Primary Research Question

Which Chinese organized crime syndicates are involved in electronic media intellectual property crime, in particular the illegal copying and distributing of U.S. films?

  • It is likely that up to fifteen Chinese organized crime syndicates will be involved in electronic media intellectual property crime, in particular the illegal copying and distributing of U.S. films, over the next two to five years.
  • The eleven known and named Chinese organized crime syndicates likely to be involved in electronic media intellectual property crime over the next two to five years, in particular the illegal copying and distributing of U.S. films, are the 14K, Luen Group, Sun Yee On, and Wo Group triads, and the Big Circle Boys, United Bamboo, Four Seas, Celestial Alliance, Fuk Ching, Jackson Street Boys, and Wah Ching gangs.
  • It is likely that there are up to four unnamed* Chinese organized crime syndicates that will be involved in electronic media intellectual property crime, in particular the illegal copying and distributing of U.S. films, over the next two to five years.
    • It is highly unlikely that the major Chinese triads as identified by a Library of Congress (LOC) report in 2003 – 14K, Luen Group, Sun Yee On, Red Sun, and Wo Group - will focus their business efforts on film piracy over the next two to five years. The limited evidence of the activities of 14K, Luen Group, Sun Yee On, and their subgroups indicates that their operations center on drug trafficking and racketeering. A Wo subgroup does engage in film piracy as part of a broader group of street-level crimes. There is no available evidence that the Red Sun triad is active. It is likely that when triad members do pirate films the operations are small-scale and localized.
    • It is highly unlikely that the major Chinese gangs as identified by a Library of Congress (LOC) report in 2003 – Big Circle Boys, United Bamboo, and Four Seas - will focus their business efforts on film piracy over the next two to five years. It is also highly unlikely that smaller Chinese gangs - Celestial Alliance, Fuk Ching, Jackson Street Boys, and Wah Ching – will make film piracy the focus of their criminal activity. All of these gangs are highly likely to continue concentrating their efforts on racketeering and trafficking humans, drugs, and weapons within the timeframe of this estimate. Due to the profitability of these other crimes as well as their loose organizational structure, any film piracy that these and other as yet unnamed Chinese gangs commit is highly likely to be small-scale and localized.
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Secondary Questions

1. Where and how do these syndicates conduct their operations? Do operations differ from region to region or country to country? If so, why?

