Bemoaning the government’s latest efforts to crack down on pirated music and movies, market vendors say a licensing program designed to certify videos, DVDs, CDs and VCDs is unworkable.
“We can’t take thousands of our [CDs] to the ministry because we do not think that they can approve them as ready for the market in one or two days,” an Olympic market vendor said.
Under a 1989 law, the government is supposed to certify electronic recordings with a special stamp, called a visa, after checking for content and to make sure that they have not been stolen.
Since then, the law has lapsed.
But cultural officials, concerned over pirating and content, have recently called for stricter enforcement.
Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a subdecree in September setting fines for those who illegally copy videos and CDs, ranging from about $2 per disk up to more than $500 for each copy of a movie.
The government announced March 1 that vendors would have to certify their products or shut down their stalls. Some vendors counter that the measure is not aimed in the right place.
“If they want to crack down on piracy, they should not do that on us,” the Olympic market vendor said. “We are just sellers. They should look for the offenders. We are not thieves.”
But Som Sokun, director of arts, cinema and culture for the Ministry of Culture, said vendors had plenty of time to observe the law, and have been blatantly violating it for too long.
“In Kompong Speu alone, we found 70 percent of the products were illegal,” he said.
Under the law, vendors must pay up to $2.63 for certification of a single item, and $0.01 for each additional copy of the item that they sell.
That, said the seller, cuts deeply into profits.
“We sell one tape or VCD for $2 or $3, and the buyers complain that the price is high,” the vendor said.
While Som Sokun said he was empathetic—promising that the government would work on a compromise price and would not fine vendors—he said sellers must be more vigilant or risk losing their inventory.
“We will not fine them, but we will seize some products that are too sexy, pornographic or cruel. But we will let them sell the rest after they have paid for the visa,” he said.