Vendors Warned of Raids on Pirated DVDs

Government officials met with hundreds of DVD and CD shop owners in Phnom Penh on Friday to inform them that police will begin conducting random raids on businesses that sell pirated movies and music, according to officials and vendors.

Pok Vanthy, deputy director of the Culture Ministry’s cinema and culture diffusion department, said by telephone Sunday that officials from a newly-formed government committee to manage intellectual property met with 240 business owners at Chaktomuk Conference Hall to let them know that after years of warnings, illegally selling copyrighted DVDs and CDs will now no longer be tolerated.

“Those pirate producers [and sellers] are sucking the sweat and blood from the real producers’ intellectual ownership,” Pok Vanthy said. “We will crack down regularly, like drizzling rain.”

According to the 2003 intellectual property law, penalties for illegally selling copyrighted material include up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $6,250.

During the Friday meeting, the Inter-ministerial Committee to Crackdown on Illegal Film and Video told the shop owners that the crackdown would apply to all illegally produced DVDs and CDs, Pok Vanthy said, but after the owners expressed outrage over the announcement, the committee decided to narrow the effort for the time being.

“The first priority is to focus on the Cambodian made productions,” he said. “We don’t want to cut their hands and feet when we touch them.”

The committee will meet again today to inform vendor representatives when the authorities will go after sellers of pirated international movies and music, Pok Vanthy said.

“The shop owners know that what they do is illegal-they are not poor,” he said.

Hong Lim, an owner of a DVD stall in Tuol Tompoung market, said by telephone that if the government follows through on its threat, he will be forced to close up shop.

“The crackdown will affect my business. I will become a beggar,” he said Sunday, adding that foreigners and Cambodian English-language students are his biggest customers.

“I don’t know what the law says,” he added.

All DVD and CD shop owners interviewed on the third floor of Sorya Shopping Center on Sunday said that they were not invited to Friday’s meeting, but many were aware that it was held.

One such shop owner, Visac Son, 25, said that it would be impossible to keep his shop if he could not sell pirated material because original copies were expensive and difficult to find.

“Nobody exports [music and movies] from the US to Cambodia,” he said.

Phnom Penh municipal police chief Touch Naruth said by telephone Sunday that police have been informed of the new campaign to stop pirating and are ready to cooperate.

“It is not difficult to crackdown on the pirated products,” he said.

The World Trade Organization in December 2005 extended the deadline for Cambodia to enforce copyright laws to 2013.

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