Chhimi Dema

Indifference to intellectual property (IP) rights and complexity of IP remain challenges in the creative industry.

Recently, Samuh Mediatech, an over-the-top platform (OTTP), lodged complaints against two individuals for copyright infringement. This totals three copyright infringement cases since its start in June this year.

Samuh’s chief executive officer (CEO), Nyema Zam, said that the incidents were reported to the police.

In the piracy case from July, Nyema Zam said the violator claimed that he had gotten the video from someone else. “We want to get to the source of who shared the video.”

In the recent case, Nyema Zam said that the individual was questioned, and it was found that the man had received the content from a monk. “The police are trying to find out where he [the monk] got the video.”

But in Bhutan, limited advocacy on intellectual property rights makes it challenging for them, she added.

The Department of Intellectual Property defines IP as creations of the mind into tangible assets such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images in commerce.

Four types of IP can be protected in the country: patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and copyright.

Nyema Zam said that some students in schools and universities were sharing their copyrighted content.

“Through the National Film Commission and the Royal University of Bhutan, we are going to write to these institutions letting them know about the violation and its repercussion,” she said. “This is done before we start looking for the violators in these institutions.”

Nyema Zam said that Samuh has no tolerance against violators and reports each case to the police and works with the stakeholders to advocate IP concepts and repercussions in the economic growth of the creative sector.

“The Bhutanese market is small. Violating copyrights makes it difficult for us to sustain our business,” she said.

The Copyright Act of Kingdom of Bhutan 2001 protects the rights of literary and artistic works that include writings, oral works, stage productions, and audiovisual works, among others.

The Act states that the infringer shall be liable for damages for the prejudices suffered and expenses caused by infringement, including legal costs.

“Any infringement of a right protected under this Act, if committed wilfully, or by gross negligence, and for profit-making purposes, shall be punishable by imprisonment for a period of up to one year, or by a fine of up to Nu 1,000,000, or by both,” states the Act.

Sonam Ugyen, the CEO of Songyala, an OTTP, said that emerging piracy issues in the field of OTTP is worrying.

“Efforts to create awareness on IP rights should intensify because some people do not know the implication of violating IP rights,” he said.

It is not only the OTT platforms, he said, that are affected by limited awareness of IP rights. The e-commerce market is also at stake. “It is now the time that we require cyber specialists in the country equipped to face these challenges.”

The issues are not limited to films and shows; it is challenging to ensure IP rights for music as well.

M-Studio’s creative director, Choeying Jatsho, said that there were many incidents of films, reality shows, and karaoke bars using their music without consent.

“In such cases, we call the individual or company and tell them to ask for permission before they use our work,” he said.

In an ideal situation, with a public informed about IP, he said that a creative person would be encouraged to be creative and earn royalties. “But this is not happening today, which discourages creativity.”

Choeying Jatsho said that young artists he works with are now aware of IP rights.

Department of IP

An official from the Department of Intellectual Property under the Ministry of Economic Affairs said that the department is not an adjudicating body to decide on copyright cases, so most copyright owners must approach the law enforcement agencies or courts directly.

In some cases, the official said, the department receives complaints from the copyright owners for advice and assistance.

“In such cases, the department provides advisory services and facilitates coordination to ensure that the copyright owner is in contact with the right agencies,” the official said.

The complex nature of IP makes it difficult for most people to understand it. An informal creative sector as well as an indifference to IP rights by the public and relevant stakeholders remain challenging, said the official.

“The department continues its efforts to build respect for IP rights by strategising its awareness and sensitisation programmes to the general public and relevant stakeholders,” he said.