Cambodia will not meet the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) deadline to enforce copyright laws by 2013 and will likely ask for an extension, an official at the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday.
The deadline was already extended once by the WTO in 2005 after it became apparent that Cambodia and other less developed countries would not be able to implement laws preventing the sale of counterfeit goods.
Sex-and-half years later, fake Louis Vuitton handbags, imitation Davidoff colognes and illegally copied video games and DVDs are still readily available in most market in Phnom Penh.
“We want our country to implement this law properly in prompt manner, but we are still poor and do not have the ability to do that right now,” said Var Roth San, director of the intellectual property department at the Ministry of Commerce.
He said that due to a lack of knowledge in the country’s courts about copyright law and the inability of police to enforce them, Cambodia will likely ask the WTO for another extension.
“We probably have the intention to postpone the implementation of the copyright law, because most of the these countries lack the resources and are too impoverished to be able to implement it,”he said.
According to a 2010 study by local law firm BNG Legal, out of 870 mall and market stalls surveyed, 52 percent sold at least one counterfeit product. Of those, an average of at least four counterfeit goods were on such as Louis Vuiton, Lacoste and Nike apparel were most prevalent.
“In my view, the biggest cost of poor enforcement are the books, films and other works by Cambodians that never get made, because the artists can’t make a living at it,”David Haskel, legal counsel at BNG, said by email, adding that although the country may not be able to enforce the law, more and more businesses wish to follow it.
“I see number of positive signs, from new movie theaters screening licensed works, to more books published in Khmer and of course the explosion in online content,” he said.
According to the copyright law, which was enacted in 2003, vendors caught selling counterfeit discs face a fine of $2 per illegal disc. Such discs can currently be purchased at local markets for about $1.50 a piece. Nevertheless, vendors remain unafraid of prosecution.
“It is not necessary to enforce the law because our country is poor. We are not like the rich countries that can afford it,” said a handbags vendor at Daun Penh district’s Sorya mall, who was selling counterfeit of popular brands such as Guy Laroche, Louis Vuiton and Gucci.
“We should divide up to the stores and areas for selling original goods and fake ones, because those who have the money will buythe real ones, while those who don’t will buy the fakes,” She said.