Show's Over: Taiwan to Move Against

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A screenshot from the web site

The Internet mavericks who offered Hollywood movies for a $1-a-pop always claimed they were streaming their videos through a Taiwanese legal loophole. Now may have to tell it to a judge. TIME has learend that Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) plans to close down the site and arrest two leading officials. "I can and will take it down tomorrow," said Eric Lee, heading of the CIB's ninth squad on Tuesday. The site has become inaccessible to Web users.

In an exclusive interview with TIME last week, founder S.E. Tan said that while he was aware that the site violated U.S. copyright law, its operations were careful to remain within its reading of the copyright laws of Taiwan, where most of its servers are based. "We have spent three months studying the law in Taiwan, talking to all the authorities we can get," Tan said last week, before the latest action by the Taipei authority. "According to the law, if a movie is not released in Taiwan within 30 days of its release elsewhere, it is no longer protected by Taiwan's copyright law."

Lee says "Tan" (or Chen, depending on pronunciation) is actually a 39-year-old Malaysian lawyer who visits Taiwan every month, and vows to arrest him — and a second suspect named Yeh — the next time he sets foot in Taipei. But since TIME's story, the policeman isn't expecting to see the Internet buccaneer any time soon.

Taiwanese officials had come under pressure from a U.S. movie industry incensed at's challenge to the intellectual property rights that are the very foundation of its business. And the fact that those rights are protected by the World Trade Organization give the movie moguls a mechanism to quickly close up loopholes in local copyright law all over the world. Officials from the American Institute in Taipei reportedly discussed the issue at meetings with officials from Taiwan's justice department. And the result appears to be that Taiwanense authorities are acting on an interpretation of the law somewhat different from S.E. Tan's .