Three brothers from Northern California have been charged with operating an illegal website which offered pirated streaming of popular TV shows and movies. They face up to five years in prison. The State Attorney General’s Office confirmed that Hop Hoang and his brothers, Tony Hoang and Huynh Hoang were arraigned on multiple counts each, including grand theft, conspiracy and receiving stolen property.
According to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the three operated a website that allegedly allowed users of personal computers and handheld devices to stream more than 1,000 copyrighted movies and TV shows. Over 18 months, investigators say, the three made $150,000 by selling advertising.
“Digital piracy is theft,” asserted Harris.”It is a serious crime that harms one of California’s most important economic engines – our entertainment industry. This case sends a clear message that the California Department of Justice will investigate digital piracy and prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) initially began an investigation into iphonetvshows.net and movieiphone.net and sent ‘cease and desist’ letter to Tony Hoang. Thereafter, Tony Hoang and his co-defendant brothers allegedly resumed the illegal operation under a new domain name, mediamp4.com. The Attorney General’s office then initiated an investigation into mediamp4.com, executed a search warrant, seized property used in connection with the illegal operation and filed charges against the Hoang brothers.
“The MPAA deeply appreciates the leadership of Attorney General Harris and her office in helping to combat websites that illegally profit from the creative content produced by the men and women of the American movie and television community,” said MPAA chairman Chris Dodd. “There are now nearly 80 legal online services in the United States dedicated to providing movies and television shows to viewers. But to realise the enormous potential of these businesses and ensure an Internet that works for everyone, it is critical that government, content creators, the tech community and others work together to stop illegal rogue sites.” In May2013, the MPAA launched www.WheretoWatch.org, a new website that will serve as a resource for audiences to access movies and TV shows seamlessly and legally.
The investigation was conducted by the eCrime Unit of the California Attorney General’s Office, California Highway Patrol, and REACT, a law enforcement task force located in Santa Clara, CA specialising in investigating technology crimes and identity theft. The Attorney General’s eCrime Unit conducted the forensic analysis of the computer seized during a search and is prosecuting the case.
In 2011, Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes and other crimes involving the use of technology.