Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called on government bodies, local authorities, international organisations and the private sector to dial back Cambodia’s widespread theft of copyrighted works, like film and music, and encouraged the creation of more original, home-grown cultural works.
Copying other countries’ cultural output – whether by copying and selling pirated DVDs or re-recording foreign music with Khmer lyrics – is commonplace in Cambodia, but the Ministry of Culture has said the Kingdom needs to stamp out such practices in the next year in order to become fully compliant with the World Trade Organization and join the ASEAN economic community in 2015.
“We have to reduce and totally avoid copying the artistic works of foreigners,” Hun Sen said in a speech marking the 16th annual National Culture Day in Phnom Penh.
“Please also be reminded that copying the intellectual property of others is an intellectual crime, and damages our nation’s reputation, since our nickname is ‘Cambodia: the Kingdom of Culture’ and ‘Cambodia: the Kingdom of Wonder’. Therefore, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has to take serious measures to enhance the national pride and prestige [of Cambodian works].”
Measures to curb copyright infringement, Hun Sen continued, should be balanced with measures to encourage local artists. “Therefore, the ministry has to create and provide training courses and retraining courses at the central and municipal-provincial levels, especially in provinces with [cultural] potential,” he said.
Dek Dary, a brand manager at the entertainment company Sabay Digital, said yesterday that education would be a big step in encouraging original Cambodian artists.
“I think educating the people about the values of being original and encourage people in this industry to take pride of creating and producing something new,” she said in an email.
Dary has helped organise competitions promoting original music, but said there is a shortage of formally trained composers, and that originality matters less to listeners than a song’s catchiness.
“They support any songs that are good to the ears,” she said in an email, adding that production companies “are actually racing” to be the first to copy songs.
However, she continued, marketing original works is easy, as Cambodians “in general are very supportive to see Cambodian songs succeed”.
“But what’s more important, at the end of the day, the success will still depend on how good the composing is [and] how relevant is the lyrics to the audience’s lifestyles (that lyrics that are not translations, but words that communicates real Cambodian feelings),” she added.
Sin Chan Saya, director of the Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department at the Ministry of Culture, said Cambodia has a “bad image” for copyright infringement, and Cambodia “will no longer be able to escape international pressure in 2015”.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE