Cablegate: Rok: Topsites Conference Yields Strategy For


DE RUEHUL #1633/01 2880821
P 150821Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified and is
not/not intended for Internet distribution.

2. (SBU) Summary: Representatives of the recording and movie
industry and EmbOffs met on September 24 with ROKG and law
enforcement officials to reintroduce the issue of topsites
and revive investigative efforts against topsites and their
users. Topsites are servers that contain massive amounts of
pirated media, and are often the first landing-place for a
pirated file before it migrates through more accessible
file-sharing channels. On the U.S. side, Econoff and
representatives of the International Federation of the
Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the Motion Picture Association
(MPA), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attended
the conference. The Korean side included representatives of
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), Ministry
of Culture Sports and Tourism (MCST), Ministry of Justice
(MOJ), and the Seoul District Prosecutors' Office. The
meeting succeeded in clarifying the technical aspects of
topsites and established a basic framework for investigation
that will involve rightsholder groups and the Korean
Prosecutors Office. IFPI's representative recently told
Econoff that IFPI will submit an evidence pack against a
topsite to the Seoul District Prosecutors' Office during the
week of October 19, which should then initiate a formal
investigation. End summary.

Topsites Defined

3. (SBU) "Topsites," little known to the general public, are
computer servers that hold tens of thousands of pirated
software, games, music and movie files. They are central
repositories for these electronic files and once a pirated
file is placed on a topsite, they are rapidly shared and
spread around the world. Hundreds of thousands of copies of
one song or movie can literally spread like a virus in a
matter of hours, if not minutes, thanks to a highly developed
network that rewards uploaders with free downloads (and
access to other hard to obtain files) and offers prestige to
those who can obtain the latest hot item, sometimes even
before it is officially released to the public. Locating and
penetrating topsites are extremely challenging because people
can only gain access by proving that they can make a valuable
contribution and gaining trust over an extended period of
time. Access to topsite servers is encrypted and shielded
and the operators respond to indications of investigation by
legal authorities by destroying critical evidence and rapidly
moving the servers.

Lack of Progress in 2008

4. (SBU) In the fall of 2007, representatives of the U.S.
music industry sought the Embassy's assistance in prosecuting
a major topsite located in Korea. Econoff arranged a meeting
between the music industry and the Office of International
Cooperation in the MOJ where music industry representatives
were able to provide some explanation of the issue and
advance notice that they intended to seek prosecution against
a major Korea-based topsite. Around the same time period,
the U.S. movie industry was pursuing its own prosecution of
Korean topsites. In December 2007, the movie industry filed
criminal complaints against eight separate topsites located
in Korea.

5. (SBU) Early in 2008, all the topsite cases were stalled.
The Embassy was asked to help, and organized a meeting with
the Seoul Prosecutors' Office. Working with Korea-based law
firms, industry representatives coordinated closely with
Korean prosecutors to move these cases forward. In April
2008, the music industry filed a criminal copyright
infringement complaint against the topsite with the Seoul
Prosecutors' Office. However, because spring is transfer
season for Korean government employees, many of the
prosecutors involved were transferred to other divisions.
The new prosecutor handling the music industry case referred
the case to the Seoul Metropolitan Police. The police then
promptly asked for more information so they could send out
warning letters to the internet service provider which hosted
the topsite. Alarmed music industry representatives chose to

withdraw the case fearing that a police letter would only
serve to warn the topsite (which would naturally destroy
evidence and disappear), undoing months of efforts to locate
them. The movie industry experienced similar disruption in
its efforts to seek prosecution. New prosecutors could not
identify or locate the topsites. Industry representatives
also believe that lack of prosecutorial continuity
contributed to confusion about the cases due to the technical
nature of investigating and prosecuting topsites.

An "Obligation and an Intention" to Investigate Topsites
--------------------------------------------- -----------

6. (SBU) In order to jumpstart the process, Econoff arranged
for broad ROKG participation in a second meeting with
rightsholder groups to revisit the topsite issue and discuss
actual investigative strategies. MOFAT also requested an
American law enforcement presence, since they were under the
impression that law enforcement had experience in
investigating and prosecuting topsites. On the Korean side,
representatives of MOFAT, MCST, MOJ (including Seoul District
Prosecutors' Office) were present. On the American side,
Econoff, representatives from IFPI, MPA and an Embassy-based
officer from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement were
present. Benjamin Ng, IFPI Regional Counsel, made a
presentation on the technical and substantive aspects of the
topsite problem.

