Bar cheats busted after CASBAA crack-down

A CASBAA private eye sting has nabbed a number of Lockhart Rd Wan Chai bars caught cheating the pay-TV copyright regulations, which protect the rights of operators.

CASBAA has now called on the Hong Kong government to criminalise the illegal usage of pay TV, following legal action against a number local bars.

Pay-TV operator Hong Kong Cable Television (Cable TV) and football federation FIFA have made a “substantial” out of court settlements with three Hong Kong bars for illegally broadcasting the 2006 FIFA World Cup football tournament in June last year.

The three Wan Chai bars – Carnegies, the Bridge and the Coyote Bar & Grill – paid “substantial compensation” for infringing copyright and have issued a letter of apology to FIFA and Cable TV. The three bars also paid for the legal costs, worth around HK$2 million.

Two additional Hong Kong bars, The White Stag and Devil’s Advocate, still have outstanding copyright claims pending.

Simon Twiston Davies, CEO of CASBAA, said in 2006 the illegal pirating of pay TV cost the industry more than HK$200 million.

He said CASBAA was now calling on the Hong Kong government to criminalise piracy.

“Hong Kong is one of the few advanced countries where it is not an offence to illegally distribute pay TV,” Davies said.

“We would like to see the Hong Kong government criminalise the stealing of pay TV services for commercial usage.”

The civil action against the Wan Chai bars came after CASBAA sent 150 letters warning against illegally broadcasting the 2006 FIFA World Cup. CASBAA hired private detectives to follow up the investigations, which revealed many had ignored the warning letter.

“Fair warning was given to these bars,” Davies added. “They were blatantly pirating pay TV services without any concern that they were stealing.”

Davies hopes the action will send a message to other public venues illegally broadcasting pay TV.

Garmen Chan, Cable TV vice president of external affairs, said pay-TV piracy of all kinds undermines the business model for creating and distributing high-value TV programming

“Without strong copyright legislation and the support of the courts, the entire communications industry will be unable to grow in Hong Kong. We very much welcome the results of these on-going cases,” Chan said.

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