Last week’s arrest of a man accused of distributing illegally copied CDs and DVDs has done little to deter fellow Phnom Penh merchants from continuing their trade in pirated materials.
Som Seanglong, 35, was arrested April 8 and charged April 9 in connection with the sale of bootlegged Cambodian songs and films, said Ngeth Sarath, deputy chief prosecutor of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, on Monday.
Som Seanglong was arrested under Article 64 of the 2003 copyright law, Ngeth Sarath said. He declined to provide further details about the case.
A survey of CD and DVD shops around Phsar Thmei found vendors afraid of also being arrested, but for financial reasons, unwilling to stop what they know is illegal activity.
“It’s impossible to sell the expensive [original] copies,” one man said. At his shop, a legitimate copy of a Hang Meas CD was on sale for $2, while a bootlegged copy procured, by request, from the back of the shop cost $0.50.
At a shop next door, the owner echoed his comments. She said she is afraid of being arrested but people aren’t willing to pay the $2.50 she charges for legitimate CDs when they can get copies of the same material for $0.75.
The manager of one large CD and DVD retailer that sells mainly foreign materials speculated that Som Seanglong, whom he is familiar with, was targeted because of his focus on copying and distributing Cambodian songs and movies.
The manager, who asked not to be identified, said authorities consider the copying of locally produced songs and movies to be “the main problem” and not pirated Hollywood movies or music from major recording companies.
Police target local bootleggers because local writers and producers are more likely to file lawsuits in Cambodian courts or ask police to arrest the offenders.
Asked if more people who sell illegally copied material will be arrested under the copyright law, Prosecutor Ngeth Sarath said, “It is a matter of the police, but we have the law already. If the government has the goal to do that, we can go all over the markets to arrest and confiscate.”
Ngeth Sarath also said the penalty for selling pirated material is too light—a maximum of one year in prison or fines of 25 million riel (about $6,250).
Enforcing the protection of intellectual property was critical to Cambodia’s 2003 acceptance into the World Trade Organization.