Hong Kong Customs recently conducted an operation codenamed “Magpie” from 2 to 9 December targeting karaoke devices preloaded with copyright infringing songs and establishments which facilitate the illegal use and performance of these songs. Throughout this operation, Hong Kong Customs seized a total of 147 sets of karaoke players and 6 sets of game consoles containing suspected copyright infringing materials with total estimated value of around HK$1.3 million. 20 men and 2 women were arrested as a result.
After investigation and with the assistance of copyright owners, enforcement actions were conducted by Hong Kong Customs on 2 December where eight shops and a storage facility in Sham Shui Po, Mongkok and Wan Chai were raided. The karaoke players seized were preloaded with around 40,000 to 65,000 suspected copyright infringing songs and were being sold at a price range from HK$2,000 to HK$13,000.
Thereafter on 6 and 9 December, Hong Kong Customs conducted a joint operation with the Hong Kong Police Force and raided a total of 30 party rooms (located in Mongkok, Sham Shui Po, Tsim Sha Tsui, Causeway Bay, etc.) suspected of possessing and providing infringing karaoke songs to customers for use in the course of business. These party room operators usually set up their own website to promote their business and take online bookings and e-payments before giving customers the full address of the party venue and the door lock password. This makes these operators fairly difficult to find. These party rooms featured karaoke equipment, video games, dart-playing devices and mahjong facilities.
Several persons suspected of contravening the Copyright Ordinance were arrested on both raids and the investigation is still ongoing.
Under the Copyright Ordinance, any person who sells or possesses for sale any infringing items, or any commercial establishment using infringing musical recordings, music-video recordings, movies, TV dramas or computer programmes in the course of their business, commits an offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $50,000 per infringing copy and imprisonment for four years.
Hong Kong Customs & Excise
The Hong Kong Customs & Excise is the only department responsible for taking criminal sanctions against copyright and trade mark infringements in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Its mandate stems from different laws such as the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362), Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528), and the Prevention of Copyright Piracy Ordinance (Cap. 544).
Hong Kong does not have a system of copyright registration in place. Notwithstanding this, works of authors from any place in the world, or works first published anywhere in the world qualify for copyright protection in Hong Kong.
Accordingly, it is imperative upon the intellectual property rights owners to provide assistance and maintain a collaborative relationship with Hong Kong Customs for the enforcement of its IP rights.
Photos of a party room and the seizure products can be seen below: