'Big Crook' put film on internet, court hears

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2005, 12:00am

Browsing a BitTorrent website led a customs officer to a landmark arrest

A customs officer was browsing a BitTorrent movie newsgroup when he encountered 'Big Crook', a Hong Kong user who uploaded the Hollywood film Daredevil to the site, a court heard yesterday.

Officer Chan Tsz-lai downloaded the movie and two others uploaded from the same IP address in January this year, leading to the world's first arrest involving BitTorrent technology.

On the second day of the trial of Chan Nai-ming, 38, customs Senior Inspector Kwan Yuk-kwan gave his testimony on how BitTorrent technology works.

Chan - who the prosecution alleges used the alias 'Big Crook' - was charged in April with attempting to distribute three copyrighted films without the owners' licences. He has pleaded not guilty.

Chan's lawyer on Wednesday sought to have the statements he had signed with customs officers during his arrest ruled inadmissible. But Tuen Mun Court magistrate Colin Mackintosh yesterday rejected the application and ruled the statements admissible.

Senior Inspector Kwan told the court that copyright-infringing copies of three films - Daredevil, Red Planet and Miss Congeniality - were found on the defendant's computer during a customs raid on his home on January 12.

Photo images of the labels of the compact discs were also found on the computer. A digital camera consistent with the make and model used to take the photos was found at the defendant's home, government prosecutor Hayson Tse Ka-sze told the court.

In cross-examination, defence lawyer Paul Francis asked Senior Inspector Kwan if it was true that one computer may only be able to get part of a film from another computer onto which it was uploaded. Senior Inspector Kwan agreed, but said the originating 'seeder' computer was most responsible for the distribution of the copyrighted work.

BitTorrent is a programme that breaks files up into smaller fragments. The fragments are distributed to a group of computers, and other BitTorrent users can later reassemble them by downloading them over the internet.

Mr Francis argued that the process of downloading was initiated by the downloading computer and not by the seeder computer. But Senior Inspector Kwan said the seeder computer had to be turned on and connected to a BitTorrent-user website first.

The trial continues today.