Copyright Case a First For Country

Phnom Penh Municipal Court officials recently arrested and charged a man with stealing intellectual property after police confiscated hundreds of illegally copied CDs and VCDs at his Chamkamon district home.

Ly Seng Peou, 39, was charged on July 27 under articles 43 and 48 of the Untac law, which outlawed copyright infringement and the illegal reproduction of creative material, municipal Prosecutor Uk Savut said.

Ly Seng Peou was released shortly after his arrest because an unidentified member of the Senate arrived at the scene and requested that he not be de­tained, officials said.

The arrest of Ly Seng Peou signifies another blow against suspects accused of illegally copying and selling music and video discs. In September 2000, Prime Minis­ter Hun Sen signed a subdecree setting fines for those who illegally copy VCDs and CDs. The fines ranged from $2 per disk to more than $500 for each movie copy.

The government has a number of intellectual property laws in the works, including legislation to protect trademark that is ex­pected to gain approval in the National Assembly in September.

A law covering copyright protection should be submitted to the Council of Ministers in De­cem­ber.

One of the requirements for membership into the World Trade Organization—which Cambodia has been aggressively pursuing—is copyright laws that meet international standards.

“Our country does not have an intellectual law to prevent copyright infringement yet,” Uk Savut said. “But we can now punish [people found guilty of illegally copying disks] using the Untac law.” He added that under the law, Ly Seng Peou could receive a jail sentence ranging from six months to five years.

The courts and police will step up efforts to crack down on video and music pirates, Uk Savut said. Last week police raided a store near the Olympic Market and seized more than 800 pirated CDs and VCDs in what officials called the largest raid this year on illegal copiers.

The Ly Seng Peou case came to light after employees at three video production companies complained to police, saying their movies were being illegally copied and sold in markets.

Ing Chhay Nguon, director general of Rasmei Hang Meas video production company, said Tues­day his company made several complaints to the police, but did not get responses from them.

“This is the first time the court has charged the stealer,” he said, praising the court and police for acting on this incident. “Last year I complained to police and the courts, but then it was quiet.”

He said his company and two other plaintiffs, Rasmei Neakreach and Chlorng Den movie production companies, spent a large amount of money to make karaoke videos but couldn’t earn much profit from the sale of the videos because the illegally copied disks were around $1 cheaper.

Ing Chhay Nguon said two of his new karaoke videos, Tum Teav and Mak Theung—which are based on the same traditional Khmer folk tale—were released in the stores early one morning and copiers had duplicated hundreds of these VCDs and sold them to stores by that evening.

“If the courts could find justice and punish this man and force him to compensate us, then it will send a message to other people not to copy movies,” he said.

The charge against Ly Seng Poeu is “paving the way” for officials to protect Khmer culture and encourage more film production in Cambodia, said Khim Sarith, top advisor and chairman of the interministerial committee responsible for investigating illegal music and video production.

“When the court prosecutes cases like this, it means we are successful,” he said.

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