Sat, Jul 12, 2003 - Page 1 News List

IPR chief dismisses concerns of recording industry

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's top defender of intellectual property rights (IPR) yesterday shrugged off criticism from the music industry that the country is one of the world's 10 worst counterfeiting nations, saying the situation will turn around this year.

"The figures are from last year," said Intellectual Property Office Director-General Tsai Lien-sheng (蔡練生).

"With recent changes to the Copyright Law (著作法), our law enforcement agencies have more power to make arrests than before," Tsai said. "In the first six months of this year we have raided 497 suspected counterfeiting factories. That's much more than the 297 we raided in the whole of last year."

The Legislative Yuan passed the new Copyright Law (著作法) at the beginning of last month.

The country has 53 compact disc manufacturers, pumping out 4.4 billion blank discs annually, which the industry says fuel piracy.

"Taiwan's compact disc factories export blank discs all over the world, especially to the US and South America," said Robin Lee (李瑞斌), secretary general of International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in Taiwan.

"Taiwan is the third-largest music market in Asia and should have a better track record, but despite all the raids, legal sales are not going up," Lee said.

In a report issued on Wednesday, the IFPI's London office listed Taiwan among the top 10 offending countries for music CD rip-offs, along with Brazil, China, Mexico, Paraguay, Poland, Russia, Spain, Thailand and Ukraine.

Since 1997, the nation's music industry has seen its income drop by two thirds. Last year, 16.6 million legal CDs were sold, compared with 41.5 million in 1997, IFPI figures show. Almost one in every two music discs bought in the country is a fake.

"The regulation of copyright and optical disc factories in Taiwan is insufficient, and punishments are too light," IFPI Taiwan said in a faxed statement yesterday.

Tsai countered the IFPI's claims, saying sales were down last year because the economy was bad. He added that, in addition to giving the police greater powers to initiate raids, rewards for informants and for police officers involved in anti-piracy cases had been increased, a 220-strong IPR task force had been set up and more arrests were being made.

"If the IFPI was quoting this year's figures, the picture would be very different," he said. "Besides, blank compact discs and music piracy are two separate issues."

Instead of pointing the finger at the government, one IPR expert said, the music industry needs to start paying attention to its customers.

"This is a wake-up call for the music industry to start selling music in the format that people want," said John Eastwood, a lawyer at Winkler Partners (博仲法律事務所) and co-chairman of the Intellectual Property Committee of the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei.

Consumers are tired of paying NT$400 to NT$600 for one good song on a 12-track disc, he said.

"When you're making a group of normally law-abiding citizens willing to break the law, then there's something wrong with your approach," Eastwood said, adding legal changes need a chance to work.

"Let's not belabor last year's bad statistics. ... If in a year's time things haven't improved, let's talk again about giving Taiwan demerits," he said.

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