Hong Kong nabs DVD pirating ring

Hong Kong customs officers have busted a movie and video game pirating ring, seizing over 100,000 discs and 128 disc burners.

Hong Kong customs officers broke up a movie and video game pirating ring last week, seizing over 100,000 discs. It was a nice haul, but it was far from the biggest bust in Asia this year, a Motion Picture Association (MPA) representative said Thursday.

In an operation code-named Glacier, officers from a special task force under the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department raided 10 locations in Hong Kong, netting 128 DVD-R and CD-R burners, Hong Kong officials said. Eighteen men and women were arrested in the operation, which officials said was run by organised crime members.

The seized burners were believed to be in operation 24-hours a day and capable of producing nearly 11.5 million pirated movies, video games and software programs each year, which would have yielded revenues of nearly HK$67.5 million (US$8.7 million) each year, according to the MPA. The syndicate was selling the discs from three retail outlets, according to Hong Kong officials.

"This is not even close to the biggest catch this year in Asia in terms of disc seizures," said Mike Ellis, senior vice president and Asia-Pacific regional director for the Motion Picture Association.

Last week in Guangzhou, China, the MPA participated in a raid on several warehouses that netted nearly one million discs, he said. And in May, Hong Kong officials seized 504 DVD-R and CD-R burners from two separate locations, he said.

The Motion Picture Association, which represents major motion picture companies such as Sony, works with officials in such cases by verifying that the seized goods are infringing copyrights and providing evidence to be used in court, he said.

Nobody was hurt in the Hong Kong raid. Those arrested will be charged under Hong Kong's Copyright Ordinance, which states that anyone found in the possession of an infringing article used for commercial purposes is subject to prosecution, and could face a four-year prison term and a fine of HK$50,000 per infringing article, according to the Hong Kong customs office.

The MPA estimates that its members lose over US$896 million in potential revenue each year in the Asia-Pacific region due to copyright infringement of intellectual property. Last year, MPA work in the region resulted in the seizure of 49 million illegal optical discs, the MPA said.