SEATTLE — A 36-year-old Everett, Wash., man pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of criminal copyright infringement following an intellectual property rights probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Sang Jin Kim and his company, World Multimedia Group Inc., were accused in a December 2011 federal indictment of operating websites that sold pirated copies of movies, television shows, software and popular workout DVDs. Some of the shows were recorded directly from Korean broadcasts.
According to court documents, HSI special agents found that the company and its key officers were making copyrighted material available for download without the permission of the copyright holders. Kim profited from the sales by requiring users to pay a fee for the downloads.
"Kim and criminals like him are a direct threat to all of the hardworking people who depend on compensation from copyrighted materials to support their families," said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. "Those involved in intellectual property theft don't invest in product development; they don't put a premium on product quality or safety. All they do is get rich at someone else's expense. HSI and the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) are dedicated to pursuing criminals like this defendant whose actions amount to economic sabotage."
Kim told undercover special agents posing as potential buyers that he was frequently contacted by movie companies to remove their materials from his site. He said to them that he would remove the movies then repost them a few weeks later.
Investigators were alerted to Kim's illegal activities by a source in Seoul, Korea. This led them to two websites operated by Lynwood-based World Multimedia Group, which was distributing significant quantities of copyrighted material over the Internet. During the course of the investigation, HSI seized computer servers and two domain names: 82movie.com and 007disk.com.
Criminal copyright infringement is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Kim is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 12 before U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington is prosecuting the case.
Kim's arrest in November 2011 was part of the ninth phase of Operation In Our Sites, a sustained law enforcement initiative targeting counterfeiting and piracy on the Internet.
Since the launch of Operation In Our Sites in June 2010, the IPR Center has seized a total of 839 domain names — the most recent operation took place last week.
The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.