Hong Kong customs takes down underground piracy topsite

MUMBAI: On 9 June, officers from the Anti Internet Piracy Teams of Hong Kong Customs & Excise Department (HKC&ED) raided two residential addresses and confiscated the FTP servers of a major Hong Kong based underground pirate topsite.

The raid also seized another FTP server belonging to a prominent pirate release group associated with the topsite. The names and other identifying particulars of the site and release group are being withheld as investigations remain ongoing.

Two men aged 23 and 35 were arrested and are under investigation for criminal copyright offences. Three high speed servers and one computer were seized, totaling 11.6 terabytes in size used to store and distribute thousands of movies, music titles, TV shows, computer and console games. The topsite servers were housed in one of the suspect’s residence, and both suspects are core members of the associated pirate release group. The associated pirate release group is well-known amongst the Greater China underground Internet communities as one of the more prolific and active groups, particularly for their releases which come with Chinese subtitles.

The topsite was used by several release groups to leak pirated content onto the Internet including copyrighted content belonging to MPA member companies, HD TV series, Japanese animation titles, Hindi movies, movies from China and Hong Kong and content from a wide range of other rights owners including Discovery, BBC, MTV and Xbox, PS2, PS3, NDS, and Wii games.

Forensic investigations are ongoing but investigations to date have revealed that the topsite contained titles infringing the Motion Picture Association (MPA) member companies copyright including 12 Rounds, Dragonball Evolution, Fired Up! and Star Trek as well as TV series Lost and Prison Break.  Infringing copies of the Gundam Series title belonging to a member of Content of Japan Mark Committee (CJ Mark) were also found in the FTP server of the pirate release group.

The raids were the culmination of an intensive investigation operation initiated in March 2009 by the International Federation Against Copyright Theft – Greater China (IFACT-GC) representing the MPA and the CJ Mark of Content Overseas Distributors Association (CODA) in Hong Kong. IFACT-GC staff worked closely with the HKC&ED during the investigation phase of the operation and will provide logistic support to ongoing investigations and any resultant criminal proceedings.

"We congratulate the Hong Kong’s Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau for being the first to strike a blow against a topsite and release group in the Asia-Pacific. The astounding range of content infringed on these sites and their role as the source of infringing content for the file-sharing community underscore the damage caused to the creative industries. Hong Kong Customs has once again taken the lead in fighting against movie pirates and we hope to see the same commitment and drive from their counterparts in the region," said MPA president and managing director, Asia-Pacific Mike Ellis.

Topsites represent the pinnacle of the file-sharing piracy food chain and are made up of high speed FTP servers used by release groups to store, trade and distribute illegal content. Boasting high storage capacity (1TB equals approx. 250 movies), topsites are where most pirated content first make their way on to the Internet. Piracy release groups are responsible for the video ripping, converting, subtitling of movies and TV shows. Subtitling facilitates distribution to different language markets and increases the popularity and proliferation of the pirated titles.