COPYRIGHT TASK FORCE PROPOSAL TO DEAL WITH PIRACY IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

By Oala Moi – Monday 9 January 2012 – Port Moresby:

Businesses and individuals in Papua New Guinea that engage in and profit from the piracy of artistic and cultural material will be pursued by the Copyright Task Force comprising a strike team of domestic law enforcement agencies if a current proposal is approved by the Government of Papua New Guinea.

The idea continues to gather momentum. Last November in Port Moresby at the Lamana Hotel, the Director General of Office of Tourism, Arts & Culture (OTAC) hosted a meeting to discuss a draft Terms of Reference (TOR) paper outlining the Copyright Task Force concept. The meeting was attended by representatives from PNG Customs, PNG Censorship Board, Intellectual Office Papua New Guinea (IPOPNG), Department of Prime Minister & NEC (DPM&NEC), Institute of PNG Studies (IPNGS), Chin H Meen (CHM) and copyright owners.

Chair of the stakeholder consultation and OTAC Director General Marianna Ellingson described the gathering as a first for copyright enforcement and implementation in Papua New Guinea and a chance to bolster the country’s copyright law which was in dire need of ‘teeth’.

The Copyright Task Force concept can be seen as an aggressive response to piracy, which threatens to consume the artistic and cultural fabric of this country and negatively impact on our cultural industries. The damage has been economic, psychological and emotional as creators see their work being exploited by others with no benefit going back to them. It has become a worry for the National Government which must act against an illegal activity that impinges on the private property rights of its citizens and the sacred and secret cultural properties of its peoples.

Contemporary arts and culture has not been spared. Already the biggest record company in Papua New Guinea’s record industry, Chin H Meen (CHM) has reported a dramatic loss in music sales between 2009 and 2011 and this has forced it to lay off staff at its cassette factory. At the November meeting, Managing Director Mr. Raymond Chin voiced a personal plea to the National Government to take ownership of the piracy problem or risk joining everyone else to witness the death of the local record industry and contemporary arts and culture. However, CHM’s economic losses might pale in comparison to instances of unmonitored and unreported instances of piracy on artistic and cultural properties. Some have left our shores under questionable circumstances over the years. There may also be instances of unauthorized exploitation that have taken place in other countries. This needs to be investigated.

In another sense, the Copyright Task Force concept is premature. Perhaps the first thing that the government needs to do is to commission a study into the nature and effects of piracy in PNG. Based on study findings, strategies need to be developed; and the Copyright Task Force concept could be one such strategy.

Another strategy could be based around problems faced by the PNG police in the aftermath of a successful raid and arrest. At present, police cannot charge and prosecute common perpetrators of piracy for many reasons. One reason could be that offences under the current copyright law do not expressly provide for a wide range of offences that the scheme of piracy activities offer. Perhaps policymakers should push for the drafting of legislation to categorize copyright offences into either summary or indictable offences so that individuals or businesses that are picked up in a typical police raid can be fined or charged on the spot and prosecuted at the District Court or the National Court in due course and according to the severity of the offence.

The point is that once legislation outlines what is criminal about piracy and attaches specific criminal penalties, then the job of the Copyright Task Force will be easy. But to put together the team and not provide the specific offences is like training a police force and sending them off without an inkling on what specific offences with which to base an arrest on.

Meanwhile, the Lamana Hotel stakeholder consultation failed to finalize the TOR and OTAC will reconvene a meeting next month to try and complete it.

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5 thoughts on “COPYRIGHT TASK FORCE PROPOSAL TO DEAL WITH PIRACY IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

  1. Hi Manu,

    You’ve/Oala captured this well. The Taskforce idea is just one approach but there are many approaches. We need to start somewhere. Musicians have already started fighting back for what is there intellectual property and alot more needs to be done. We’ll let you know more after next month’s meeting when we have a finalised TOR and areas of responsibility allocated to various organizations in enforcing the Copyright Law.

    Best,
    Mari

  2. Thanks Mari.

    In the developed world where communications costs are cheaper, Apple made a killing by becoming the one stop shop for music.

    Although it was a brilliant move on behalf of Steve Jobs, it wasn’t so great for the recording studios and artists. So now anyone that sells music on iTunes is stuck with the 99 cents price.

    But what we were seeing here was the case of Apple being able to perfect a distribution model for music, through its site, software and devices. This was something that the studios never thought about because the were spending most of their time trying to sue people for ‘boom box piracy’ etc.

    The moral of the story is that, studios need to be able to come together to develop their own distribution models for music. It has been proven time and time again overseas that if you can find a model that is easy to use and if the price is right, people would rather pay than go through the hassle of ripping and downloading pirated music.

    This is obviously not going to be easy on the studios side as most will have issues with the costs of technology. But as Internet access gets cheaper and more people get on mobile phones the cost barriers in PNG will begin to drop.

    But whatever move the industry takes, it must start from the artists and their studios and not from companies like apple because it is you the artist and you the studios that know how much it costs to put your art out there in the public.

    1. If consumers were offered a reward to report vendors for selling pirated material, this coupled with easy access to legal material and stiff penalties for violators would have a dramatic affect across PNG. I personally have had to pay fees to the Censorship Board for legal material Imported from the US (K20.00 per DVD) when illegally copied material is freely available on the streets for K10 or less!) Very frustrating!

      1. I think that more effort should be put into getting the distribution model right as opposed to increasing the ways to catch offenders.

        The former is more sustainable in the long run.

  3. There is a bit of hypocrisy here, CHM had no issues selling pirated cassettes and reaped a fortune back when it was more profitable for it to do that. Now it is waxing all righteous about the evils of piracy! Give me a break.

    In any case the winner in this sort of “war on piracy” are the companies not the performing artists, who get a pittance from the sale of their music.

    A better model, and I believe you alluded to it Emmanuel, is looking at alternative forms of distribution of recorded music . This is where the Telcos can step in and plug the leak in their profits. They could distribute music downloads for a fee, Digicel is expert at this – charging customers for stuff and making a pretty penny, now if BeMobile or Citifone could come into the 21st century and see this as a viable way of making a profit while assisting our artists.

    Record companies, such as CHM, could then be paid a one-off production fee for the use of their facilities and expertise to produce music. The income streams going forward would then be split between the Telco and the recording artists.

    This makes sense becomes the recording company (CHM etc…) provide the service once and should be paid once for that service. The ongoing streams of income should belong to the artist and a smaller percentage to the Telco for providing the medium.

    Seems like a more logical arrangement to me.

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