on the Copyright Pirates in Thailand
Edward J. Kelly Ekelly@tillekeandgibbins.com
Hassana Chira-aphakul Hassana@tillekeandgibbins.com
Tilleke & Gibbins International Ltd.
one of the most aggressive legislative schemes for the protection of intellectual
property rights in any developing nation, Thailand has remained on the
United States' Special 301 Watch List since 1994, primarily because of
dissatisfaction with Thailand's political will in respect to strict and
meaningful enforcement of its IP laws. This paper will outline the present
challenges faced by owners of copyrighted works and the legislative framework
available for addressing widespread infringement of such works in Thailand.
Thailand: Challenges to Enforcing Copyright
Kingdom of Thailand is a nation of approximately 62 million people. The
government is a constitutional monarchy with 76 administrative divisions.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the Chief of State, while Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is the head of the government. The Thai legal
system is based on a civil law system with some common law influences.
The Central Intellectual Property & International Trade Court (IP&IT
Court), introduced in 1997, has exclusive jurisdiction over disputes involving
intellectual property. Thailand is a signatory to the Berne Convention
and is a member of WIPO and WTO but is not a member of the Patent Cooperation
Treaty, Paris Convention, nor the Madrid Protocol. The literacy rate in
Thailand is over 93%, and there are approximately 24.7 personal computers
per 1000 people in the country.
because of the pressure on Thailand's export-oriented economy due to its
inclusion on the Special 301 Watch List, there is presently no IP-related
issue that receives more media or government attention in Thailand than
the issue of piracy of copyrighted works. Primary attention is devoted
to the illegal reproduction and distribution of software, film and music
content. Literally every week, there is a press release or media report
about actions taken by local and international industry groups to combat
the piracy epidemic in Thailand. Among the most active groups engaged
in the anti-piracy campaigns are the Business Software Alliance ("BSA"),
International Federation of the Phonographic Industry ("IFPI"),
and Motion Picture Association of America ("MPA"). Domestic
industry groups active in the enforcement of copyright include the Association
of Thai Software Industry ("ATSI"), Grammy Entertainment, and
the Thai Recording Industry Association ("TRIA").
A. Retail Problem
a casual observer surveying the Thai market can easily find areas flooded
with large amounts of pirated DVDs, CDs, and VCDs sold for between 100-200
Baht in Bangkok, including Sukhumvit, Silom, Pratunam, Ramkhamhaeng, Banglumpoo,
and Patpong (all tourist areas of Bangkok). Of course, there are notorious
Bangkok shopping centers with shops openly and brazenly selling all manner
of pirated goods, such as Pantip Plaza, Future Park Rangsit Department
Store, Seri Center Department Store, and Seacon Square Department Store.
Finally, one has to look as well at the yards of freight forwarders, consolidators,
and carriers for those pirated products exported by land, sea, and air.
B. Scope of the
is home to at least 100 known plants for optical media production (and
many more underground facilities) with over 200 known manufacturing lines
and mastering machines. With this capacity, Thailand can generate over
1 billion discs every year. Clearly, because the Thai domestic market
has a legitimate need for only 15-20 million genuine copies in VCD, DVD,
and CD-ROM format, the Thai domestic market is flooded with cheap pirated
discs. Thailand also rivals China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong as a leading
export source of pirated content.
to the most reliable statistics available, the piracy rate for entertainment
software in Thailand stood at 98% at the end of 2001, while business software
applications registered a 76% rate, motion pictures 60%, and music 45%.
The total U.S. market loss attributed to copyright piracy in 2001 has
been estimated at more than US$136 million.