Online piracy clampdown in Hong Kong deprives errant websites of HK$6.5 million in monthly ad revenue

Group representing creative industries in city has an agreement with Taiwan authorities to exchange information on blacklisted sites

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 9:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 9:03am

A Hong Kong scheme to clamp down on websites that display pirated content has deprived them of HK$6.5 million (US$828,000) monthly – or 24 per cent of overall monthly advertising revenue – since December 2016.

The Hong Kong Creative Industries Association (HKCIA), a non-profit organisation, announced the news on Tuesday. The association aims to unite the city’s creative and technology industries and push for relevant legal protection for the sectors.

It revealed that by putting websites publishing unauthorised content on a blacklist and circulating this to agencies that place online advertisements for clients, it managed to stop 105 advertisements from being displayed on such sites and reduced total traffic by 800,000 visits.

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But association chairman Robert Lee acknowledged that fighting online piracy was still an uphill battle. The losses sustained by the errant websites were just a fraction of the HK$120 million the city’s creative industries lose each month in revenue because of online piracy of content such as video clips, films, music and animation.

“Online piracy is cross-boundary and piracy syndicates will change the server locations of their websites continuously, making it difficult to crack down on such crimes,” Lee said.

Dr Michael Kwan, convenor of the Infringing Website List scheme in Hong Kong, said many brand owners who placed online ads through agencies or intermediaries such as Google and Facebook did not know that their ads appeared alongside illegal content. Such material may range from pornography to copyrighted work not meant for free circulation.

Piracy syndicates will change the server locations of their websites continuously, making it difficult to crack down
Robert Lee, HKCIA

Among the 48 blacklisted websites most frequently visited by Hong Kong users, 14 provide free movie downloads, and 14 offer music, while six run content such as comics and animation.

Kwan said users visiting website with pirated content may also expose their devices to viruses and malware.

The HKCIA took its initiative up a notch through an agreement with Taiwanese authorities – both sides on Tuesday agreed to exchange their Infringing Websites Lists, meaning that Taiwanese advertisers and media agencies would have access to Hong Kong’s blacklist of sites, and vice versa.

The Taiwanese list has 36 sites on it.

Kwan said collaboration among countries and regions would help brands remove their ads from infringing websites around the world as user tastes were different because of language and cultural elements.

The association will share its entire blacklist with members in the creative industry and brands in the scheme. With the help of copyright holders in the film, music and comics publishing industry, it has identified 48 pirate websites in Hong Kong, 36 in Taiwan, 34 in Malaysia, 100 in Indonesia, 73 in Vietnam and 100 in India.

The websites provide unauthorised content produced by Hong Kong companies and publish them in a local language.

The HKCIA was founded in March 2015 by members from the film, television and radio broadcasting industries, as well as publishing companies in Hong Kong.