Market vendors who sell video compact discs are now required to buy certification “visa” stamps from government officials.
The measure, in effect since the beginning of the year, is the latest in the government’s struggle to head off pirated videos, which are widely available in Phnom Penh markets.
Moung Sokhan, the Ministry of Culture’s deputy director of the cinema and cultural diffusion department, said the visas should help the sales of locally produced videos and discourage the smuggling and illegal copying of foreign-made videos.
A subdecree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen last September set fines for those who illegally copy videos, ranging from about $2 per disk up to more than $500 for each copy of a movie.
Article 43 of Untac law forbids electronic piracy. Last November, a Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge found shop owner Ly Seng Pao guilty of violating Article 43 and ordered him to pay local video production companies nearly $700,000 in fines for illegally copying their VCDs. Police raided Ly Seng Pao’s shop near Phsar Olympic last July and seized more than 800 pirated videos.
But government officials have mostly put off enforcing the law. Shop owners have complained of potentially large profit losses and said virtually everyone sells the illegal copies, encouraged by high customer demand.
Moung Sokhan said vendors are charged 50 riel for each disk that is certified. The ministry has given the visa stamps to district officials, who go to market stalls to check that foreign-made videos haven’t been illegally copied and do not contain pornography or excessive violence.
Several market vendors at Phsar Olympic said local officials are asking 100 riel per disc for the certification stamps.
One shop owner—who displayed copies of “Pearl Harbor,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “The Killing Fields,” in addition to Chinese and Thai-made serials—said he receives $0.10 profit for each locally made video he sells. Foreign-made videos bring about $0.30 profit for each disk. “I am scared to sell the smuggled and pirated videos, but if I don’t, then I can’t pay the rent for my shop space,” he said.
The visa stamps will expire in April, at which time the government will crack down on vendors who sell illegally copied and smuggled foreign-made videos, Moung Sokhan said. A similar crackdown was announced by Ministry of Culture officials in February 2001, but was delayed after vendors protested.
One of the requirements for joining the World Trade Organization is creating and enforcing copyright laws that meet international standards. Cambodian officials have said they hope to join WTO by the end of the year but first must pass, and in some cases write, more than 40 pieces of new legislation.