  • It is likely that over the next two to five years Chinese organized crime syndicates will conduct the majority of their film piracy operations, both in terms of tangible medium and the internet, in cities where they are already conducting priority activities including human trafficking, drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and racketeering, and because these cities are hubs of international commerce, possess significant Chinese populations relative to surrounding locations, are popular destinations for human trafficking exports, and sometimes lack sufficient anti-piracy law enforcement efforts.
  • Due to their focus on counterfeiting goods, trafficking people, drugs, and weapons, and racketeering, and because of their loose organizational structure, it is highly likely that film piracy operations conducted by Chinese organized crime syndicates over the next two to five years will be small-scale and localized regardless of where they take place.
    • Southeast Asia Over the next two to five years, Chinese organized crime groups in Southeast Asia are highly likely to continue to center their business on drug trafficking operations through the Golden Triangle and human smuggling activities across the Chinese border. Counterfeiting, including film piracy, will likely remain an opportunistic, tangential facet of the Chinese organized crime business in that region.
    • Islamic World Chinese organized crime networks are likely to suffer business disruptions in the next two to five years due to mob violence directed at overseas Chinese in Asia-Pacific nations with large Muslim populations. Such events would likely be sparked by long-held Muslim resentments against Chinese wealth and clannishness, or by the Muslim perception of Communist Chinese persecution of the Uighur population of northwest China. The insertion of large numbers of Chinese migrant workers in the Emirate of Dubai will highly likely prompt Chinese organized crime to begin to expand its illicit trafficking transportation networks to include Dubai's large container port facilities.
    • Old Commonwealth Chinese organized crime is likely to remain or become more involved in film piracy over the next two to five years in the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, a collection of states once known as the Old Commonwealth. Chinese crime syndicates are likely to remain active in illicit film production and distribution in London, Johannesburg, and Sydney, while likely becoming more active in Auckland within the time frame of this estimate.
    • Canada Over the next two to five years Chinese organized crime syndicates in Canada will likely continue to pursue film piracy as a secondary criminal activity. Drug trafficking, human trafficking, and white-collar crimes are likely to remain the primary business focus of these syndicates over the next two to five years due to the higher potential for profit from these activities than from film piracy, and the difficulty that Canadian law enforcement has in stopping trafficking and white-collar crime, especially at the large international ports of trade in British Columbia and Toronto.
    • United States It is unlikely that Chinese organized crime groups will be heavily involved in film piracy in New York City and San Francisco over the next two to five years. The limited evidence of these groups' activities in these cities indicates that most of their business efforts are likely to remain on trafficking drugs and humans in the next two to five years.
    • South America It is unlikely that film piracy will be the focus of Chinese organized crime syndicates in South America’s Tri-Border Area (TBA) over the next two to five years. Evidence of a large population of Chinese and criminal activity on the part of these syndicates in the TBA does exist, but the groups are likely concentrating instead on drug smuggling, migrant smuggling, counterfeiting of electronics, and racketeering
    • Urban China Customers in mainland China will likely acquire 60-75% of their pirated U.S. films digitally through overseas Warez accounts two to five years from now, significantly reducing the market share for local and regional crime networks that currently distribute firmware through street vendors and small shops.
    • Rural China Chinese government efforts to bring the country's large agricultural population into the digital marketplace will likely provide Chinese criminal organizations with new business opportunities over the next two to five years, including a new approach to marketing pirated U.S. films in the countryside.
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2. What changes are they likely to make to their business model of crime in the next two to five years, and why?

  • It is highly likely that over the next two to five years Chinese organized crime syndicates will conduct film piracy operations as a secondary business while keeping their primary business focus on more profitable crimes including human trafficking, drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and racketeering. It is likely that over the next two to five years selling pirated films on DVD will remain the preferred product distribution method for Chinese film pirates, but they are likely to increase their use of internet-enabled operations to satisfy consumer demand for portable film content and to avoid running afoul of strict anti-piracy regulations such as new laws in Canada and New York City.
    • Camcording Over the next two to five years, Chinese organized crime is likely to lose access to the high quality pirated film recordings generated by Canadian camcording due to the passage of Bill C-59 and efforts by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and local theater owners to enforce the law’s provisions.
    • Disc-Type Format Chinese organized crime is unlikely to experience any significant disruption in its access to pirated DVD releases over the next two to five years resulting from innovations in Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection. As long as the film industry continues to put content in disc format to meet consumer demands, hackers will likely continue to decode, illegally copy, and circulate that content, making those films available for Chinese organized crime to market illegally.
    • Handheld Devices Due to the proliferation of handheld technology with video capability, related products and services, and increasing consumer demand for free mobile video, Chinese film pirates are likely to exploit handheld technology as a global distribution channel for illegally copied films over the next two to five years. In China there is already a market for films created specifically for cell phones, and this is likely to increase demand for feature film content suitable for viewing on handheld devices. Worldwide, consumers’ demand for films they can watch on their handheld devices is likely to increase as it becomes easier and less costly to do so.
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3. What other criminal enterprises are these groups involved in?

  • The criminal enterprises that Chinese organized crime syndicates are likely to remain involved in and consider to be their primary business focus over the next two to five years are human and drug trafficking, racketeering, weapons trafficking, and counterfeiting non-electronic and electronic media intellectual property. Film piracy is likely to remain a secondary business concern for these syndicates over the next two to five years. This question is answered more thoroughly in our response to Secondary Question 1 above.


*Public sources do not reveal these Chinese organized crimes groups' names.