Namco Filmworks and King Records Co. Ltd.
The man told police he just wanted to share
The suspect, a 51-year-old unemployed man, was arrested in the city of Asahi, Yamagata Prefecture. He is being investigated for copyright infringement and is said to have earned advertising revenue. In comments to police, he said his love of films made him want to share them.
“I like movies, so I wanted everyone to see them,” he said.
CODA sees things differently, noting that “reach”/indexing sites play a crucial role in the piracy ecosystem by making content easier to access that would otherwise be harder to find.
“Various copyrighted works are illegally uploaded to storage sites abroad. In many cases, information such as the title of the work is not described and the filename is a list of meaningless characters, so the user cannot reach the content without a guide window provided by the outreach site,” the anti-piracy group says.
“CODA continues to investigate copyright violations across the Internet, including reach sites, and will strive to promote robust regular distribution where content is properly protected.”
In February of this year, Gunma Prefecture police targeted the alleged operator of another indexing site. The man was arrested for offering links to thousands of films and TV shows, including content from Toei and Toho production companies.