The District Court sentenced three men to 21-27 months in jail after they were found guilty of illegally broadcasting the programs of paid television channels to their customers, Apple Daily reports.
The trio included a 39-year-old man surnamed Chung, a 53-year-old man surnamed Ho, and a 53-year-old man surnamed Lam. Chung was jailed for 27 months while the other two received a shorter jail sentence of 21 months each.
All of them had pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud and providing circumvention device or service that violated the Copyright Ordinance.
A spokesman for the Customs and Excise Department, which conducted the raid that led to trio’s arrest, said this is the first-ever case in Hong Kong in which the two charges were applied in successful prosecution against a piracy syndicate circumventing paid TV channels, adding that the jail sentences can serve as a strong deterrent to similar piracy activities.
According to court documents, the department detected a website involving a piracy syndicate that sold a set-top box named Maige to circumvent paid TV channels in February 2014.
The box provided 192 channels, including 11 paid channels owned by Now TV, an online TV operator under PCCW Ltd. (00008.HK).
After investigations revealed the syndicate had a shop on Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po, it sent officers posing as customers to buy the set-top box that cost HK$2,500 before arresting the three defendants.
The judge said the defendants should have known that the set-top box might cause losses to the online TV operator.
It is estimated that about 1,020 units of the set-top box were sold from September 2103 to June 2014 and PCCW lost more than HK$4 million as a result.
Welcoming the ruling, Now TV said it is a major victory in terms of protecting intellectual property rights and the creative industries, adding that it may try to seek civil compensation from the individuals or groups concerned.
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