Customs smashes local on-line discussion forum involved in piracy activities
15 March 2011
Hong Kong Customs has cracked an Internet piracy case by smashing a local on-line discussion forum involved in distributing pirated Japanese TV-dramas and animation videos.
During the operation, eight computers and two servers worth about $115,000 were seized. Four men aged between 21 and 36 were arrested.
The Customs Divisional Commander (Copyright Investigation), Mr Michael Kwan, at a press briefing today (March 15) said that the Customs earlier received a copyright owner's report about suspected pirated movies being uploaded to a local discussion forum for downloading by Internet users.
Officers of the Customs' Anti-Internet Piracy Team immediately carried out investigations and found that the alleged on-line discussion forum had not only general discussion sub-forums, but also two sub-forums for "Free" and "Paid" downloading of large numbers of suspected pirated Japanese TV-dramas and animations.
After selecting the TV-dramas or animations from the "Free" downloading sub-forum, forum users could then download them from a related file transfer server to the users' computers. If users wanted to download the latest or popular Japanese TV-dramas or animations, they had to turn to the "Paid" downloading sub-forum to download the selected drama or animation by using "network tokens". Each TV-drama cost three "network tokens".
The discussion forum also provided a bank account for users to procure "network tokens", or to buy "network tokens" from a game consoles and accessories retail shop in Sham Shui Po. Users had to pay $10 for 20 "network tokens".
After intensive investigations, Customs found the administrator of the online discussion forum and two forum masters of the "Free" and "Paid" sub-forums had uploaded suspected pirated Japanese TV-dramas and animations for downloading. They were also involved in managing the sub-forums, uploading TV-dramas and animations, and producing the required "network tokens".
The officers undertook an enforcement operation on March 11 to search various premises in Tsuen Wan, Kwai Chung, Chai Wan, Tuen Mun and Sham Shui Po, and arrested the administrator of the discussion forum, two masters of the sub-forums, and the proprietor of the game consoles and accessories retail shop. A total of eight computers and two servers were also seized. All arrested men have been released, each on $5,000 bail, pending further investigation.
Under the Copyright Ordinance, any person, without the licence of the copyright owner of a copyright work, distributes an infringing copy of the work (even not for the purpose of or in the course of any trade or business) to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the copyright owner commits a criminal offence. The maximum penalty for the offence is imprisonment for four years and a fine of $50,000 per infringing copy.
"We appeal to members of the public to respect intellectual property rights. Any person taking part in on-line infringing activities will be subject to criminal liability as well as civil litigation," said Mr Kwan.
Anyone who comes across any suspected on-line piracy activities should report to the Customs by calling the 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.
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