Man arrested over movie downloads

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2009, 12:00am

Customs has arrested a jobless man who may have distributed two movies on the internet using file-sharing technology called BitTorrent, in what may be the third such case in the city.

The arrest was made at the man's Wan Chai home as he went online on Monday night. Customs officials detected him sharing files using their round-the-clock monitoring system.

The man, 38, could have been avoiding detection by staying online for only brief periods, but the tactic did not work that night, said Michael Kwan Yuk-kwan, divisional commander for copyright investigation.

The system tracked him opening a thread on a popular internet forum on Friday, where he provided hyperlinks for downloading BitTorrent 'seeds' - through which net users could download the two movies he was sharing. The shows were the British drama Brideshead Revisited and Hollywood action thriller NYC: Tornado Terror.

'He stayed online only for a brief hour and a half,' Mr Kwan said. 'We believe he was trying to prevent us from spotting him.' He said no BitTorrent users downloaded the movies in full on Friday. The man stayed away from the Web until Monday night, when about 13,000 users were awaiting him with the seeds. Internet users cannot watch a BitTorrent file until it is completely downloaded.

Customs officers arrested the suspect at about 10pm, about 30 minutes after he started sharing the files again. Mr Kwan said only 'very few' users managed to download the full copies. The man was released on bail.

Hong Kong customs is a pioneer in combating peer-to-peer BitTorrent piracy. In 2005, it cracked down on Chan Nai-ming, known as 'Big Crook' on the internet, who was the world's first arrested BitTorrent user. Chan had uploaded three movies and was jailed for three months.

Customs installed the monitoring system in 2007 to track BitTorrent traffic automatically on popular forums. A 27-year-old woman became the first person to be arrested under the system and is under investigation. 'The system has served as a strong deterrent and it is not common for Hong Kong people to become the source of BitTorrent piracy,' Mr Kwan said.