Online piracy of copyrighted material remains widespread in Taiwan. Particularly popular is the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing provided by forums and blogs for downloading and enjoying film and musical content via computers or mobile devices. As the takedown rates for forums and blogs hosted in Taiwan remain high, website administrators often choose to host their forums and blogs overseas. This tactic makes it relatively difficult for Taiwanese law enforcement agencies to find the administrators and shut down illegal sites.

In particular, under Taiwanese law, copyright infringers may be prosecuted only if the rights holder files a criminal complaint with a law enforcement agency to initiate criminal investigation proceedings. Exceptions to this are limited to offenders which reproduce copyrighted materials by manufacturing pirated optical discs for sale or which possess or publicly display pirated optical discs for distribution.

As a result, the IP Rights Police were previously reluctant to tackle online infringement issues when unauthorised content was obtained through websites located overseas. However, in recent years, with the help of rights holders, the IP Rights Police have started to tackle the problem from the bottom up by suppressing the illegal use of BitTorrent and other P2P software in an effort to curtail the transfer of unauthorised copyrighted materials by end users. The IP Rights Police have used the following procedure to tackle infringement:

  • The rights holder accesses internet forums or meta-search websites to search for .torrent metafiles or magnet links that might contain copyright-infringing material. The rights holder then uses client software (eg, µTorrent) to download such material and ascertain whether it infringes copyright. Meanwhile, peer data is collected (usually by a network analyser or from client software logs), including the internet protocol addresses, client software, traffic flows and segments of the files that they possess.
  • The rights holder submits the data collected to the IP Rights Police. The IP Rights Police then provide the Internet Protocol addresses of the BitTorrent users to the relevant internet service providers (ISPs) and request them to provide the personal information (including names, domiciles and phone numbers) of the people who correspond to the Internet Protocol addresses, and the geographical locations of those addresses. No search warrant is required for such requests.
  • Depending on the severity of the infringement, the evidence available and any requests made by the rights holders, the IP Rights Police determines whether a raid is necessary or whether summoning the infringer for police interrogation will suffice. If a raid is necessary, the IP Rights Police will apply to the court for a criminal search warrant and will then raid the geo-location of the Internet Protocol address in order to retrieve copyright-infringing materials from the computer's hard disk.
  • The materials collected by the IP Rights Police will be used as evidence of illegal reproduction and public transmission of copyrighted materials by the BitTorrent users, a violation which is subject to up to three years' imprisonment and a fine of up to approximately $ 24,000. Once indicted, the rights holder can bring an ancillary civil action along with the criminal procedure to request compensation from the infringers.   ?

Rights holders should take an active role in assisting the IP Rights Police to initiate investigations in Taiwan. Further, it is highly recommended that foreign rights holders appoint an agent in Taiwan to contact, share information and file complaints with the police.

Yulan Kuo

Monica Wang

This article first appeared in IAM magazine. For further information please visit www.iam-magazine.com.