UPDATED: California state Attorney General Kamala 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 TV shows and movies. Hop Hoang, 26, Tony Hoang, 23, and Huynh Hoang, 20, were arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court today for allegedly operating the website mediamp4.com, which allowed users to illegally stream more than 1,000 copyrighted 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 after their computers were seized.
The MPAA initially began an investigation into iphonetvshows.net and movieiphone.net and sent a cease and desist letter to Tony Hoang. He and his co-defendants allegedly resumed the illegal operation under the new domain name mediamp4.com. Over its 18 months of its operation, the trio made about $150,000 in ad revenue via Google search ads.
“There are now nearly 80 legal online services in the United States dedicated to providing movies and television shows to viewers”, MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd said in a release from the state AG’s office today announcing the news. “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”.
An MPAA insider said today’s news marks the first time a state Attorney General has prosecuted a primarily streaming- and mobile-based site for providing access to illegal content. Past prosecutions have involved only trademark cases, like ones involving DVDs.
The probe was conducted by the eCrime Unit of the California Attorney General’s Office, created by Harris in 2011 to prosecute cybercrime; the CHP; and REACT, a law enforcement task force in Santa Clara, CA specializing in investigating technology crimes and identity theft.