Boy, 14, arrested for song uploads

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 September, 2008, 12:00am

A 14-year-old student was arrested yesterday for allegedly uploading as many as 3,800 pop songs onto his personal blog for free downloads.

The case is a sign of customs' closer surveillance of pirated items offered through blogs or chat rooms.

The Form Three boy is the youngest suspect in an online piracy case since 2001.

The case came to light after customs received a complaint by IFPI Hong Kong early this month. The group, which represents the music industry in the city, said a blogger had advertised in popular online forums and chat rooms that free downloads of pirated songs were available on his site. Hyperlinks on the other sites directed visitors to his blog.

With the aid of internet service providers and forum hosts, customs officers tracked down the boy and arrested him at his home yesterday before he went to school. Officers also seized his computer and broadband internet devices.

A probe found some 3,800 songs - most of which were Canto-pop music - stored on the computer and 2,000 of them were believed to have been downloaded.

A few of the songs had not yet been released at the time they were uploaded to the blog.

Customs officers declined to release personal information on the suspect, who has been released on bail pending investigation, nor would they discuss further details.

Michael Kwan Yuk-kwan, who heads the Customs and Excise Department's copyright investigation division, said the boy had been circulating copyright songs using his blog since July.

'The student told investigators that he knew it was illegal to despatch copyright works that way. It appears the boy was on his own and it was not a piracy syndicate,' Mr Kwan said.

He pledged that customs would keep closer checks on chat rooms against piracy.

It is an offence to distribute copyright works without the licence of the owner. The maximum penalty is four years' jail and a HK$50,000 fine for each pirated copy. Since 2000, there have been 121 online piracy cases involving the arrests of 170 people, including three under 16.