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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        7  April 2011

Film piracy holds back Thailand

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The widespread illegal recording of films in theatres and a delay in the anti-camcording law are expected to keep Thailand on the US priority watch list of intellectual property violators for another year, officials say.

The law was drafted by the Commerce Ministry but is still being considered by the Council of State. It is unlikely to be passed by this government since an election is imminent, said Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot.

The law will make any act of piracy a criminal case, not a civil offence, said Mr Alongkorn. "Most criminals hire teenagers under 18 to record movies illegally, making it hard to bring their employers to court on a civil offence," he said.

"We are confident the new law will close the loopholes, making it difficult for violators and their bosses to evade punishment."

Mr. Alongkorn has met with theatre owners, movie producers and involved parties to consider stiffer measures such as installing infrared cameras in theatres to monitor for piracy.

The Motion Picture Association, the powerful lobby group for the Hollywood film industry, alleges Thailand has the highest rate of camcorder piracy in Southeast Asia.

The MPA, together with the International Intellectual Property Alliance and the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia, have filed complaints with the US Trade Representative to ask it to keep Thailand on its list.

The priority watch list enables the US government to levy trade sanctions, though such threats are rarely carried out.

Washington will announce the list on April 30, said Pajchima Tanasanti, director-general of the Intellectual Property Department.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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