SEATTLE — Two western Washington men who operate websites that allegedly sell pirated copies of movies, television shows and software have been charged with copyright infringement in a two-count federal complaint stemming from a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Sang Jin Kim, 36, of Everett, Wash., and Eugene Yi, 41, of Bothell, Wash., were arrested Wednesday morning. According to the complaint, the two men operate websites that sell pirated copies of movies, television shows, software and workout DVDs. Some of the materials are television shows illegally downloaded from Korean broadcasters. The programs were being marketed to the Korean community in the United States. Two of the websites, with the domain names 82movie.com and 007disk.com and the servers that support them, were seized Wednesday as part of the law enforcement action. The sites are operated by a company owned by Kim, World Multimedia Group Incorporated.
"Stealing the intellectual property of others harms our economy and threatens American jobs," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. "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. Just last month President Obama signed trade agreements with South Korea to commit our countries to fighting this digital piracy."
According to the criminal complaint, a source in Seoul, Korea, first alerted ICE HSI that World Multimedia Group Inc., based in Lynnwood, Wash., was illegally distributing large amounts of copyrighted material over the Internet. An HSI undercover investigation revealed the company and its key officers were knowingly posting movies, TV shows, videos and software for download on their websites, without obtaining the rights to any of the materials. The websites required users to pay them a fee for the downloads, thus profiting by selling pirated material.
"These arrests send a clear message to website operators who mistakenly believe it's worth the risk to take copyrighted programming and portray it as their own," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in the Pacific Northwest. "Protecting legitimate business interests is a priority for HSI, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and our law enforcement partners. We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when criminals and criminal organizations traffic in stolen content for their own profit."
In interviews with undercover agents posing as interested buyers for the website, Kim said movie companies frequently contacted him about the movies on his site. Kim said when he got these complaints he simply removed the movies for a period of time. However, Kim said he would put the films back up a few weeks later. A review by investigators showed that some of the movies on the site were available for download while still showing in theatres and many had not been released on DVD.
Criminal copy right infringement is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Norman Barbosa, who is part of the U.S. Attorney's Office Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) enforcement team.
This operation represents the ninth phase of Operation In Our Sites, a sustained law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeit and piracy on the Internet. During this operation, 10 domains were seized, bringing the total websites seized as part of Operation In Our Sites – since its launch in June 2010 – to 362.
The 10 seized domains are in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will now find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.