7. (SBU) The presentation and subsequent discussion clarified
for the Korean side the seriousness of the topsite problem,
and also concluded with both sides establishing a basic
framework for moving forward with investigations. Seoul
District Prosecutor Kim Kyung-Soo stated that the
presentation helped him realize the extent to which topsites
contribute to IPR infringement. However, it became clear
during the discussion that the Korean Prosecutors' Office,
perhaps wary of its prior difficulties in locating and
infiltrating topsites, was not comfortable with initiating an
official investigation of a topsite. Mr. Kim stated that his
office would prefer for rightsholder groups to file a
complaint in order to initiate an investigation, and went as
far as to say that if a rightsholder files a complaint in
relation to a topsite, the Prosecutors' Office has an
"obligation and an intention" to initiate a criminal
investigation. Mr. Kim elaborated that if rightsholders and
their representative groups, like IFPI, present their data in
a thorough, well-documented, and understandable manner, the
Prosecutors' Office would be willing to proceed with such an

8. (SBU) In response to questions about the role of his
agency, ICE Attache explained that DHS ICE is currently
investigating topsite-related issues in the U.S., and that
there are numerous types of investigative methods that can be
incorporated to infiltrate topsites. ICE Attache offered to
provide training and a tour of the DHS ICE IPR Center in
Washington, DC. The tour would allow Korean investigative
entities to observe current methods used by law enforcement
to combat topsites. It was also brought out that further
cooperation between law enforcement and industry would be
critical in the identification of these topsites. He also
suggested encouraging a rightsholder to purposefully
pre-release a song to law enforcement, in order to gain
access to a topsite. Law enforcement could use the
pre-released song to gain trust and consequent access from
the topsite administrator. This idea was met with interest
and may be pursued further.

9. (SBU) As the meeting progressed, a basic investigative
plan emerged in which IFPI performs the more arduous task of
infiltrating topsites and gathering the IP addresses
necessary to locate them. IFPI will then present an evidence
packet, which will include the IP address and the amount of
files stored, to the Prosecutors' Office. The Prosecutors'
Office will track down the physical location of the topsite,
exercising maximum operational discretion. The Prosecutors'
Office appears to understand that notifying an Internet
Service Provider that one of its clients is under
investigation, which it intended to do in the failed
investigations of 2008, presents an enormous risk of
revealing the investigation to the topsite operator. It is

even possible, as Mr. Ng noted, that someone working for the
Internet Service Provider itself is operating the topsite.


10. (SBU) At the conference, the Korean side demonstrated
awareness that online piracy is not merely an American
problem -- Korean industry is also affected. This summer,
Korea's top-grossing movie was leaked to online file-sharing
sources before its actual release. Subsequent media
attention highlighted the effect of online piracy on Korea's
domestic movie industry. After the conference, Econoff
received positive comments from MOFAT and industry
representatives regarding the conference's substance and
results. Post is optimistic that the Korean side will follow
through with its intention to investigate topsites. Post
will continue to work closely with the ROKG and rightsholder
groups to ensure a successful outcome.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN News: Rare Coral Reef Discovered Near Tahiti Is ‘Like A Work Of Art’, Says Diver
One of the largest coral reefs in the world has been discovered by a UN-supported scientific mission off the coast of Tahiti. Announcing the stunning find on Thursday, UNESCO said that divers had explored large rose-shaped corals spanning some three kilometres, at depths of between 30 and 65 metres... More>>

Tonga Eruption: At Least 3 Dead, Amid Severe Destruction
At least three people have died in Tonga following the massive volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami wave that hit over the weekend. Homes and other buildings across the archipelago have suffered major damage... More>>

Save The Children: Tonga Volcano Ash And Smoke Cause Concern For Air And Water Safety
Families in Tonga are at risk of exposure to unsafe air and water due to ash and smoke from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano that erupted on Saturday, reports Save the Children...

Ethiopia: UN Chief Lauds ‘Demonstrable Effort To Make Peace’

The UN Secretary-General on Wednesday said he was “delighted” to learn that “a demonstrable effort to make peace” in Ethiopia is finally underway, according to information relayed to him by the African Union High Representative for the Horn of Africa... More>>

Tigray: Agencies Suspend Aid As ‘Scores’ Are Killed Due To Airstrikes
Recent airstrikes on camps for internally displaced persons and refugees in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, have reportedly killed scores of civilians, including children, and left many more injured... More>>

UN News: For 25th Year In A Row, Greenland Ice Sheet Shrinks

2021 marked the 25th year in a row in which the key Greenland ice sheet lost more mass during the melting season, than it gained during the winter, according to a new UN-endorsed report issued on Friday... More>>