08 August 2002

Movie Pirate Rule Waves on Malaysian Streets

Article by Mrs Gladys Mirandah

Paul Chew sits on the ledge of a sidewalk in Malaysia’s flashy Bangsar suburb, holding a wallet full of pirated videodiscs of the latest American movies and music. "Only five dollars, sir," he says, meaning five ringgit (RM$1.30), as he holds out a copy of "Spider-Man" to a tourist. The Westerner’s gaze is drawn more to the pornographic discs around him as Chew keeps a wary eye out for the police. It’s a regular day’s work for the street vendor and others like him, who will make a few hundred ringgit selling pirated CD’s and DVD’s from nooks and crannies all over the Malaysian capital. But on the same day, the U.S. movie, music, software and publishing industries together would have lost almost a million dollars to crooks who have made Kuala Lumpur one of the world’s hottest piracy markets.
The International Intellectual Property Alliance estimates that U.S. trade losses due to piracy in Malaysia rose to $316 million last year from $140 million in 2000. That does not include forgery of local music works, estimated at around $18 million last year. Local disc makers say syndicates in Thailand, Indonesia and Macau have turned Malaysia into a major transit point for high-tech illegal goods. Motivating Malaysia to win a war on piracy, industry sources say, is a desire to draw investment into the country’s fledgling high-technology zone, the Multimedia Super Corridor. An executive at the Multimedia Super Corridor commented that Microsoft wants to develop software in Malaysia but will not if they think that whatever they make here will be on the street the day after it is created.
Malaysia’s notoriety for being able to deliver video compact discs of Hollywood films the week they are released at home has placed it on a priority watch list of the International Intellectual Property Alliance. The latest "Star Wars" offering landed on the streets here even before its official release. The Malaysian government winces at the dubious honor and has mobilized its resources to fight piracy, but officials say they are outnumbered. James Tee, Deputy Chairman of the Optical Disc Manufacturers Association of Malaysia commented that most domestic production of pirated material ended with tough laws enacted two years ago. Under the Optical Disc Act, all disc producers have to be licensed and must carry a code issued by the U.S. based International Federation of Phonographic industry.
The U.S officials however, say that Malaysian law enforcers may be allowing pirated goods through without knowing. "According to U.S. industry, not one Malaysian company is licensed to produce American DVDs" said an U.S. diplomat in Kuala Lumpur. "But there are plants here licensed to produce DVDs".
It has been noted that tough scrutiny aside, the government was not hitting offenders hard enough. There are compounded sentences, minimum sentences, out of court settlements, cases that get delayed indefinitely and prosecutors not very competent in fighting intellectual piracy. But one cannot run away from the fact that maximum protection has to be afforded to these rights. Muhyiddin Yassin, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister was quoted as saying that his ministry would soon launch another raid to check the illegal use of pirated software by businesses.

Friday August 9, 2002

Malaysia steps up fight against movie piracy

By Barani Krishnan

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Malaysia plans to mete out stiffer penalties for sellers of pirated entertainment compact discs, including possibly restricting movements of repeat offenders, officials said on Friday
The Southeast Asian country has one of the world's hottest piracy markets, costing the U.S. movie, music, software and publishing industries combined losses of almost $1 million a day, according to a U.S. industry group.
In a sweep up and down the country last year, officials seized more than 2,000 street vendors of illegal CDs, VCDs and DVDs.
"There are about 500 of them (pirates) who are back and these are hardcore, repeat offenders," Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told reporters.
"We are going to go on a major campaign with the police," said Muhyiddin, who said authorities were looking to give the police more muscle in the crackdown on piracy.
He gave no details on the plans, but police and ministry officials are set to meet next Tuesday for further discussions.
A senior police official in Kuala Lumpur told Reuters that Restricted Residence, or RR as it is known locally, was among the penalties being considered for intellectual piracy.
RR has been used against gangsters and pimps.
"We plan to use the same kind of action now against VCD pirates now," the police official said.
Offenders are made to report to a police stations on a daily basis in a location where they have limited access or opportunities to ply their illegal business.
Intellectual pirates currently face a fine of up to 10,000 ringgit ($2,632) or five years jail for each illegal copy in their possession.
Muhyiddin also announced at Friday's news conference a campaign against illegal software beginning September 1.
The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) estimates that U.S. trade losses due to piracy in Malaysia rose to $316.5 million last year from $140 million in 2000.
U.S. officials say Malaysia has good piracy laws but was not rigorously enforcing them.
(US$1 = 3.8 ringgit)