Hong Kong customs officers arrest two over alleged local pirate TV site

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 8:15pm

Customs officers on Monday cracked down on a locally based online forum involved in distributing pirated programmes from TVB and other local television channels.

Two men were arrested in the operation on suspicion of distributing copyrighted works without the authorisation of the copyright owners. A 25-year-old living in Southern District was alleged to be the founder of the website while a 46-year-old living in Tuen Mun was suspected of being a core member of the group, said Guy Fong Wing-kai, divisional commander of the Customs and Excise Department.

Officers seized four computers worth about HK$20,000 during the operation and found in the computers thousands of pirated programmes.

Another core member was based in Macau, where local customs officers took action yesterday, Fong said. He declined to reveal details about the action.

The website was still running on Tuesday because its server was in the United States, Fong said. He said officers would need more time to close the site, and he refused to name it.

“This is virtually our first case that we discovered such large quantity of local television programmes being uploaded on the internet for downloading,” he said. “This is without the authorisation of the copyright owners and this may constitute criminal offence.”

Fong said the forum had been operating for a year and had about 3,000 members and 2,500 programmes. Most of those were pirated from TVB’s free channels and in the last two weeks there had been a few programmes from other local television stations such as ATV and Now TV, he added.

Registered members of the forum could download the programmes – including local, Japanese and Korean dramas, sports shows and entertainment shows broadcast on the affect channels – once they accumulated enough “electronic tokens” by participating in forum activities.

Although membership was free, members would be redirected to advertisements before they could start downloading, which was a possible way for the site to generate income, Fong said.

He said in recent weeks the site had started to ask members for donations as well. Members could also pay the core members a certain amount of money to improve their download speed, he added.

Fong said a rough estimate put the site’s annual revenue at around HK$120,000.

He said several core members were still at large and officers would take action in the following days. He said the founder might have recruited the Macau-based member in order to avoid local law enforcement.

Under the Copyright Ordinance, those who distribute copyrighted works without the approval of copyright owners face a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a fine of HK$50,000 per infringing copy.