Vietnam’s approach to the protection of intellectual property rights has long been criticized by the United States, earning the country prominent placement in successive USTR Special 301 Reports.
With the world’s largest online piracy operations now publicly linked to Vietnam, Hollywood has been urging authorities to take meaningful enforcement action. A criminal complaint against the operator of Phimmoi.net had previously offered some optimism but for reasons that still aren’t clear, local authorities suspended the investigation.
News that police in Vietnam have just arrested three men behind an illegal streaming operation could be a step in the right direction, even if MPA/ACE had bigger fish in mind when they visited Vietnam last summer.
Alleged Leader Arrested
Reports that authorities had made three arrests first appeared on Tuesday. Information supplied by the Quang Binh Provincial Police Department and later reported by state-controlled media, claims that Phan Ngoc Tuan, a resident of Quang Ninh district, Quang Binh province, is the leader of a piracy group behind the websites bilutvt.net, tvhayh.org and animefull.net.
According to the authorities, 30-year-old Tuan sought to buy source code for the sites back in 2019. The aim was to launch services that would distribute movies to the public, without permission from rightsholders, for the purpose of generating illegal profits from advertising.
Hired Online, Two ‘Employees’ Also Arrested
It’s alleged that Tuan later went on to recruit two men, 24-year-old Ngo Quang Huy and 25-year-old Nguyen Thanh Nhan, both of Ho Chi Minh City. According to the authorities, the men never met in person, since all duties were assigned via Telegram.
Police say Huy and Nhan were tasked with downloading, editing and distributing movies, but offered no specific details in relation to that work. Images of all three men have since been published online, but the main focus is on alleged ringleader, Phan Ngoc Tuan.
Profits From Advertising
Information released by the authorities states that Tuan tried to stay in the shadows by using “anonymous intermediary servers” and rented movie storage servers located overseas. In total, police say that Tuan stored 188,322 movie files, around 40TB of data.
During the raid on his home, police seized two desktop computers, a laptop and a tablet device, a “high-speed wifi transmitter” and three mobile phones. Three bank accounts were also seized. No value was placed on deposits but its claimed that Tuan generated profits of 80 to 100 million VND per month (US$3,300 to US$4,100) to an estimated total of 3 billion VND (US$123,000)
The authorities are being especially clear on the alleged offenses and which laws apply.
The confirmed prosecution will be for “Infringement of copyright and related rights” under Article 225 of the Penal Code; when a person (without the permission of the copyright holder) intentionally copies a copyrighted work and/or distributes copies of the work to the public, that person can be criminally prosecuted.
Whether the type of advertising deployed on Tuan’s sites will form part of the prosecution is unclear, but illegal gambling ads are clearly visible on bilutvt.net, which for unexplained reasons is still online.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.