The Ministry of Culture on Friday morning used a steamroller to destroy 80,000 pirated domestic music CDs and movie DVDs confiscated from vendors throughout the provinces and Phnom Penh in a public demonstration of its crackdown on copyright infringement.
“We will no longer merely fine the people who traffic in illegal discs as they pay the money and go back to doing the same thing,” Khim Sarith, secretary general with the Ministry of Culture, said at the steamrolling at Wat Phnom.
“So now we will send them straight to jail,” he said, adding that offenders will then have to deal with the courts.
In September 2008 the government called a meeting to warn vendors that they will confiscate illegal discs of domestic music and film productions, and by this month they had collected the 80,000 discs.
Friday’s crushing did not include bootlegged foreign music and films as the World Trade Organization, of which Cambodia became a member in 2003, has given Cambodia until 2013 to comply with copyright and intellectual property regulations on imported intellectual property before imposing sanctions.
At Friday’s event Chuop Khon, Phnom Penh municipal deputy governor, said many people have taken advantage of modern technology to sell duplicates in the domestic disc market.
“Due to how easy it is to get high-tech equipment, some people use that technology in the wrong way,” he said.
According to Khim Sarith, pirated copies of Cambodian DVDs and CDs are easy to spot as they lack an official Ministry of Culture stamp.
“Cambodian film discs have stamps on them from [the Ministry of Culture] but foreign films do not,” Sok Srey, one of the owners of Riverside Souvenir, said during an interview Friday, adding that her bootlegged Hollywood movies and latest music CDs are mostly products of Malaysia.
The owner of Rasmey CD near Central Market said Friday that authorities come to his shop every two to three months to check the official stamps on Khmer films, but they do not check foreign films.
“There are no stamps on the foreign films, so they are not checked,” Sam Ath said during an interview Friday.
Vendors said the majority of their foreign films come from Malaysia and China by ship.
Though the WTO is asking Cambodia to comply with copyright regulations by 2013, the organization admits in a 2008 report that the consequences of copyright enforcement in Cambodia will be dire.
The report states: “The implementation of copyright law will affect education and other fields relating to human resource development. In a poor country such as Cambodia, books, CDs and VCDs with copyright simply cannot be afforded because they would be too expensive for the average citizen.”
The report claims that when pirated CDs, DVDs and books cease to exist in Cambodia thousands will lose their livelihoods and many more will be cut off from educational and entertainment materials.
Panhavuth Long, a lawyer who has studied copyright law, agreed with that assessment.
“Without the pirated information, many, many people will be denied access to information,” he said, adding it is a tricky situation because he also believes in protecting intellectual property.
“I doubt this crackdown has anything to do with the WTO though, it is probably just some tycoon who has power and it has been affecting his business interests,” Panhavuth Long said.