While most Western torrent site users are familiar with giants such as The Pirate Bay and RARBG, there’s also a thriving BitTorrent scene in the Far East.
Millions of Internet users in countries like China, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam rely on the protocol for their content fix but largely due to language barriers, their activities go largely unreported in North America and Europe.
Also contributing to the shortage of news are the relatively lax copyright regimes associated with some of these regions. Prosecutions are fairly scarce so it’s interesting to read that a court in China has just sentenced a former leading player in the eastern torrent scene.
On January 2, 2019, the Huai’an Intermediate People’s Court of Jiangsu Province sentenced the operator and owner of BT Paradise (aka BT Heaven) to three years in prison for copyright infringement offenses.
According to local media, authorities began investigating a Mr. Yuan back in 2016, following reports that his site was involved in the unauthorized distribution of large volumes of copyrighted works, including movies and TV shows.
In September 2016, Mr. Yuan was arrested by police, accused of generating advertising revenues alongside the provision of torrent files and so-called magnet links.
Authorities said that BT Paradise had around 600,000 visitors per day who together generated around three million page views, making it the largest domestic torrent site at the time.
The Court heard that between May 2015 and July 2016, Mr. Yuan’s site made around 1.4 million yuan (US$204,000) after offering in excess of 24,700 links to more than 10,870 movies and TV shows.
An image circulated by authorities following the arrest more than two years ago didn’t suggest a particularly lavish lifestyle, however.
BT Paradise previously operated from the domain BTtiantang.com but despite its size, attracted relatively little attention from copyright holders, at least in the West.
As data obtained from Google’s Transparency Report shows, takedown notices were extremely thin on the ground for a site of this size, despite companies including Paramount Pictures, FOX, Lionsgate, Home Box Office, and Columbia Pictures taking a passing interest.
In addition to his three-year sentence, the former BT Paradise operator is also required to pay a fine of 800,000 yuan (US$116,000).