Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Targets Digital Piracy Ring
SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced criminal charges and the arraignment of three brothers who face up to five years in prison for operating an illegal website that allowed users to watch bootleg versions of copyrighted television shows and movies.
Hop Hoang, 26, Tony Hoang, 23, and Huynh Hoang, 20, all brothers, were arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday, June 13 for allegedly operating the website mediamp4.com which allowed users to illegally stream more than 1,000 copyrighted television and movie titles on computers and mobile devices. The three have each been charged with one count of conspiracy, four counts of receiving stolen property and one count of grand theft.
“Digital piracy is theft. It is a serious crime that harms one of California’s most important economic engines – our entertainment industry,” said Attorney General Harris. “This case sends a clear message that the California Department of Justice will investigate digital piracy and prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) initially began an investigation into iphonetvshows.net and movieiphone.net and sent a cease and desist letter to Tony Hoang. Thereafter, Tony Hoang and his co-defendant brothers allegedly resumed the illegal operation under a new domain name, mediamp4.com. The Attorney General’s office then initiated an investigation into mediamp4.com, executed a search warrant, seized property used in connection with the illegal operation and filed charges against the Hoang brothers.
“The MPAA deeply appreciates the leadership of Attorney General Harris and her office in helping to combat websites that illegally profit from the creative content produced by the men and women of the American movie and television community,” said former Senator Chris Dodd, the MPAA’s CEO and Chairman. “There are now nearly 80 legal online services in the United States dedicated to providing movies and television shows to viewers. But to realize the enormous potential of these businesses and ensure an Internet that works for everyone, it is critical that government, content creators, the tech community and others work together to stop illegal rogue sites.”
Over the 18 months of the website’s operation, the brothers earned approximately $150,000 in advertising revenue. Hop Hoang allegedly confirmed that the brothers generated traffic to the website through Google search ads.
Subscribers could illegally access television shows like “How I Met Your Mother,” along with films such as “Black Swan,” “Tangled” and “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows Part 1.”
The investigation was conducted by the eCrime Unit of the California Attorney General’s Office, California Highway Patrol, and REACT, a law enforcement task force located in Santa Clara, CA specializing in investigating technology crimes and identity theft. The Attorney General’s eCrime Unit conducted the forensic analysis of the computer seized during a search and is prosecuting the case.
In 2011, Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes and other crimes involving the use of technology.
The charges in the complaints are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.