Manga pirate sentenced to 3 years in prison with over $600,000 in fines

Romi Hoshino, operator of one of the biggest manga piracy sites Manga-Mura, has been sentenced to three years in prison and copped over $600,000 in fines for copyright infringement.

Sometimes heroes have to take the fall for doing what they believe in. Romi Hoshino, alleged administrator of the now non-existent manga piracy site Manga-Mura, has officially gone down for operating the site, which featured hit titles like One Piece and Kingdom.

The 29 year old has finally been found guilty by the Fukuoka District Court in Japan after a global manhunt resulted in his arrest on copyright charges in 2019. FNN and Nikkei reported that Hoshino has been sentenced to three years in prison and over $600,000 AUD in fines.

manga court
Image: Screenshot / FNN

The illegal website operator was hit with two separate fines – one for $91,000 (10 million yen) and one for $565,000 (62 million yen), with the latter being for the revenue he earned from the site. It’s just a small fraction of the roughly 3.5 billion dollars (300 billion yen) in losses that the website is purported to have caused, until it was taken down in 2018.

A press conference was held by prominent manga publisher Shueisha after the ruling, declaring the ruling as just. The sentencing of Hoshino represents a major relief to the entire manga industry, as disappointing as it may be for fans who enjoyed the access to several popular titles, including 516 episodes of Kingdom and 866 episodes of One Piece.

Within two years of Manga-Mura‘s launch in 2016, the site was already facing complaints from several major manga publishers, resulting in Japanese authorities commencing an investigation. When Hoshino relocated to Manila in 2019, the government created a special task force to track him down, which was evidently successful.

According to the indictment, the website provided completely free (and illegal) access to 60,000 manga releases to its 100 million users per month. Hoshino was also accused of asking advertisers to transfer over $730,000 (62.57 million yen) to an overseas account, between December 2016 and November 2017, to conceal the earnings from Japanese authorities.

Hoshino’s defence team have called for a suspension of the sentence, claiming that he didn’t commit a crime because some of the manga files uploaded on the Manga-Mura website were already viewable on other websites. Even if the sentence does end up being reduced, this serves as a major lesson for those who think piracy isn’t a real crime.

I don’t think anyone’s about to stop viewing free content online or pirating their music, but maybe don’t try to make a profit from it and then proceed to flee the country. That shit screams guilty.