A dose of inspiration or a case of plagiarism?

A dose of inspiration or a case of plagiarism?

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Generally, audiences like novelty.  Actors and singers work hard to create new and different shows to attract audiences. Some have their own style, whereas others combine original style with inspiration from other artists. Which would you prefer?

Pich Sovanndy, who used to attend Cambodian stars’ shows, says: “I don’t like plagiarism, and I hate listening to, and watching, fake pieces. I feel uncomfortable when our country gets caught red-handed plagiarising other artworks.”

Tim Phany also says Cambodian music videos typically follow foreign styles.

Recently, a video clip comparing a Cambodian superstar’s style with that of a Korean star was posted and shared on Facebook. The clip garnered a lot of attention, prompting many viewers to criticise the Cambodian star for plagiarising foreign music.  

Nop Bayyareth couldn’t be reached for comment, but on January 3 this year the famous star denied in a Facebook post that he had stolen dance moves from the Korean star, and argued that he had merely combined these moves with his own style.

Meas Sokratanak, the general manager of Town Production, a Cambodian production studio, says: “We also have our own songs and styles produced and composed by ourselves; however, the human resources who work in this field in Cambodia are limited.

“Therefore, copying some styles in order to develop our own work has always happened.”

Sokratanak says Town Production often features locally produced styles and music — some of which is, in turn, imitated by others. Nonetheless, he says, few in the audience know whether melodies and styles are new creations or copies.

Many Cambodian production studios have opened and gone almost straight to bankruptcy. Until recently, many locally produced music videos lost money because most Cambodians bought only copied CDs and video CDs.

A young student at the University of Medicine and Science, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Cambodians’ knowledge and standard of living is very low, and some of them would barely make 20,000 riel in the space of a few days.

“How can they afford original CD or VCD copies? We cannot blame them for that.”

Thai Naraksatya, secretary of state of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said that in the era of globalisation, cultural products were transmitted from one country to another very easily, and imitating foreign styles in one way or another had always happened.

Being inspired, he added, was not “bad”. Copying a work entirely is different, as it constitutes plagiarism and is banned by law.

Artists should be creative and copy the best parts of others’ work and incorporate them in their own art, culture and traditions, Sokratanak said.   

“If everyone makes a point of buying original CDs and VCDs, I will try my best to produce music by Cambodians.”

Sen Chan Saya, director of the Department of Cinema and Cultural Diffusion, says plagiarism is against the law, and production companies, Cambodian actors and actresses, and singers should think critically about their material.

“We cannot prevent cultural exchange, but we can become competitive with other countries in this market. We have to include something about Cambodian culture and traditions in those artworks,” Saya said.