Four held for pirated TV shows sold online

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am

A university student and three of his friends were arrested for operating an internet forum that enabled members to download pirated Japanese TV dramas and cartoon series.

The four are suspected of having uploaded about 2,500 pirated copies onto their forum.

The student, 21, originally set up the website four years ago for young people to discuss the latest game consoles and Japanese TV dramas. At its peak, it attracted more than 9,000 visitors a day. Customs officers shut it down last Friday.

The forum had about 2,000 pirated copies and users paid an average of HK$1.50 a copy, while 500 copies were available for free, said divisional commander Michael Kwan Yuk-kwan of the Customs and Excise Department's copyright investigation division. 'We believe the low prices were aimed at attracting more customers and generating more income from advertisements on the website,' he said.

The four Hong Kong men - aged between 21 and 36 - were arrested last Friday after customs officers successfully downloaded pirated copies from the forum.

Customs officers began investigating about three weeks ago after a complaint from a copyright owner.

'It was quite easy to find them,' Kwan said. 'The website we cracked this time was a discussion forum and open to everyone, including customs officers and copyright owners.

'It was easy to detect whether it had pirated movies and pirated Japanese dramas for others to download. Such activities are quite silly.'

The distribution of pirated copies among forum members only began in the past three to four months, he said.

Kwan said it was the first time a local discussion forum was found to have been used as a distribution centre for pirated works.

To download the pirated copies, internet users had to buy network tokens from a Sham Shui Po shop. They could also deposit money into a bank account for the tokens.

The four suspects have been released on bail and none of them has been charged.