Two Arrested After Weekly Shounen Jump Copyright Violation



In somewhat of a long title, two managers of an LLC in Japan have been arrested on the suspicion of violating the copyright of the Weekly Shounen Jump magazine. The original news, broken by NHK, states that two managers were arrested over copyrights violated by their sharing and posting of the magazine online before its release date. Some may find the news confusing, as plenty of manga volumes are released early in North America, but the difference lays in something called an SoS date (in North America). In North America an SoS date, or Strict on Sale date, is something set by the publisher of the material. In its simplest terms, it is the stipulation that an item cannot be sold or distributed to consumers prior to the aforementioned date. Based upon the explanation, most will correctly infer that SoS dates are not commonly employed with English manga release. Regardless of how frequently they are employed, punishments and repercussions incurred by breaking the SoS date vary depending on the terms of the agreement stipulated by each publisher. Typically, they involve the revocation of the distributor or retailer’s ability to receive the publisher’s items in advance of their release date, or some form of a fine.

This sort of action is only taken when items are sold prior to their SoS date, however. In this case, the two managers listed were distributing Weekly Shounen Jump illegally in addition to before its SoS date. It is this former aspect that the police have formed their arrest upon, and in the original article state that they have been building said case against Japan Deal World LLC since March of 2023. In addition to this long built case, Japan Deal World LLC have been previously warned of their actions. The article states that just last month, the company was accused of violating Weekly Shounen Jump’s copyright by posting images online.

What does this action mean?

Removing the journalist’s cap and returning to the Kansas City Chiefs hat that I am now (proudly) wearing, it means a lot of things. First of all, it means that the police now have in custody, a pair of individuals that potentially have connections to a large network of Weekly Shounen Jump leakers across the globe. Arguably, the most infamous of the bunch is certainly Myamura, known throughout social media for their Jujutsu Kaisen leaks. As of the writing of this article, Myamura has neither had their account suspended nor have they deactivated it. Regardless, in images shared by Asahi, the Twitter account of the leaker can be found among the other various pieces of evidence.

Of course, Myamura is not the only leaker that makes use of these early releases of Weekly Shounen Jump, and since the breaking of the news via NHK and Asahi, several well-known leak and early release accounts have been identified as either suspended or deactivated- a tactic used to attempt to evade copyright violations. Accounts and groups, as reported by MangaAlerts on Twitter, include: OPScans, Scanpiea, and A Pair of 2+/po2scans.

When reached for a comment by NHK, Miya Tomishige, the Head of Shueisha’s Intellectual Property Division, said this in regards to the challenge posed by holding these social media accounts responsible:

“We have requested the SNS operator to delete the image, but the original poster has deleted the image before the request could be made. Because of this, they often escape having their accounts suspended or frozen, and we are unable to keep pace with the situation.”

Miya Tomishige, Shueisha

I suppose the question, as posed by the heading, is where does this all lead. Well, a little speculative “journalism” that is purely opinion and should never be taken as fact never hurt anyone, did it? The ideal answer for Japanese publishers is an ability to crack down on early leaks and scanlations as we see here with Weekly Shounen Jump. The point of concern that exists, if Shueisha finds considerable success in this case, is where they choose to toe the line with this type of action. Strictly speaking, scanlations the internet over are in violation of copyright for their respective series, but publishers have not found success or much reason to challenge this space. Because of that, the natural conclusion is that a thriving fan translation space could potentially find itself under the scrutiny of larger manga publishers in Japan.

Ultimately, this is not necessarily terrible, but can be considered cause for concern. With Japan’s very litigious nature in regards to the use of their materials, the fan translation space stands to lose a great deal because of malicious actors such as the ones targeted in this specific case. Fan translations are an integral space for the English (or other language speaking) communities that exist on the internet. Without them, the idea of a “popular license” or any incentive for a publisher to license a title due to fan demand will dissipate, and create a vacuum in terms of licensing. Of course, this is the very worst possible outcome, and it’s important to take measured approaches to unknowns… but at the same time, awareness is important.

More than anything, the point trying to be made in this rambling is that respectful translation and engagement with unlicensed materials is incredibly important, both as fans and fan translators. The goal of a fan translation should be to translate a work with the hope of popularizing it so that it stands a chance at being licensed, but many in the sphere have resorted to money and popularity as their incentive, and because of that have found themselves in the crosshairs of some very large and wide-reaching companies.

So, while a very positive triumph for Shueisha and Weekly Shounen Jump over the nuisance that is leakers such as the ones referenced, it is also a cautionary tale of the responsibility shouldered by fans and translators in regards to unlicensed works. Enjoy and translate responsibly and respectfully more than anything, so that a thriving community may yet exist and continue to help shape the manga industries of countries the world over.

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