H.K. pirates draw jail sentences

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HONG KONG -- Hot on the heels of a landmark decision that saw a successful conviction in the world's first criminal bit torrent case, three members of a mob-run optical disc lab were sentenced to jail here Monday.

They were convicted at Hong Kong's District Court under the Copyright Ordinance as well as the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance and given terms ranging from 31 months to more than six years.

"This is one of a number of cases involving the theft of copyright where we have sought to invoke the powers of OSCO," said Y. K. Tam, assistant commissioner, intelligence and investigation at the customs and excise department.

"Profit is the only motivation for piracy trade and Hong Kong customs and excise is committed to seeking asset forfeiture in every case where profits can be identified and seized," he added.

Following the successful convictions, customs and excise will now move to confiscate the assets seized and frozen, valued at a little more than HK$1 million ($128,000).

The case first broke Aug. 4, 2005, following the Custom and Excise Department's initial arrests and raids, which came after a yearlong investigation. Eighteen people were arrested, along with enough optical disc burners to generate revenue of more than HK$67.5 million ($8.5 million) a year.

The results of this case continue to show Hong Kong as a trailblazer for tougher sentencing for motion picture piracy.

"Organized crime gangs engage in copyright piracy because it is financially lucrative and, in too many jurisdictions, not treated with the seriousness it requires by law enforcement," said Mike Ellis, senior vp and regional director Asia-Pacific for the MPA. "Copyright piracy can be more profitable than drug trafficking, yet it often results in only minor punishment."
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