Businessmen claim police coercion

Businessmen claim police coercion

More than a dozen business owners in Chiang Rai say they were forced by police to pay fines of up to 75,000 baht earlier this month for bogus copyright infringement complaints.

A group of men claiming to represent a “big music copyright company”, accompanied by a purported police officer, entered more than a dozen venues along Jed Yod Road between March 12 and 16.

“They forced the owners and/or staff to go to the police station, where an officer threatened us with imprisonment and a 100,000 baht ‘get-out-of-jail’ fee unless we paid various amounts of money for a ‘licence’ to play YouTube music,” said Ewen Gracie, whose wife owns a bar on Jed Yod Road.

“Some owners paid 25,000 baht to get their employee released, others 35,000, and one bar paid 75,000 baht.”

The group of men claimed to represent Inter Music Copyright Co (IMC), which they said has the authority to issue licences for venues to play copyrighted music.

IMC does not appear on the list of companies sanctioned by the Department of Intellectual Property to handle copy-right complaints.

Mr Gracie said the men came to his wife’s bar at 10pm on March 13 and took a staff member away to the local police station.

“The police initially asked for 50,000 baht, but eventually settled for 35,000 and told [my wife] not to tell anyone,” he said.

Pol Col Pumpanya Nawatrakulpisuth, a superintendent at Muang district police station, said his officers have a policy of non-cooperation with fake copyright companies.

He acknowledged that reports of similar scams have been common in Chiang Rai, but said he was unaware of the events that occurred three weeks ago.

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