Afreeca head accused of pirating
The arrest of Nowcom head Mun Yong-sik has stirred up the already angry masses who have been staging protests against President Lee Myung-bak for the past month.
Prosecutors arrested Mun Monday night on charges of illegally distributing pirated films through online storage services that Nowcom operates. The storage services, PD Box and Club Box, have 9 million and 8 million registered members, respectively.
Nowcom also operates the self-broadcasting Web site Afreeca (www.afreeca.com), which has become one of the most popular Internet forums for protesters to get information on rallying points and riot police presence. Demonstrators also use the site to upload footage from the anti-U.S. beef rallies that they recorded with camera phones and camcorders.
Some say this is what’s really behind Mun’s arrest.
Culture critic Jin Jung-gwon, who is also an emcee of “Color TV,” a political program aired on Afreeca.com, said Afreeca made it possible for people to rally both online and off.
“Frankly, we have all downloaded pirated movies once or twice in our lives,” Jin wrote on an Afreeca Internet forum. “In that case, everyone should be arrested.”
Nowcom also challenged the government’s motives.
“The arrests naturally make us question whether the government authorities are conducting this probe with a politically motivated intention to prevent the expansion of candlelight vigils,” the company said in a statement posted on Afreeca.com.
“Nowcom never helped Internet users infringe upon copyrights of materials either,” the statement said.
Prosecutors said Afreeca.com is not the target of the investigation.
“The film industry has been filing lawsuits against online storage services since March,” said Koo Bon-jin, a senior prosecutor at the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office. “Our investigation is focused on how these storage services are involved in circulating pirated films.”
He said that users are offered free storage services, but the services charge them by the number of bytes they download. This, he said, amounts to illegal distribution of pirated films. He also said the probe found that there were up to 9,000 pirated films stored in Mun’s service.
The heads of four other Internet service providers were arrested with Mun on the same charge, including the heads of Media Network, which operates M File storage service; I Serve, which operates Folder Plus storage service; KU Tech, which operates En disk storage service; and Ez 1, which operates We disk storage service.
By Jung Hyo-sik JoongAng Ilbo/ Lee Min-a Staff Reporter [email@example.com]