Copyright infringement still rampant

The 74th session of the UN General Assembly declared 2020 as the year for creative industry for sustainable development

Copyright infringement is rampantly happening in the country as it is not being legally prosecuted due to lack of awareness on intellectual property regime.

Many entities in urban towns use and play international music songs and movies freely in the country. Even the radio stations in the country play music songs freely.

Though the Department of Intellectual Property (DoIP) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs is creating awareness on the Intellectual Property regime, many seem to be not aware of the issue.

In recent years, a remarkable growth in the copyright sector has been noted, especially the entertainment sector has advanced rapidly.

In Bhutan, though selling pirated international movies is not a lucrative business, there are still some of the full-fledged music parlors and video rentals selling international pirated movies and music songs in the country.  

DoIP’s Director General Kinley Tenzin Wangchuk said there has to be an increased level of awareness and appreciation which the department has been continuously doing.

Just about four weeks ago, he said, the department organized a forum with the musicians where they were sensitized on the importance of Intellectual Property regime as well as their value in the society.

The DG added, “We are looking at the formation of a collective management society. It is basically through such society that authors, musicians and artists get in the position where works act as channels. Where their works distribute all licenses use of works.”

According to the DG, for instance, radio stations and discotheque and karaoke entities would not only act as licensing agency between the artists and the users, but would also be responsible for collecting the royalty for the users and ensuring fair distributions to the owners.

Meanwhile, the DoIP launched the National IP Policy in 2018, in addition to the existing acts. In February this year, the department of trade with support from the international trade center launched the national strategy for promoting and marketing in the creative sector.

Further, the 74th session of the UN General Assembly declared 2020 as the year for creative industry for sustainable development.

The DG mentioned that the creative sector is paralyzed by the pandemic, which has potential in creating employment opportunity and revenue generation.

According to the DG, a study done by the department on copyright base industry in 2014 showed that its contribution was quite significant in terms of GDP as it was 5.5% and in terms of employment generation it was 10.5%.

The DG also emphasized on starting with one collective management society, particularly in the area of music. 

“We will do a study and see how feasible and viable this is. If it goes well, it may be expanded to the film sector and the other performing artists. Having a stringent copyright system actually cuts both way,” he said.

Further, the DG mentioned that the domestic laws are only territorial in nature and they can only extend the scope and application by joining international treaty and conventions.

In the area of copyright, Bhutan joined the Berne Conventions in 2014 for the protection of literary and artist works.

The department also aims to carryout feasibility studies to see the relevance of acceding to the major international treaties or conventions on copyright. Bhutan is also planning to join Marakesh treaty and Beijing treaty.

“We are also thinking of joining two internet treaties on World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) internet treaty and WIPO performances and phonograms treaty. It is mainly because of the development of the ICT and how this affect copying and distribution. The department is studying on it,” the DG said.

The DG also reiterated the need to amend the copyright act.

“The department has been working on the establishment of a Collective Management Organization (CMO) in the country in order to streamline the management of rights. Bhutan does not have a CMO as of now. It will depend on when it will be put to the cabinet and parliament,” he said.

“Without clear provisions to establish and operate a CMO, the consideration to establish a CMO would be challenging until the new copyright act is adopted. A separate chapter stipulating the provisions for the establishment and operation of a CMO has been proposed in the new copyright bill,” he added.

According to the DG, the whole purpose of a CMO is to administer the rights of the individual copyright owners/authors in collecting remuneration for use of their copyright works and to serve as a single point of access of copyright works for the users. The royalties collected by the CMO from the users is then distributed to the copyright owners/authors, which eases the burden on both the copyright owners as well as the users.

Other major revisions, according to the DG, are on the establishment of a CMO and provision on the geographical indication.  Geographical indication is provided for certain products whose quality or specialty is because of the geographical area in which it is produced. For instance European protects wines under geographical indications. 

“Many think that the IP department is actually responsible for pursuing infringement and prosecuting piracy, the department is also responsible to creative legislative framework and create awareness,” Kinley Tenzin Wangchuk said.

Regarding copyright cases, the DG mentioned that there have been one or two cases in the court, not many, which boils down to the lack of awareness.

He added that an individual should pursue to the court if there is infringement. “That’s the only way that we can test the provision of our laws as well as create greater awareness among the judiciary.”

“We are also looking into how Bhutan can get included in the global innovation index, in terms of innovation which we can realize where we rank,” he added.

From the inception of the office till May 2018, the DoIP has generated a total of Nu 35,300 through collection of fees. The maximum amount of fees of Nu 19,800 was collected in 2015.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu