While English language ‘pirate’ sites grab most mainstream headlines, anti-piracy groups have international platforms firmly on their radars. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of such sites in Asia but following coordinated police action, one of the largest has now fallen.
Following an investigation carried out by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the Asia-Pacific division of the Motion Picture Association (MPA-APC), Japan-based Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA), and local TV network Sanli TV, police in Taiwan have now shut down 8maple.ru, the country’s most popular pirate movie and TV show site.
According to SimilarWeb stats, 8maple has been attracting up to 35 million visits per month, making it not only the most-visited platform of its type in the region but also the 32nd most-visited site in Taiwan, period.
According to police sources, the Criminal Investigation Bureau in conjunction with the specialist Telecommunications Investigation Corps swooped to arrest 33-year-old Chen Su and 32-year-old Zhuang Su on March 31, 2020. Both are graduates of the Department of Science and Engineering at the Northern National University and are reported to have extensive software skills.
Authorities say the pair launched 8maple in 2014, creating a fake advertising company before offering Hollywood movies plus US, Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean shows to the public for free viewing. The site allegedly operated servers in several regions including the United States, Canada, Ukraine, France, and Romania.
8maple generated income from advertising, with authorities currently estimating revenues of around NT$4,000,000 (US$133,000) per month.
Following the arrests, which have only just been made public, police seized a number of electronic items including 25 computers, mobile phones, and data in cloud storage in France and Canada (OVH). As the image below shows, the site’s main .ru domain was among several seized including 8maple.com and eyny.tv.
The business appears to have been profitable for the two men. During a press briefing, authorities revealed that Chen and Chuang had both acquired luxury mansions for around NT$16,000,000 (US$532,000) each, both paid for in cash. These we seized along with an estimated NT$ 60,000,000 (US$1,900,000) discovered in the pair’s bank accounts.
The suspects were arrested for copyright infringement offenses with Taiwan’s Telecommunications Investigation Corps estimating that 8maple caused around NT$1 billion (US$33.2m) in damages.
The anti-piracy groups involved in the action have yet to make a statement.