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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Intellectual property rights in Bangladesh

Update : 28 Apr 2013, 05:58 PM

Bangladesh is rapidly taking steps towards establishing itself as a mid-income country. Socio-economic indicators demonstrate that Bangladesh is a strong emerging economy and a culturally enriched nation. This emergence has been gradually recognised worldwide and the international media has reported that Bangladesh may surpass western countries by 2050.

These rapid developments have been fueled by the relentless entrepreneurship of locals, government policies, increased availability of technology, creativity and artistic works. History shows us that creativity and artistic works have been major sources of economic and cultural growth in this part of the world. The creative talent from Rabindranath Tagore to Kazi Nazrul Islam, from Lalon Fakhir to Hasan Raza have always been a ray of hope in this poverty stricken land.

However, extensive infringement of intellectual property rights (IPR) have discouraged creativity and deprived artistic works of their economic value and protection of originality. Although signs of improvement are evident in various aspects of our economy, our creative and cultural industry is still at a nascent stage. The balance of power is still tilted in favor of publishers and phonogram producers.

There are not enough precedents in our industry guaranteeing the rights of the author/creator. Even the late great novelist Humayun Ahmed had not signed any concrete agreements with publishers to ensure the copyright of his books. Therefore, there is a general lack of confidence, awareness and professional support for creators and authors, which is being exploited by those engaged in piracy.

The ominous dark shadow of piracy has not only affected the authors but the publishers as well; they too are taking a huge hit in terms of finance and goodwill. Moreover, the industry itself has failed to play a potent role in addressing the issue of piracy because a negligible response is received when personalities from the creative industry are asked to participate for this cause. The lack of response is also evident in that the creative industry has been unable to establish a Collective Management Organization (CMO) which would further the interest of creators in protecting their rights.

Thus, people involved in piracy are taking the advantage of this lack of co-ordination in our creative industry and are continuing to sell counterfeit products.

One of the major hurdles with regard to stopping piracy is the lack of awareness among the creators as well as the general public. Most creators don’t have a comprehensive idea about their rights and their innocence regarding this issue is exploited by the corrupt people who are engaged in piracy.

For example the songs that are played in shopping malls without the prior permission of the creator is also an act of copyright violation, of which the creator doesn’t have proper knowledge. There is also a lack of understanding among the common people regarding copyrights. Very few people understand that the pirated material they purchase from footpaths and other stores is an act of crime, and a punishable offense. The general perceptions among people about pirated materials are that these materials are cheap and are sold in front of law enforcement agencies openly; thus it is not a crime and considered a norm. Also, the legal framework of the nation doesn’t provide adequate support to innovators. Therefore, what is required is a collective effort to trigger a paradigm shift both in terms of perception and practice.

If we do not take a stern step at this moment then our country will gradually, and completely fall victim to piracy, resulting in the death of creative pursuits and entrepreneurship!

Md Azizur Rahman is Secretary General, Intellectual Property Association of Bangladesh.  

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