Authorities shut down ‘largest’ video piracy site

by Taipei Times

Criminal Investigation Bureau officers in Taoyuan yesterday escort two men, surnamed Chen and Chuang, who are accused of profiting from copyright infringement by providing movies and TV programs via a streaming service
Photo copied by Chiu Chun-fu, Taipei Times

April 9, 2020

By Taipei Times

The Criminal Investigation Bureau has shut down what was reportedly the nation’s top video piracy Web site, (楓林網), and arrested its two alleged proprietors in Taoyuan.

Authorities estimated that the site had infringed on NT$1 billion (US$33.2 million) in copyrights owned by the movie and TV industries.

The crackdown was the result of international cooperation with the US’ Motion Picture Association, Japan’s Content Overseas Distribution Association, and local TV networks initiating probes and providing authorities with evidence of illegal downloads, bureau officials said.

The site allowed users to download movies and TV shows from Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the US and Europe for free, Telecommunications Investigation Corps section head Chen Juei-chin (陳瑞金) told a media briefing.

“The site was in 2014 started in Taiwan by the two suspects, who have the expertise as they are software engineers,” Chen said. “They made about NT$2 million in monthly revenue from business and service company ads on the site.”

At the start, the two men promoted the site as an online commercial advertising service, but soon turned it into a video piracy site, for which they paid a total of NT$300,000 monthly for 25 servers in five countries — the US, Canada, Ukraine, France and Romania — to avoid investigation and prosecution by Taiwanese authorities, Chen added.

A bureau investigation found that about 30 million users downloaded from the site monthly, while the proprietors made about NT$4 million in advertising revenue.

The site was reportedly Taiwan’s top site for downloading movies and TV shows for free, and was also popular with people in China and other countries, becoming a prominent international piracy site.

The two suspects, surnamed Chen (陳), 33, and Chuang (莊), 32, are friends who were in the same software engineering program and graduated at the top of their class, for which they received scholarships for graduate studies at National Taiwan University, bureau officials said.

Investigators found that the two men had purchased two luxury mansions in Taoyuan, allegedly using their illegal profits from running the site to each pay NT$16 million in cash for the properties.

After weeks of surveillance and collecting evidence, the bureau coordinated with Taoyuan prosecutors and local police to conduct the raid at the end of last month, leading to the arrests of the two suspects, as well as the seizure of their properties and NT$60 million in their bank accounts, bureau officials said.

The officials quoted the two as saying that they started the site because they are both fans of TV dramas and foreign movies, so they decided to put their software expertise to good use in the name of entertainment and profit.

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