Thai Copyright Law: Fact or Fiction?
When people think about copyright, most people do not think of Thailand. With illegal DVDs, fake luxury purses, and counterfeit male enhancement pills lining the streets of Bangkok, it is easy to understand why there is a misunderstanding as to copyright law in Thai. But there is a copyright law in Thailand with selective enforcement.
In general, copyright protection continues for the life of the author plus 50 years. Copyright begins at the time of creation but Thailand allows the registration of copyrights. This helps to determine the rightful owner of a property in case of disputes. Some items are not copyrightable. The news of the day, government regulations or legislations, judicial decisions, and translations of the previous items cannot copyrighted.
Under the Thai Copyright Act of 1994, reproduction or communication to the public of copyright material is deemed to have violated the copyright act. Any person who knows or should have known of a copyright property and sells, communicates to the public, distributes, or imports such goods into Thailand is deemed to have violated Thai copyright.
A person is not deemed to be infringing on a copyright if the act is not in conflict with a normal exploitation of the copyright work and is not unreasonably prejudicing the legitimate interests of the copyright owner. There are exemptions to the copyright law. The following are legislatively not deemed infringement of copyright.
- Research or work study for a non-profit purpose
- Use for personal benefit or for the benefit of family members
- Commenting, criticism, or introduction of the work with acknowledgement of the true owner of the copyright of the work
- News reporting through mass media with acknowledgement of owner of copyright
- Reproduction for judicial or administrative proceedings
- Reproduction for teaching at a non-profit institution
- Use of work as part of a question and answer in an examination
The penalty for infringing on copyright is 20 to 200 thousand baht if the copyright occurred for non-commercial purposes. The penalty increases to imprisonment for a term of six months to four years and fine of up to 800 thousand baht if the infringement was done for commercial purposes. If the copyright owner has filed a civil lawsuit, the copyright owner has a right to half of the assessed fine.
The problem is that copyright protection is not effective in Thailand. There have been massive raids for media consumption but selling of counterfeit items would take a huge and consistent effort in Thailand. The sale of counterfeit goods is a massive illegal industry in Thailand. Criminal prosecution is also difficult in Thailand because vendors pay local police to turn their eye. In addition, filing civil lawsuits against individual street vendors is economically inefficient because the number of street vendors are numerous and not deep pocketed.
Copyright law is better suited for business where local competitors are attempting to steal their ideas, logos, or materials. A civil lawsuit would be able to shut down the infringing competition to reduce the harm on the copyright owner.
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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.