Federal agents have arrested two men and charged them with operating websites that sell pirate copies of Korean movies and television shows.
Authorities arrested Sang Jin Kim, 36, of Everett, Wash., and Eugene Yi, 41, of Bothell, Wash., last week and charged them with copyright infringement, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Some of the materials on the websites were television shows illegally downloaded from Korean broadcasters and marketed to the Korean community in the United States. Authorities say the men were knowingly posting on their websites movies, TV shows, videos and software for download, without obtaining the rights to any of the materials. The websites required users to pay them a fee for the downloads, authorities said in a release emailed to The Huffington Post.
Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized two websites, 82movie.com and 007disk.com, which were operated by a company owned by Kim called World Multimedia Group Incorporated, authorities said. Other sites seized were 007disk.net, 82movie.net, 82us.com, bzserv.info, itvwmg.com, ktvwmg.com ,wmgitv.com, wmgus.com, wmgus.net, according to torrentfreak.com.
In the sting operation, Kim told undercover agents that he temporarily removed movies from his site when movie companies contacted him, but added that he put the films back up a few weeks later. A review by investigators showed that many of the movies on Kim's site had not yet been released on DVD and that some films were available for download from the site while still showing in theaters.
“Stealing the intellectual property of others harms our economy and threatens American jobs,” U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement. “These defendants allegedly used a variety of methods to line their own pockets by stealing and selling other people’s work. Their actions undermine the businesses that are struggling to rebound in tough economic times. "
The arrests come as Congress debates two controversial bills aimed at curbing Internet piracy. The House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is currently awaiting a December 15 debate and markup, while the Senate's Protect IP Act (PIPA) has been voted out of committee but has yet to reach the Senate floor. A point of contention about SOPA, for example, is that the legislation could allow the Justice Department to seek a court order to force search engines and Internet providers to delete websites suspected of piracy. These bills have support from the entertainment and retail industries but have encountered opposition from members of the tech industry who feel the measure could reduce Internet freedom.
In October, the United States and South Korea signed a trade agreement aimed at stopping piracy and counterfeiting.