Copyright Infringement in Thailand

In Thailand, copyright infringement is a criminal offense under the Copyright Act of B.E. 2537 (1994) that may be punished with a prison term if the offense was committed for commercial purposes. Therefore, as with all criminal offenses in general, it is important to allege, not only that the accused committed the deed, but also knew it was wrong. In Thai Supreme Court Decision No. 14700/2551, the Public Prosecutor alleged the following facts against Defendant:

  • The victim, Activision Publishing, Inc., was a video game publisher domiciled in the United States throughout the time that the copyrighted work, a Playstation video game, was created. The video game was first advertised in the United States. Furthermore, Thailand and the United States are both parties to international treaties protecting copyrighted works.
  • On July 18, 2007, Defendant violated Victim’s copyright in its literary work, computer program, and audiovisual work by making copies of the video game without Victim’s permission. Defendant unlawfully copied the video game for commercial purposes by offering the copied discs for rent to the public. Defendant was later arrested. A Playstation game disc, a color television, and a Playstation game console used to produce the copied game discs were seized.

The Prosecution demanded that Victim be punished according to various clauses of the Copyright Act. Defendant pleaded guilty. The Court of Intellectual Property and International Trade ultimately sentenced Defendant to a 1 year suspended sentence and 1,000 baht fine. The Prosecution appealed the light sentence. However, the Thai Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the charges against Defendant altogether:

  • The Court noted that Section 31 of the Copyright Act states that “any person who knows or should have known that a work is created by infringing the copyright of another person and [commits certain acts] against the work for profit is deemed to infringe the copyright…”
  • However, the Prosecution alleged in its complaint only that Defendant “violated Victim’s copyright in its literary work, computer program, and audiovisual work by making copies of the video game without Victim’s permission” and that “Defendant unlawfully copied the copyrighted work for commercial purposes by offering the copied discs for rent to the public.”
  • More to the point, the Prosecution failed to allege that Defendant knew or should have known that the copied game discs were created by infringing the copyright of another. Although Defendant pleaded guilty, Section 158(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code requires that Defendant understand the full extent of the charges against him and all acts alleged to have been committed by him. Since this is a law related to public order, the Court had to raise the issue even though it was not raised by Defendant.

Copyright law is complex. If you have been charged with copyright infringement, it is recommended that competent legal counsel be retained.

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Category: Criminal Law, Litigation

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Siam Legal is an international law firm with experienced lawyers, attorneys, and solicitors both in Thailand law and international law. This Thailand law firm offers comprehensive legal services in Thailand to both local and foreign clients for Litigation such as civil & criminal cases, labor disputes, commercial cases, divorce, adoption, extradition, fraud, and drug cases. Other legal expertise of the law firm varied in cases involving corporate law such as company registration & Thailand BOI, family law, property law, and private investigation.