Two Pakistani firms in media piracy get Dhaka in trouble


Dhaka : Two Pakistani firms operating from Dhaka have been found to indulge in piracy of CDs and DVDs for markets in India and Europe, leading the US to place Bangladesh on its watch list for copyright violations again.

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With the inclusion of Bangladesh on the list by the United States Trade Representatives (USTR) for violating intellectual property rights (IPR), the US can now ask its entrepreneurs to withdraw their investments from the country or impose a trade embargo, The Daily Star said Sunday.

Apprehensive that this could seriously hurt its exports, the Bangladesh government is moving to lobby with the US.

According to a report titled ‘Special 301’ on the adequacy and effectiveness of intellectual property rights (IPR), published by the Office of the USTR, some disk manufacturing plants indulging in piracy shifted to Bangladesh from Pakistan following a crackdown in the latter country.

The Pakistan-Bangladesh nexus was revealed in a report released in the US on April 30. It disclosed that currently six optical disk plants producing pirated products are operating in Bangladesh and exporting to India and Europe, as well as saturating the local market.

The USTR report suggested that Bangladesh introduce regulations controlling optical disk manufacturing so that licenses can be issued to manufacturers and law enforcers to inspect the plants.

It also suggested that if any manufacturer is found guilty of piracy, the plant should be closed down and the owners prosecuted.

The report said the harm from piracy in Bangladesh “is not only to the US and other countries that have similar businesses, but is also felt keenly by Bangladeshi genuine entrepreneurs”.

It said the Bangladesh government’s response to the problem is inadequate in terms of results from enforcement actions taken.

A high official of the commerce ministry said the country’s name had been first included on the watch list in 2004, but later USTR dropped Bangladesh from the list following the previous government’s negotiation with it.

The National Security Intelligence (NSI) carried out an investigation and found that two companies mainly owned by Pakistani entrepreneurs had set up optical disk plants in the country.

The companies are AKA World Com situated at 189/B Tejgaon, which is owned by a Pakistani citizen Solaiman Azmi, and Sonic Enterprise Bangladesh Ltd at Konabari of Gazipur, owned by another Pakistani citizen Sayed Ashraf Ali.

The NSI investigation found that the first company set up a Taka 20 million ($330,000 approx) plant that can produce 50,000 disks a day.

An unnamed commerce ministry joint secretary was quoted by the newspaper as suggesting that the government should review its decision regarding allowing “any foreign investment especially from Pakistani companies in the sector”.

The official said the ministry decided to initiate lobbying with the US in an attempt to keep Bangladesh off the ‘watch list’ for copyright violations.

This year’s Special 301 report places 43 countries on Priority Watch List (PWL), Watch List (WL), or Section 306 monitoring list.