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Crime in Hong Kong

Three in Hong Kong jailed for providing illegal TV boxes to stream subscription-based Now TV content

They were sentenced from 21 to 27 months in jail in heaviest penalty ever meted out for internet piracy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 6:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 10:54pm

Three men were jailed on Thursday for illegally broadcasting programmes from Now TV’s paid channels to their customers through streaming devices, with a judge handing down the heaviest penalty ever for internet piracy in Hong Kong.

The trio, comprising a mastermind, Chung Yu-cheung, 40, his assistant, Ho Kwok-cheung, 54, and a stall owner, Lam Siu-wai, 54, were jailed 21 to 27 months.

They were caught by customs in a raid on four residences, a warehouse and a stall in 2014, after a report was made to authorities by a local cable TV station.

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The devices allow a provider to sell media services streamed from the internet directly to consumers, bypassing cable TV stations or broadcasters.

This is the first case in which charges of “providing a circumvention device or service” and “conspiracy to defraud” were applied successfully in a prosecution of a piracy syndicate, according to a customs spokesman.

“The rulings and sentences [serve] as a strong deterrent to similar piracy activities, “ he said, adding that the agency welcomed the ruling.

Handing down the judgment, District Court Judge Gary Lam Kar-yan said Now TV could face HK$4 million in losses because of copyright infringement and fraud.

Such illegal services were found to be provided by stalls in Apliu Street and in other nearby computer shops in Sham Shui Po.

The 2014 operation resulted in the seizure of a batch of computer equipment for uploading stolen content from TV channels and 41 sets of illicit OTT boxes.

Nine people were arrested in the raid, under suspicion of violating the Copyright Ordinance, Cap 528 law. Among them, three were charged this year resulting in the sentences.

Chung was sentenced to 27 months in jail while Ho and Lam were both jailed for 21 months. All pleaded guilty.

Customs officials reminded the public to subscribe to cable TV services to watch the programmes legally.

The spokesman said the case was a significant one as it represented a win for enforcement against internet piracy.

Authorities also appealed to members of the public to report any case of copyright infringement through the 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.