Wed, Mar 20, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Jacky Wu wants cops on IPR beat

RECORDING INDUSTRY The popular entertainer told the Legislative Yuan that if IPR laws are not improved by June he will quit making new music

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

Jacky Wu (吳宗憲), one of Taiwan's most popular entertainers appeared at the Legislative Yuan yesterday to urge lawmakers to pass laws that would place the burden for enforcing intellectual property infringements on the police and prosecutors.

Wu -- who owns a portion of a record label, hosts his own television show and has starred in numerous Chinese-language movies -- said the recording industry in Taiwan was already suffering badly because of the piracy of intellectual property.

"After years of hard work, Taiwan is now the Chinese-speaking world's most important producer of music, so why hasn't Legislative Yuan given us a means to deal with this problem?" said Wu, who made his first ever appearance at the legislature to speak at a public hearing on IPR protection.

Wu said that the law must be changed to a system whereby the public prosecutor actively initiates investigations and litigation of IP violation cases instead of the recording companies having to pursue the cases in court themselves.

Robin Lee (李瑞斌), secretary-general of Taiwan's International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI, 國際唱片交流協會) agreed, saying that this was essential in offering protection to recording artists in Taiwan.

Lee told local media yesterday that the IFPI would be organizing a street march early next month and invite big local and Hong Kong music stars such as Wu Bai (伍佰), Andy Lao (劉德華) and Ah Mei (阿妹). The march would be to encourage the government and the general public alike to stamp out the sale and distribution of pirated music, Lee said.

Wu said that if the law isn't altered to mandate active investigations into IP cases by the public prosecutor by June -- when this legislative session ends -- he may give up working in the recording business.

Tsai Hao (蔡豪), the lawmaker who sponsored the public hearing, said he had been assured by the related legislative committees that the legislation would be passed during this session.

Jeffrey Harris, co-chairman of the IPR committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, who also delivered a report at the hearing, said that companies simply couldn't afford to pursue through the courts all cases of IP infringement against them.

"If you want to make a raid on a retailer that may have maybe 100 pieces of your counterfeited goods in stock, you can look at legal fees that might cost anywhere from NT$600,000 to NT$1 million on a court case that could go on for two-to-five years," he said.

"Who can afford to pay this much money every time they want to raid someone or litigate every time you want to fight counterfeiting?"

Harris suggested that the police and public prosecutors treat IPR crimes as public criminal cases and handle the suits in court on their own.

"Most companies are fully willing to help identify counterfeiters, counterfeit goods and to provide testimony in court," Harris said.

While a lot of the loudest protests over IPR infringement in Taiwan come from foreign companies, local companies are also being hit hard by piracy.

Michelle Gon, a senior legal consultant with international law firm Baker & McKenzie, told the Taipei Times that IPR infringement is a universal issue.

"This is not just an issue for owners of foreign brands -- it also has an impact on domestic companies that are doing a lot of R&D for the creation or invention of new products and software, and they require protection as well," Gon said.

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