More victims join fight against extortion by 'copyright agents'

More victims join fight against extortion by 'copyright agents'

Lawyer Worakorn Pongthanakul, centre left, hands a request for assistance from vendors who faced
Lawyer Worakorn Pongthanakul, centre left, hands a request for assistance from vendors who faced "compensation" demands from "copyright agents" to Samart Jenchajitwanit, vice minister of justice, at the ministry in Bangkok on Friday. (Photo supplied)

About 90 people who were earlier fined for violating copyrights for Japanese cartoon characters on Friday sought the Justice Ministry's help to counter-sue the "copyright agents".

Lawyer Worakorn Pongthanakul took 10 of them to submit the requests to Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin through Samart Jenchajitwanit, vice minister of justice.

Mr Worakorn said the 90 were among about 300 people in greater Bangkok who had faced demands for payment from people claiming to be agents of Japanese cartoon copyright holders.

"Many of them were arrested in sting operations and were detained and pressured to pay 30,000 to 100,000 baht each. Some of them were ordered to deliver genuine products without packaging and others sold second-hand products featuring Japanese cartoon characters," Mr Worakorn said.

They decided to take action after news reports about the alleged extortion of 15-year-old schoolgirl "Orn"  in Nakhon Ratchasima province by a man and a woman, who later claimed to be copyright agents, who placed orders with her online for krathong floats featuring rights-protected cartoon characters.

"When they learned that legal loopholes had been abused in this case they got together to file legal complaints, because they had faced similar action and the people behind it may be connected," Mr Worakorn said.

Mr Samart, vice minister of justice, said he would forward the matter to the justice minister right away. The ministry had a fund to support people's legal action.

Two of the complainants who arrived with the lawyer said "copyright agents" had demanded 50,000 baht from each of them, but the sum was later negotiated down to 10,000-15,000 baht.

The 15-year-old girl in Nakhon Ratchasima was also fined 50,000 baht, but her relatives later managed to have it reduced to 5,000 baht.

Mr Samart said on Friday that Justice Minister Somsak had ordered provincial justice officials to protect the girl and her family, who had received threats after exposing her case.

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta said on Friday that 15-year-old Orn's krathong did not violate any copyright. The copyright agency responsible had confirmed cartoon characters on her  floats did not resemble rights-protected characters.

Even if they had looked alike, the girl would have received two warnings before facing legal action, Pol Gen Wirachai said.


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