Monday, April 28, 2008

Thailand on U.S. Priority Watch List

Thailand was one of nine countries on the U.S. priority watch lit for its failure to protect the intellectual property rights of U.S. companies. Countries such as China, Russia and India also made the list.

Thais are a bit upset at being included on the list. Part of the reason for the inclusion is the Thai government's compulsory license of pharmaceutical drugs. While Thailand's desire to ensure that modern medical treatments are available to its rather poor population, that is only part of the story.

Software and movie piracy is rampant in Thailand. A Bangkok Post article quoted a government offical as stating that "[o]ver the past year, 7,000 intellectual property violators faced legal action, and 6.7 million fake products were destroyed in a show (emphasis added) of Thailand's sincerity in tackling the problem.

The problem is that this "show" of sincerity is just that, a show. I know of at least 3 or 4 malls where I could buy pirated software and movies if I was so inclined. I'm not talking about some dark alley where I have to utter a password to gain admittance. I mean malls that have dozens of vendors of pirated wares. This doesn't even account for the place that sell tee shirts, watches and other goods that violate a countries intellectual property rights. And if I and any tourist who enters the country know where to find these places, then the Thai authorities certainly do. They exist with the implicit blessing of the Thai government.

Do I want the Thai government to eagerly crack down on these violators? Actually, I really don't care. Just don't cry about being included on a priority watch list. In Thailand, perhaps a "show" of cracking down will save face and allow everyone to pretend that everything is okay. While this "fig leaf" might suffice in Thailand, it won't in the U.S.

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