Photo/Illutration These documents, displayed by Aichi prefectural police in Nagoya on July 10, contain information on members of an online porn video marketplace. (Hiromichi Fujita)

NAGOYA--Dozens of people across Japan have stepped forward to confess to child pornography purchases and sales following an investigation into a supposedly secure overseas adult video website, sources said.

More than 200 registered members of the website have surrendered or consulted police about possible prosecution over a roughly two-month period through August, the sources said.

“I have sold child porn on the website, so I am turning myself in,” one of them was quoted as saying.

“I have bought a child porn video and other products,” another was quoted as saying. “I want to know if I am also going to be arrested.”

Police have seized a list of about 20,000 members of the online porn video marketplace. They plan to investigate buyers and sellers who used the website on suspicion of violating the Law Banning Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Toru Okumura, a lawyer well-versed in the issue of child porn, said he has also been consulted by about 300 people, including medical practitioners and schoolteachers, who apparently bought child porn videos and other products on the website.

Aichi, Gifu and Saitama prefectural police in June arrested three operators of the “AV Market” online video marketplace on suspicion of violating the anti-child porn law.

The suspects denied the allegations. One of them said he simply did not know that child porn products were being offered on the site, so he was not actively involved in the sales, the sources said.

Prosecutors decided not to indict the three over the anti-child porn law violation but instead charged them with “distributing obscene records, including electronic or magnetic records, through transmission.”

To trade in porn videos and other products, users had to register as members of the online marketplace.

Sellers set the prices for their videos and other products, which they uploaded. Buyers paid the prices to the operators and downloaded the products.

The operators, who took in half of the payments, gained more than 1 billion yen ($9.4 million) in sales a year, the investigators said.

The marketplace opened in 2018 with its servers installed overseas. All companies responsible for system management and website operations were also based outside Japan.

According to Aichi prefectural police, online porn video marketplaces operated on servers abroad are difficult to regulate or find facts about. They practically go unchecked.

“The registered members were probably sure they would never be caught by police because the servers are not in Japan,” a senior police official said.

Internet Hotline Center Japan, which patrols cyberspace on commission from the National Police Agency, said it received 1,706 reports last year on illegal public displays of child porn. Around 80 percent of reports concerned websites with overseas servers.

“The operators of similar websites are hopping from one country to another in search of looser regulations,” Okumura said.

The lawyer added that enactment of a law requiring website operators and internet service providers to check the products on sale on their websites would help to prevent child porn from being sold online.

The Organization for Pornography and Sexual Exploitation Survivors (PAPS) is a nonprofit organization that offers counseling on how to request deletion of online child porn images and videos.

PAPS officials said the group has received several requests concerning the online marketplace targeted by the latest police action.

“Once uploaded, your videos and images stay there forever,” said Kazuna Kanajiri, chief director of the group. “They may be deleted at your request, only to be uploaded again. Once they end up disseminated, you have no means to restore your honor.”

Kanajiri said she is calling for prompt action against similar websites, which she described as “a hotbed for child porn and other forms of sexual exploitation.”

The Law Banning Child Prostitution and Child Pornography states that any person who possesses porn images or videos of those under 18 for the purpose of satisfying their sexual curiosity can be punished by imprisonment of not more than one year or a maximum fine of 1 million yen.

The law also bans the act of providing child porn to many or unspecified individuals, or displaying it in public, on websites or by other means. Violators face imprisonment of up to five years, a maximum fine of 5 million yen, or both.