Copyright laws and the pirating of Cambodian songs and movies were very much on the mind of Ministry of Culture Secretary of State Khim Sarith on Tuesday as he announced in a news conference that Cambodia would soon be holding its first film festival in 15 years.
After mentioning that the festival featuring recent Cambodian films will take place Nov 28 through Dec 2, he appealed to production companies to file complaints without delay whenever their films are illegally copied and sold.
“In order to crack down on copyright law violations, this must be done on a regular basis. Otherwise the problem keeps on growing,” he said.
Khim Sarith has been assailed for days by people complaining of changes made to the songs of Sin Sisamuth, the “Golden Voice” of the 1960s, who remains one of Cambodia’s most popular singers. Sin Sisamuth disappeared during the Khmer Rouge era.
“I got calls from the provinces about the pirating of his songs until my ears hurt,” Khim Sarith said. “People are very angry.”
Without seeking a copyright license, U2 Production repackaged some of the famed singer’s pieces, increased the songs’ tempos and had 28-year-old singer Tith Vicheka interpret them.
Complaints were such that U2 Production director Chheang Chenla made a public apology on Cambodia Television Network on Tuesday. Noting that the company has no guidelines for repackaging old songs, he said that producing new songs is expensive.
In the meantime, Tith Vicheka said he is being blamed for “damaging the national heritage.”
“I just sing what the company tells me to sing, and I only get paid $10 to $15 per song,” he said.
Companies still don’t understand intellectual property laws, said Sim Sarak, director general in charge of the Copyrights Office at the Ministry of Culture. “Next year, we will be stricter,” he said.
Cambodian films produced in 2004 and 2005 will be eligible for the first festival since 1990. Ministry of Culture Undersecretary Som Sokun said that 53 Cambodian films were made last year and 32 so far this year.
“The number of productions is increasing but the quality is lacking,” he said.