HK Customs raids ISD vendors

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As part of Operation Trojan Horse, Hong Kong Customs recently undertook a series of raids against four retail outlets in Sham Shui Po and Wan Chai. Over a two-day period (May 25-26 2018), Hong Kong Customs raided retail outlets and arrested four shop owners and four salespersons found to be selling pre-loaded TV boxes (also known as Illicit Streaming Devices – ‘ISDs’) which provide access to pirated movies and TV shows.

The arrested persons were all charged with copyright offences. A total of 354 suspected ISDs, with an estimated market value of about $320,000 (€35,216) were seized, including brands such as the Ubox, EVPad, BossTV, and Magic Box.

The agency has been stepping up patrols at hot spots selling TV set-top boxes in the past few months. Some shops were found selling suspected illicit set-top boxes which can be used to watch pay TV programmes for free by means of bypassing copyright protective measures adopted by pay TV programme copyright owners.

“Hong Kong Customs will continue to strengthen its searches at ISD shop hotspots, cracking down on those who sell devices that allow for the stealing of Pay TV channels,” declared a spokesperson for the agency. “Whether the rights-holders are based locally or internationally, both are protected under the Copyright Ordinance. Customs wants to remind salespersons that selling circumvention devices, or providing circumvention services that allow users to watch pay-TV channels for free, is a serious offence. Customs wants to urge consumers to watch pay-TV through legal avenues. Users of ISDs will not only face disconnections but also may have their private data stolen by malicious actors”.

“We commend the great work of Hong Kong Customs in clamping down on syndicates who profit from the sale of Illicit Streaming Devices,” remarked Neil Gane, General Manager of Cabsaa’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP). “The prevalence of ISDs in Hong Kong and across South East Asia is staggering. The criminals who sell ISDs, as well as those who operate the ISD networks and pirate websites, are profiting from the hard work of talented creators, seriously damaging the legitimate content ecosystem as well as exposing consumers to dangerous malware.”

Gane also noted that the unprecedented growth in delivery of legal creative content over global broadband networks is being undermined by a surge in the sale of TV boxes with pre-loaded infringing applications.

Online video and broadband distribution has the potential to be a massive economic growth engine with analysts forecasting market growth of more than 20 per cent over the next five years, benefiting consumers and creators of quality video content within Hong Kong and other Asian countries. But this growth potential is threatened by piracy.

In the past two years there have been many new roll-outs of online content services across the Asia Pacific region, by existing players as well as new ones. Unfortunately, the likelihood of success for legitimate online content suppliers is severely reduced by online access to pirated content via ISDs and streaming websites, resulting in the expectation of some consumers to get ‘something for nothing’.

“The illicit streaming device ecosystem is impacting all businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content,” said Louis Boswell, CEO of Casbaa. “That is why content producers, distributors and content platforms are coming together and forming associations such as Casbaa’s Coalition Against Piracy to combat this threat to their industry.”

Casbaa’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) includes leading video content creators and distributors in Asia. Members include: beIN Sports, Casbaa, The Walt Disney Company, Fox Networks Group, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, CANAL+, Cignal, La Liga, Media Partners Asia, National Basketball Association, PCCW Media, Singtel, Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia, TVB, True Visions, TV5MONDE, and Viacom International Media Networks.


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