'Copyright agent' victims file reports

'Copyright agent' victims file reports

Sting artist 'rides a motorbike taxi'

NAKHON RATCHASIMA: Two women have told police they were extorted by the same "copyright agent" who ordered krathong baskets featuring copyrighted characters from a teenager, only to have her arrested and fined for copyright infringement.

Yesterday, Meena Sapsarp, 25, and Pitchaya Kaesungnoen, 19 filed complaints at Muang police station against a man claiming to be a "copyright agent".

Ms Meena told police she was arrested in a sting on Oct 31 for making krathong baskets featuring famous cartoon characters.

She said the man, who claimed to be a representative of a copyright holder, imposed a fine of 70,000 baht. After several rounds of negotiations, her family agreed to pay a 30,000-baht fine -- a sum which they had to borrow from their neighbour.

Similarly, Ms Pitchaya said she was arrested in a sting on July 13 for selling counterfeit Yeti-brand coolers in Sung Noen district. Officers, she said, told her the "agent" demanded she pay a fine of 30,000 baht. However, she managed to negotiate the sum down to 10,000 baht.

Both Ms Meena and Ms Pitchaya told police the "copyright agent" who led police to arrest them was the same man as the person who led police to arrest a 15-year-old girl in Muang district for making krathong floats featuring cartoon characters.

The case, which grabbed headlines yesterday, was further complicated by the fact that TAC Consumer Plc -- the representative of copyright holder San-X -- said the company did not assign anyone to work with the police in any sting operations.

The teenager -- identified only as "Orn" -- was arrested for making krathong baskets featuring cartoon characters and forced to pay a 5,000-baht "fine" for copyright infringement.

Orn, who was making and selling patterned floats for this weekend's Loy Krathong Festival to help pay for her education, said she received an online order from a customer that she make 136 floats featuring cartoon characters -- even though she had never made such a thing before.

When she went to deliver 30 pieces to a local department store last Friday, Orn was arrested by the police, who told her the order was placed by a copyright agent.

At first, the "agent" demanded she pay a 50,000-baht fine, but Orn's grandfather managed to negotiate it down to 5,000 baht.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin has ordered local officials to provide legal assistance for Orn, and commended a TV reporter who helped to identify the "copyright agent" -- who, according to a report aired by Amarin TV, turned out to be a local motorcycle taxi driver.

A reporter for Amarin TV traced the man's tracks back to his supposed home in Nakhon Ratchasima, but the man was not at home when they paid the house a visit.

His neighbours, the report said, only known him as "Nan", and that his wife sells barbecued meatballs in the area.

Wichian Chaisorn, director of the Nakhon Ratchasima justice office, yesterday met Orn and her parents at their house in tambon Nong Khai Nam to provide support for the family.

Orn's father, factory worker Thawatchai Polhaeng, said they were worried about his daughter, who is just a schoolgirl.

"I just don't want those who were behind my daughter's arrest to extort more money from other people," said Mr Thawatchai.

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