Industry Reps Call for Shift to Legal DVDs

In the face of ineffectual law enforcement, shops selling illegal DVDs continue to operate unimpeded, film industry representatives said at a workshop in Phnom Penh on Monday, calling for greater efforts to convince both retailers and consumers to move away from pirated titles.

Simon Choo, distribution director for local distributor Westec Media Limited, said that while the government has sporadically enforced intellectual property laws that have been on the books since 2003, its efforts had been largely ineffective.

“I’ve seen some enforcement, but not enough to scare [illegal DVD sellers] away…. Whenever there’s an enforcement, they’re always tipped off,” Mr. Choo said on the sidelines of an intellectual property rights workshop organized jointly by Westec, the U.S. Embassy and the Motion Picture Association of Cambodia (MPAC).

MPAC president Chhay Bora said that because the government had so far failed to bring piracy under control, the film industry needed to focus on educating consumers.

“The most important thing is to make people understand how to spend on the original DVD,” he said. “The money going to [the purchase of] the DVD is money that you are contributing to the industry, helping filmmakers to make another great film.”

Mr. Bora acknowledged the difficulty of persuading Cambodian consumers—who are accustomed to buying pirated movies for between $1 and $1.50—to switch to authentic versions, saying that the film industry’s success hinged on Cambodians’ spending power.

“[If the] economy is growing, then everything can change. If you have money, then you have to buy good products. If you don’t have money, then you look at the cheap ones,” he said.

Chheang Leng, the manager of local DVD seller and distributor CD World, said his company was working with Westec and digital entertainment company Sabay to introduce original DVDs into the market—at a cost of $3 to consumers—but admitted that the switch had been challenging.

Mr. Leng said that while profit margins were higher on authentic DVDs, shop owners complained that too few customers were willing to buy the legal copies.

“They don’t want to change because the [illegal] copies they can sell more of, because the price is very cheap,” he said.

Yet Mr. Choo said it was in the shop owners’ best interests to replace their inventory.

“Everybody is saying they may not survive. I think they are quite wrong,” he said. “In fact, I think selling pirated copies is not sustainable. They’re only a dollar each…. You sell 60 CDs a day, you can’t survive.

“We give them then a better option: Go legal, get a better margin, survive,” he added.

For the owner of a DVD shop in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district—who spoke on the condition of anonymity because police had previously raided another store she ran—the difficulty of selling legal copies extended beyond pricing.

“It’s hard to sell authentic DVDs in Cambodia because it takes a long time to get the movie,” she said, explaining that her customers expect to be able to purchase a title as soon as it hits theaters.

“How can we go get authentic DVDs from CD World if they issue it long after the movie’s cinema release?”

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