By Bilel Sfaxi | Mar 28 2014intellectual property rights , mainpfeatured , Ministry of Culture
The Ministry of Culture has launched a new campaign to protect intellectual property rights, which are routinely ignored in Tunisia.
On Monday, the ministry declared 2014 the year of intellectual property, releasing a video promoting the rights of Tunisian authors, actors, painters, musicians, and others working in creative fields.
The illegal duplication and distribution of creative works is cited as a major problem by artists in Tunisia.
Film producer Imed Mazouk told Tunisia Live that illegally copied films hurt his business, citing the well-known 2006 film VHS Kahloucha, produced by his company, Imed Propaganda.
“VHS Kahloucha was sold on DVDs at the same time it was released in theaters,” he said. The company took legal action, but to no avail.
“We complained, but in the end we didn’t gain anything,” Marouk said.
The Ministry of Culture’s campaign aims to ensure that creative producers are properly compensated in accordance with the country’s intellectual property law.
The law provides for 50-year copyright protections and sanctions for those who make unauthorized copies of audio works, films, or computer software.
“Any author who made a creative effort has the right to benefit [monetarily] from his effort,” Youssef Ben Brahim, general director of the Tunisian Organization for Protecting the Rights of the Author, told Tunisia Live. His organization is part of the Ministry of Culture.
“This campaign is a part of a plan to sensitize and increase public awareness on the issue of intellectual property and promote cooperation with international organizations,” he said, citing a need to make some changes to existing regulations.
Mohamed Salah Errasa, the president of the League of Free Writers union, believes the Internet has made it harder for authors to profit from their work.
“We entered the digital period and the stealing intellectual property happens everyday online and we do not possess tools to defend our authors’ works,” Errasa told Tunisia Live. “For instance, Olfa Youssef’s writings, including Confessions of a Muslim Woman, are illegally available online.”
While the government makes efforts to combat violations of intellectual property rights, the trespassers are easy to find.
Galerie 7, a shopping center in Tunis downtown, is widely-known to offer copied versions of films and software from around the world.
Vendors there do not seem concerned with the law and they are not short of customers who will buy the newest Hollywood releases for a dinar or software suites for not much more.
Mohamed, a 40-year-old retailer in Galerie 7, dismissed intellectual property laws.
“Galerie 7 sells all the films, except Tunisian films, because Tunisian artists are not worth being sold,” Mohamed told Tunisia Live.