Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Time runs out for pirated video CDs

Time runs out for pirated video CDs

Time runs out for pirated video CDs

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The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (MoCFA) has announced that vendors of

pirated video CDs (VCDs) will be prosecuted from the beginning of May. MoCFA has

ordered vendors nationwide to attach a sticker to each pirated VCD warning that

it will be illegal to buy or sell them after April 30. Enforcement will leave

vendors of music and video discs across the country facing

bankruptcy.

As good as it got, traders and buyers of pirated movies will soon be grumbling. The sticker on this VCD marks it as pirated.

One trader said 90 percent of his stock was pirated since

most Cambodians were too poor to afford originals, which cost around ten times

as much. He said he had incurred extra costs buying the visa stamps (used to

indicate an original disc) and non-visa stamps (for pirated discs). Most of his

pirated stock, he said, came from China, Malaysia and Thailand.

"My

customers only look for cheap, copied VCDs," he said. "Many traders in Cambodia,

including myself, will close down if the government follows this strict

policy."

Som Sokun, director of the cinema and cultural diffusion

department at MoCFA, said the ministry had printed thousands of non-visa stamps.

Around 40,000 have been sold to vendors.

"After the deadline expires we

will confiscate their stock," said Sokun. "If CD stall owners violate the order,

we will fine them 7,500-to-60,000 riel for each VCD. Repeat offenders will face

penalties in the courts."

The government first cracked down on breaches

of intellectual property last July when the owner of a pirating plant was fined

$700,000. Sokun said the government had since invited stall and shop owners to

learn about copyright law. He said they were also urged to import only legal

VCDs and CDs. Sokun said the government would move first against pirated VCDs

before combating pirated music CDs.

One reason for the govern-ment's

vigor, Sokun said, was to combat the decline of Khmer culture: local karaoke

discs are regularly pirated within days of their release. The other was to

ensure the country could join the World Trade Organization, which has strict

rules to protect intellectual property.

"I hope that enforcement of the

intellectual property rights laws will encourage Cambodians to produce more

Khmer cultural films and music, and curb the inflow of pirated VCDs from

abroad," said Sokun.

By the end of 2002 Cambodia should have enacted

three separate laws to protect intellectual property: the copyright law, the

trademark law, and the patent law.

Sim Sarak, director-general of

administration and finance at MoCFA, said the copyright law had been drafted and

was currently with the interministerial committee of the Council of

Ministers.

He expected the National Assembly would pass the copyright law

by the end of the year. The Assembly approved the trademark law December 2001,

while the patent law, he said, was with the Assembly's commission but was not

yet on the legislative agenda.

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