Pirate Site Owners Must Surrender, Informants Get Five-Figure Reward

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After re-writing the rules of anti-piracy enforcement, the P.CoK team at Kakao Entertainment have now torn up the rulebook, set it on fire, and thrown both its remains and conventional thinking out of a window. For a limited time only, pirate site owners can hand themselves in and receive a five-figure* reward. Anyone who knows a pirate site operator not seizing this opportunity can receive* the same amount* by becoming an informant. (*Terms & Conditions apply)

p-cok-logoAnti-piracy outfits come in all shapes and sizes and due to the nature of the business, there has been no shortage of controversies over the years, some justified and others less so.

More recently, a strategy that has been seen only a handful of times before, has been playing out on social media. Protecting the interests of South Korean company Kakao Entertainment, the company’s ‘P.CoK’ anti-piracy unit has been engaging friend and foe alike, hoping to suppress piracy of local comics known as webtoons.

In Kakao’s latest report covering June to December 2023 (pdf), the company said its anti-piracy team had removed over 7.4 million pieces of pirated content and over 201 million links to pirated content.

Source: P.CoK Anti-Piracy Whitepaper Vol.4p-cok-removals

Other anti-piracy work reported for the period includes legal action against pirate site operators and translation groups, civil/criminal action through local subsidiaries and overseas affiliates, establishing response strategies in accordance with local copyright laws, and overseas administrative actions.

Contrasting Images

In many respects the fourth edition of P.CoK’s white paper is much like the first three in the series; the report is informative, detailed, and presented in a formal tone. The latest report also mentions P.CoK’s work to increase global user awareness “for users to report illegal content and by publicizing the results of enforcement actions, such as the takedowns of illegal sites.”

Publicizing successful takedowns has been a component of anti-piracy work for years. The same is true for ‘tip lines’ which can come into their own when someone previously associated with a site or service feels disgruntled enough to start spilling the beans.

And then there’s the following, which suggests the type of behavior many people suspect happens behind closed doors, but in this case brings it right out in the open.

“Volunteers are emerging as key players in the effort to stamp out content piracy, working ‘undercover’ across each language region to monitor and report illegal content distribution and promote user awareness and correction of illegal translations and copyright infringements,” Kakao writes.

“This has effectively reduced blind spots in illegal content monitoring.”

Head over to X, where these partnerships with volunteers are fostered, and suddenly everything feels quite different.

P.CoK Says It’s Building a Team of Informants

On X, the formal tone of Kakao’s reports gives way to splashes of color, graphics, and P.CoK’s various calls to arms.

On May 1, the account was promoting its Tapas app, from which content can be reportedly downloaded for free, alongside a link to an article published in local media where readers are informed of P.CoK’s anti-piracy activities.


“The goal is to collaborate with domestic and foreign investigative agencies and establish a specific process for illegal site operators with the goal of arresting the operators,” Team Leader Kwon Young-guk told Daum.net.

Conversation then turns to P.CoK’s ‘undercover’ agents, fans who not only report back to base with details of illegal distribution, but also the personal details of pirate site operators. The article reveals that the team has already opened an “illegal distribution reporting window on Twitter, which receives reports of illegal content from users in each country, and then takes real-time action.”

Campaign Running Now Until May 21, 2024

Also on May 1, P.CoK launched what appears to be a time-limited campaign set to end on May 21.

The flyer openly states that with the help from its network of informants, P.CoK hopes to catch “Operators of illegal content distribution sites and English translation/scanlation groups for the webcomics on Tapas, including Free Access titles.”

P.CoK / Tapas anti-piracy campaign flyer (source: X)tapas-wanted

This type of approach isn’t completely without precedent, but this is probably the first time we’ve seen such a wide-open appeal for regular people to assist a huge corporation in an extremely sensitive area of its work.

The sensitivity of the work seems to be on display in an image published by the local media outlet mentioned earlier. It features three apparent P.CoK team members lining up for a promotional photograph, with two feeling the need to hide their faces from the camera.

Big Risks, Big Rewards?

Taking precautions is sensible, but it does raise the question of how prospective informants will view hidden faces in light of their own security. After all, this campaign isn’t messing around when it comes to demands for information.

The flyer below was posted May 1 on X. It makes it extremely clear that informants should supply the personal details of pirate site operators, including their full name, date of birth, home address, and other details. It also seeks evidence that the person is running a piracy website, community, or scanlation group, yet there are no cautionary words or an age cut-off rule that excludes minors.

P.CoK / Tapas anti-piracy campaign flyer (source: X)

While the premise thus far is already remarkable, when it comes to rewarding people for providing valuable information, that also has the potential to put people at risk, the full proposition is difficult to put into words.

The first surprise is that no matter how many informants supply information, there will be only five payouts, with winners selected through a draw. The rest will get absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, pirate site operators can also cash in by giving themselves up and shutting their sites down. In this case there appears to be no limit on how many will get paid.

Rewards will be paid in Tapas Bonus Ink, an in-app promotional credit that may only be used to unlock certain content, and must be spent within 14 days because after that the credit times out.

So how much is the 20,000 Tapas Bonus Ink reward actually worth? According to the Apple App Store (Singapore), 22,500 drops of Tapas Ink will set the buyer back almost thirty Singapore dollars. Or roughly US$22.00.

In conclusion, then, the size of the reward seems to suggest that the personal details of a pirate site operator are almost worthless. Yet, as everyone knows, losses to piracy are enormous. Fascinating.


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