Cablegate: Thai Police Increase Ip Enforcement but Pirated Goods

DE RUEHBK #5663/01 3060909
R 020909Z NOV 07






E.O. 12958:N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: Six months after Thailand's elevation to the
Special 301 Priority Watch List for IPR violations, local
representatives of intellectual property rights holders say police
have stepped up enforcement of copyright and trademark laws, but
fear that commitment to greater enforcement does not run deep.
Courts and other RTG offices have shown little improvement. Higher
numbers of raids and seized goods are raising costs for pirates, but
pirated products continue to be widely available, and there has been
no improvement in rights holders' bottom lines. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Embassy convened a meeting of local representatives of
copyright and trademark holders to gauge progress on IP enforcement
six months after Thailand's elevation to the Special 301 Priority
Watch List, and in anticipation of an upcoming digital
videoconference between USG and RTG officials on IP protection. In
attendance were representatives from music and movie distributors,
and law firms that represent many major trademark holders.

3. (SBU) Rights holders said police had made substantial
improvements in enforcement against copyright and trademark piracy
in 2007. Full credit was given to Police Major General Visut
Vanichbut, Commander of the Economic and Technological Crime
Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police. Visut has been an
enthusiastic leader in suppression of piracy since being named
Commander in February 2007, using a handpicked team to minimize the
influence of corruption. The Motion Picture Association (MPA)
representative reported that thanks to police support, MPA is now
organizing over 200 raids on pirate retailers and producers per
month, double its previous average in 2006. Rightholders remain
concerned that Visut's enthusiasm may not be shared by other
officials, and that when he steps down, which could be by the end of
the year, there could be a return to former levels of enforcement.
Police are for the first time undertaking ex officio raids and not
awaiting rights holder complaints before taking action. Police are
also allowing rights holders to seize more product in raids, and MPA
says overall seizures of optical discs are up 163 percent over last
year. Police have at times creatively used censorship and
pornography laws to make seizures. The police are also focusing
more on seizing DVD burners, which are an increasing source of
pirated product.

4. (SBU) Thai Customs, long the bright light in IP enforcement,
still gets high marks for cooperation with rights holders and
willingness to do ex officio searches. Although customs officials
focus primarily on inbound shipments, they have cooperated with
rights holders on inspecting outbound shipments when information was
available. Officials are still without legal authority to inspect
transshipments, but an amendment to the Customs Act is in the works
to remedy the legal shortcoming.

5. (SBU) Rights holders were disappointed in the performance of the
courts, who continue to hand down non-deterrent sentences. By MPA's
count, out of over 2000 cases presented to the IP court this year,
only 17 defendants were given jail sentences of between 15 days to
one month. In other cases the court has issued a guilty verdict but
handed down a warning rather than a sentence. However, the number
of jail sentences is an improvement over past years, albeit small.
Rights holders and police are still finding it difficult to obtain
search warrants from courts. One legal representative told Econoff
the courts have blacklisted certain police officers they suspect of
using warrants to shake down pirate retailers. However, these are
often the only police officials to whom the rights holders can turn
to organize raids.

6. (SBU) Rights holders describe the Department of Intellectual
Property (DIP) as mostly feckless. Without a strong enforcement
role, the Department has been unable to influence enforcement
officials to tackle the most notable retail establishments or crack
down on optical disc (OD) plants. In their role of inspecting OD
plants, DIP has been reluctant to use their legal powers to run
surprise inspections. Inspections typically have been announced in
advance and often include high-level officials for press
opportunities. DIP has also not been able to push through important
legislation, such as amendments to the Copyright Act which have
languished for years. One DVD distributor said DIP had been
hesitant to cooperate on some public outreach initiatives saying
they had to wait until after the December elections.

Enforcement Not Leading to Higher Legitimate Profits
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (SBU) Despite improved police effort, rights holders report no
change in the number of street stalls and retail establishments
selling pirated goods. First run movies are still available in
pirated form immediately after release in theatres. Police have

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periodic success cleaning out another high piracy area, Klong Tom
mall, when pressure is brought to bear, but sales of pirated goods
bounce back with disappointing resilience. "Red zones" such as
Pantip Plaza, MBK mall, Patpong Road and Sukhumvit Road remain areas
where pirated goods are easily purchased. Rights holders say the
stepped up police enforcement has at least raised the cost of doing
business for pirate retailers.

8. (SBU) Sales of legitimate product remain flat. Although the
movie industry says they saw some boost in sales, partly as a result
of a better crop of releases in 2007, it was less than expected and
little of the boost could be attributed to improved IP enforcement.
The music industry reported declining sales, though the industry
representative admitted that a lagging economy was a prime reason,
affecting even the sales of pirated music. Increased use of illegal
downloading of music is hitting industry's pocketbooks. The movie
industry is also concerned about internet piracy but with relatively
low broadband penetration in Thailand the industry believes the
impact from illegal downloading is as yet not large.

© Scoop Media

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