Karaoke pirates arrested in customs swoop

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 October, 2009, 12:00am

Pirated music videos have been found for the first time packaged for sale with new karaoke players.

The discovery was made when customs officers made surprise raids on four audio equipment shops in Sham Shui Po last week. Four shop proprietors and three sales assistants, aged 18 to 47, were arrested and 30 karaoke players worth about HK$100,000 were seized.

Nineteen players seized from two shops had about 20,000 karaoke videos and eight movies - all suspected to be pirated - on their hard drives. The players had hard drives ranging from 300 to 500 gigabytes and sold for about HK$5,000 each.

At two other shops the officers seized 11 players that were selling for HK$1,700 with two compact discs that could be filled from a menu of 50,000 karaoke songs.

Divisional commander for copyright investigation Michael Kwan Yuk-kwan said it was the first time such copyright infringement tactics had been seen in Hong Kong. He said the shops were offering the players to the public but they might also have been sold to small entertainment premises such as pubs, 'for commercial purposes'.

He believed the sales had been going on for only six months and no more than 50 players had been sold. 'We do not see a trend for such piracy tactics,' Kwan said.

The chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (Hong Kong Group), Ricky Fung Tim-chee, said such mass copyright infringement was 'outrageous'. Karaoke videos had become an important source of income for the recording industry in recent years and copyright fees for such use could top HK$30 million a year, he said. Such infringement would also harm sales of home-use music videos.

Anyone found guilty of buying pirated copyright works is liable to a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a fine of HK$50,000 for each copy. Anyone who suspects cases of infringement are taking place can report them to customs by calling its hotline, 2545 6182.