Customs officials have arrested three men suspected to be behind an online forum that illegally distributed copyrighted content from Hong Kong television stations.
On Monday, officers from Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department detained two men, aged 25 and 46, who are believed to be key members of an online piracy group, Ming Pao Daily reported.
Meanwhile, a 31-year-old Macanese, who was suspected to have been hired by the two Hong Kong men to record TV programs for piracy purposes, was arrested in Macau, the report said.
The three men were said to be operating an online forum that had more than 3,000 members sharing pirated TV content.
More than 2,500 local TV programs were said to have been distributed without permission from the copyright owners. Most of the pirated programs were from TVB, with the rest from Now TV and ATV.
The group was said be using servers in the United States for their illegal distribution of copyrighted content.
Authorities seized some computer equipment as part of the crackdown.
Officials believe that three or four men who were in charge of post-production of the pirated shows are still at large.
According to officials, they launched a three-month probe following a piracy complaint from TVB.
It was found that a group was distributing local TV programs without authorization. If a netizen wanted a free download, he was offered programs with specially inserted advertisements. Paid customers, meanwhile, were allowed the privilege of skipping the commercials.
The programs were recorded in Macau, while other members of the group added subtitles, deleted original TV advertisements and compressed the file before uploading to the website.
Following the arrests, TVB has thanked the authorities. A spokesman for the TV station noted that illegal distribution of content affects not only TV stations but also the entire creative industry.
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