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IP Rights and Copyright Piracy in Bangladesh: Need a Fresh Look

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In today’s world, intellectual property is linked up to nearly everything we do. We are enjoying fruits of human creativity and invention. Literary, artistic or dramatic works are the creation of authors, artists or playwrights. In order to enjoy exclusive rights on creative works, the creators must be provided copyright protection under a specific statute. However, extensive infringement of intellectual property rights (IPRs) has discouraged creativity and worked as a drag on artistic works of their economic values and protection of originality.History shows that creativity and artistic works have been major sources of economic and cultural growth in this part of the world. The creative talents of Lalon Fakir, Hasan Raza, Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam have always en-kindled rays of hope in this poverty-stricken land.

Piracy is considered to be illegitimate use of materials held under copyright. The unauthorized copying or reproduction of copyright materials for commercial purposes is treated as copyright piracy.Copyright piracy has emerged as a great problem in Bangladesh. Here its rate is the highest among other countries. The Copyright Act, 2000 and The Copyright Rules, 2006 are the main legal instruments for copyright protection in Bangladesh.

However, laws alone are not enough to guarantee the rights of author/creator. Its strict enforcement is needed. Even late great novelist Humayun Ahmed did not sign any concrete agreements with publishers to ensure the copyright of his books. Therefore, there is a general lack of confidence, awareness and professional support for creators and authors, which is being exploited by those engaged in piracy.

The dark shadow of piracy has not only affected the authors but the publishers as well; they too are taking a huge hit in terms of finance and goodwill. Moreover, the industry itself has failed to play a potent role in addressing the issue of piracy because a negligible response is received when personalities from the creative industry are asked to participate in this cause.

The creative industry has been unable to establish a Collective Management Organisation (CMO) which would further protect the interests of creators in protecting their rights. Thus, people involved in piracy are taking the advantage of this lack of co-ordination in our creative industry and are continuing to sell counterfeit products.

One of the major hurdles in stopping piracy is the lack of awareness among the creators as well as members of the general public. Most creators don’t have a comprehensive idea about their rights and their innocence regarding this issue is exploited by the corrupt people who are engaged in piracy.

There are some barriers regarding protection against piracy. The technological efforts in Bangladesh are negligible. This is a hurdle in implementation of strong Intellectual Property Rights. Moreover, the intellectual property laws in Bangladesh are in a very premature form and few in number. Their implementation tools don’t seem to stand at a satisfactory level. Moreover, the owner of the copyright cannot get civil, criminal as well as administrative remedies for infringements of his rights easily.

For example, the songs that are played in shopping malls without any prior permission of the creators are also an act of copyright violation of which the creator doesn’t have proper knowledge. There is also a lack of understanding among the common people regarding copyrights. Very few people understand that purchase of the pirated materials from footpaths and other stores is an act of crime, and a punishable offense. The general perception among people about pirated materials is that these materials are cheap and are sold in front of law enforcement agencies openly. Thus it is not a crime and considered a norm.

Also, the legal framework doesn’t provide adequate support to innovators. Therefore, what is required is a collective effort to trigger a paradigm shift both in terms of perception and practice of copyright.

In the light of above discussions following recommendations are proposed:

  1. Inspecting all optical disc plants, seizing pirated discs and materials, prosecuting owners of pirate plants,
  2. Establishing copyright courts,
  3. Mechanisms must be developed to ensure speedy and cheaper resolution of disputes and litigation on piracy issues,
  4. Introducing basic concept of copyright to the undergraduate courses in universities,
  5. Creating trained, skilled and experienced persons relating to copyright issues and
  6. Building awareness through seminars, symposiums and national workshops among the all classes and educated people of the country.

It can be said that strict enforcement of copyrights will help develop the country’s unique cultural activities. Proper implementation of copyright laws, incorporating cyber laws in those laws and increasing respect for copyright will bring cultural and economic development to the country making us a civilised nation. However, if we do not take strong steps at this moment, our country will gradually and completely fall victim to piracy, resulting in the death of creative pursuits and entrepreneurship.

Md Nayem Alimul Hyder

The author is currently doing Ph.D from Commonwealth Open University, UK. He has completed LL.B. (Hons) from University of London, UK and LL.M. from Liverpool John Moores University, UK. He also completed M.S.S from the University of Dhaka. He is an Assistant Professor & Research Associate, CEDS University College-Centre for Executive Development Studies, Bangladesh, Ex Faculty Member World University of Bangladesh, and Member of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB). The author can be reached at E-mail: lawmnahyder@yahoo.com

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