Macau and Hong Kong customs officers jointly smashed a cross-border syndicate which used an online forum to distribute pirated programmes from TVB and other Hong Kong TV channels illegally.
In Macau a local man suspected of being a member of the syndicate was arrested on Monday. In Hong Kong, two men were arrested on Monday on suspicion of distributing copyrighted works without the authorisation of the copyright owners.
Macau Custom Service spokesmen Ian Chan Un and Cheng Kin Cheong presided over a press conference Tuesday morning to reveal details of the joint action carried out by local customs officers and their counterparts in Hong Kong on Monday.
Cheng said that the 31-year-old local suspect surnamed Ng, who works in the service sector, was arrested in his flat in Taipa on Monday when he was caught recording TV programmes, adding that the suspect would be transferred to the Public Prosecution Office (MP) for further questioning and possible arraignment on a range of charges.
According to Cheng, Ng was responsible for recording TV programmes from several free-to-air channels in Hong Kong. Ng allegedly uploaded the recordings to the gang’s online forum so that registered members of the forum could download them.
Cheng said that customs officials in Hong Kong and Macau some time ago received a report from one of the TV stations concerned that a website was infringing its copyright by providing many of its programmes on an online forum. Chen said the station, which he did not identify, suffered losses of about HK$210 million over the last three years due to the illegal online redistribution of its programmes.
After investigating for several months customs officers from both places arrested the three suspects from Hong Kong and Macau at the same time.
According to a Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) report Tuesday, two male suspects including the forum’s operator were arrested in Hong Kong on suspicion of infringing copyrights on Monday.
The RTHK report said that most of the programmes were from TVB, while others were from Now TV and ATV. Other Hong Kong media reported Tuesday that the forum made profits by showing advertisements when the registered members were downloading TV programmes. The members reportedly also needed to pay if they wanted to improve the forum’s download speed.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Cheng said that customs officers searched Ng’s flat and found a large amount of electrical equipment and devices including a computer, monitor, network storage device (NAS), USB hub, TVBOX (TV receiver), optical network terminals, routers and hard disk storage devices. The electrical equipment and devices are worth more than 50,000 patacas and all were operating at the time of the search, according to Cheng.
Cheng also said Ng admitted that he had been hired by the syndicate at the end of last year, adding that Ng had been responsible for bootlegging the television programmes 24 hours a day. Cheng also said that early this month Ng purchased a large number of advanced electronic devices including an NAS with a capacity of up to 48TB, adding that the storage was big enough to store video files with a month’s worth of eight HD channels programmes running 24 hours a day.
Cheng said that over 10,000 netizens watched the pirated television programmes. He also said that in Macau copyright violators face up to four years behind bars.
Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department spokesman Guy Fong Wing-kai told the Hong Kong media that the forum had been operating for a year and had about 3,000 members and 2,500 programmes. He also said that while membership was free, members were redirected to advertisements before they could start downloading.
Fong said “this is virtually our first case that we discovered such a large quantity of local television programmes being uploaded on the Internet for downloading.”
Hong Kong media reports said that the syndicate used a server based in the US.
Because of its location in the US more time was needed to close the illegal site, Fong said.
According to Hong Kong media reports, it was still running Tuesday. (macaunews/macaupost)