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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Copyright must be enforced, say officials

Copyright must be enforced, say officials

MINISTER of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon on Tuesday urged the Kingdom to take action to strengthen copyright laws to help Cambodia operate effectively within the global economy.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2008 annual assembly at the Ministry of Commerce, Keat Chhon said that respect for international copyright law would mark an important step for the Kingdom, permitting the country to establish fair competition.

"I am really proud some products are making it to the intellectual property list," Keat Chhon said, referring to products including pepper in Kampot province.

But he added: "I think that the Ministry of Commerce does not have sufficient capacity to control copyright violations, so we have to prioritise some important sectors."

Cambodia established copyright laws in 2003, said Var Roth San, director of the Intellectual Property Department, with a maximum jail term of five years.

Cambodia still has to take important steps, Keat Chhon said, such as establishing a commercial court and raising capacity to ensure fair competition, transparency and accountability in the private sector.

The call was supported Wednesday by Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, specifying the need for further legislation - company law, insolvency law, law on commercial arbitration and stock market legislation - to meet World Trade Organisation requirements.

The government is working on draft legislation on competition, finance-leasing and establishing a commercial court, he said. This will be backed up by efforts to strengthen copyright law with departments and ministries as part of a government 2009-11 strategy, said Var Roth San.

We cannot fully apply this law beCause the standard of living is still low.

More governmental support would be needed, however, he said: "My department alone cannot complete the task - customs, import-export control departments and the courts have to work together to enforce the law successfully."

The first step, as a WTO member, was to prepare and study required legislation, the second stage is now implementation and enforcement, he said. Education, another important step, has already begun at university and court level, he added.

"No one country in the world can 100 percent eliminate copyright violations, even America or Japan," he said. "I cannot define how far we will successfully carry this out because it depends on an improvement in copyright law, people's knowledge and economic growth."  

Chap Sotharith, an economist at the Cambodia Cooperation and Peace Institute, said that copyright enforcement would help the economy by boosting innovation, even if consumers would be unhappy as products become more expensive, a reason that the law isn't being enforced.

"We cannot fully apply this law because the standard of living is still low," said Chap Sotharith, adding that fake products were increasingly being confiscated and fines issued.

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