Hong Kong authorities have arrested two people, a 21-year-old man and his uncle aged 60, who are suspected of illegally live-streaming FIFA World Cup match broadcasts online and making money.
The two are accused of tapping into Now TV, which holds the local rights for paid-TV broadcasts of the World Cup football matches, and illegally sending the feed to an online platform.
The younger of the two is said to be celebrity of sorts on VOOV, a platform built by mainland Chinese internet giant Tencent for users to do live broadcasting and which currently has tens of thousands of followers in Hong Kong after it entered the city in August last year.
As Now TV has been broadcasting the World Cup matches on its paid over-the-top (OTT) platform, called Now E, since the quadrennial football tournament began on June 14, the customs received a tip that someone has been rebroadcasting the content on the VOOV platform by pirating the signals.
After carrying out a probe with assistance from the copyright holder, customs officials arrested a youth aged 21 from a flat in a building at Yat Tung Estate, a public rental housing complex in Tung Chung.
The arrest was said to have taken place at about 9 pm when a Brazil versus Costa Rica match was being rebroadcast on the young man’s VOOV account.
The young man’s uncle was also arrested on the spot after he was found at the scene and apparently involved in the whole operation.
Officials seized some computer equipment worth around HK$20,000 from the premises, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The two have been released on bail pending further investigation.
It is suspected that the young man received cyber money from his fans who watched the illegally broadcast matches. The cyber money was then exchanged for real money.
The internet celebrity, with cooperation from his uncle, was said to have made a profit of at least HK$4,000.
HKEJ cited customs as saying that it was the first piracy case they handled in relation to the Russia World Cup matches.
The department declined to give details on the ground that the investigation is still ongoing.
Under the Copyright Ordinance, a person commits an offence if the person sells or let for hire a relevant device, or provides relevant service in order to allow circumventing an effective technological measure which has been applied in relation to a copyright work.
If convicted, offenders are liable to a fine of up to HK$500,000 and four years in jail.
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