Government Planning To Improve Enforcement of Copyrights

The government will step up prosecuting violators of the copyright law, as pirated CDs, DVDs and VCDs are stifling the Cambo­dian entertainment industry, officials said.

Plans are to start enforcing laws on domestically produced products before moving on to foreign ones, Cabinet Minister Sok An said.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Ministry of Culture last week, Sok An said that he had received numerous complaints about production companies losing business or going bankrupt because of piracy.

“The Ministry of Culture has a duty to take action and the Council of Ministers will support that action,” he said.

According to entertainment industry companies, copyright law enforcement has been ineffective in the past, and has focused more on confiscating music and film discs than prosecuting pirates.

Government officials said that, while they could not gauge the extent of the problem, they could say that nearly 47,000 discs of pirated material were confiscated last year.

Ministry of Culture Secretary of State Khim Sarith said the new campaign would be more effective and stronger than past efforts.

“I would like to announce to all copiers that they will be punished and should not expect to bribe officers,” he said.

Selling at around $0.50, compared to legal copies that cost approximately $2.50, pirated discs more than meet consumer de­mand, entertainment industry people said.

Lay Sokhok, director of Sunday Video Company, said his company lost about $20,000 in revenue last year due to copyright violations.

“I can sell only 20 percent of my products in a year,” Lay Sokhok said.

Chheang Chanla, a producer with U2 Productions, said that music illegally made available at Web sites concerned him as well as illegal discs. He said that he now hesitates to release new music knowing that copiers are waiting for it.

According to a marketing official at SSB Productions who declined to be named, most of the customers who buy pirated copies live in Cambodia, while Cambodi­ans who live abroad tend to buy legal copies.

SSB Productions must pay license and other fees to the Ministry of Culture, but the laws needed to protect the company’s investments are not enforced vigorously enough, the marketing official said.

In 2006, SSB paid $300 to the Cambodia Movie Association for an anti-piracy campaign, and some of its staff took part in the government and industry joint effort, the official said. During the campaign, the authorities collected a large van’s worth of illegal discs, the official said, adding that the situation has since worsened.

Culture Ministry statistics show that movie production in Cambo­dia has slowed down in recent years, going from 61 films made in 2006 to 25 last year.

Economist Sok Sina said that pirated discs were not the only cause of bankruptcies. Low-quality movies and theaters are also a factor, he said.

Keo Punlork of the Culture Ministry’s copyright department said that the government is still adjusting to copyright laws adopted in 2003: Before July, his department did not even exist.

“It’s a step-by-step process,” he said. In the past, confiscating discs was the simplest way to address the issue solve to the problem, he said. Now, more prosecutions will take place, he added.

Bunna Vy, who runs a video shop near Phsar Olympic, said that about half of the discs in her store were pirated, and that she keeps most of her pirated stock hidden in case of crackdowns.

At the present time, Bunna Vy said she has little choice but to sell the pirated discs.

“If I don’t sell the fake discs, other businesses will, and I will lose customers,” she said.

Still, she said, she would respect the law as long as her competitors also have to do so.

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