Sinn Sethakol, the grandson of Sinn Sisamouth—perhaps Cambodia’s most iconic singer-songwriter—opened a concert on Saturday night celebrating his grandfather’s music, which has been placed at the center of efforts to promote the protection of intellectual property.
One of the country’s most iconic musicians from the 1950s to ’70s, Sinn Sisamouth’s songs—an extensive collection that ranges from Khmer ballads to covers of Western rock music—have found continued popularity both in the country and throughout the Cambodian diaspora.
To honor the legendary crooner’s life—and as the latest attempt at using his songs as a starting point for copyright protection in Cambodia—more than 2,000 people turned out for “It’s Time to Give Back,” an informational event and concert at Koh Pich Theater.
Sinn Sisamouth’s family requested copyright registration for his songs with the Commerce Ministry in May last year, and Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol said 73 songs were now protected, along with one song by female singer Ros Sereysothea, one of Sinn Sisamouth’s most beloved contemporaries.
“Therefore, from now on, if producers take the 73 songs—plus one of Ros Sereysothea’s—to record to do business, they must have permits from the families and pay money to the families before they can take those songs to rerecord or edit,” Mr. Chanthol told the audience.
Later in the evening, a series of popular singers took to the stage to sing some of Sinn Sisamouth’s classics.
The event was part of a broader effort by the Commerce Ministry and Culture Ministry to promote the enforcement of intellectual property law, which had previously been almost nonexistent.
Culture Minister Phoeung Sackona said that more than 100,000 discs with illegally copied movies and music have been confiscated from vendors this year.
However, these enforcement efforts combined with promotional campaigns such as those around Sinn Sisamouth’s music are just a “baby step” in the fight against intellectual piracy, said Pily Wong, vice president of the Information Communications and Technology Federation of Cambodia.
“It’s not something that can happen overnight, so we need first to educate the people. And that is what is happening now. At least in terms of awareness,” he said, adding that enforcement on the ground remained very poor.
“In the government level, the ministry level, there is a strong will to make progress. But at the lower level, it’s quite hard to make a change,” he said. “It’s not that effective. Officials don’t really care much about it.”