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Enforce the law
It is high time the police enforce the law.
This was the message from Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Stuart Young, who called on law enforcement to do a better job in tackling piracy and intellectual property breaches.
Young made the comments during the opening ceremony of a “Train the Trainer” workshop for members of the Customs and Excise Division, Police Service and other law enforcement officers held at Customs House, Government Campus Plaza, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
The training is being conducted in partnership with the United States.
With Carnival in full swing, Young said the problem was not a lack of laws but rather the lack of enforcement, adding that far too often the soca singers were the ones who suffered tremendous financial loss.
“It is high time that T&T law enforcement agencies enforce the laws on the books...piracy in particular affects very directly our soca artistes. I would call on law enforcement to do their job,” Young said.
But he also called on citizens to refrain from purchasing pirated material, saying that everyone had a part to play in the fight against this scourge.
Even photocopying material, against the author’s permission, he added, was also a troubling issue.
On whether he was satisfied the police were doing their part to tackle piracy Young called on them to focus more on this and recommended that a special unit could be implemented to deal with piracy and the loss of intellectual property.
“The police have a lot of things to be doing. There are a lot of issues where there has been a breakdown in enforcement and we are calling upon them to focus upon this as well as other things....maybe a special unit to do its work,” Young said as he urged for a zero tolerance approach.
He said while resources may be stretched on the part of the police he however, said it had the full support of the Government.
While counterfeiting and breaching of intellectual property was a global phenomena Young said the losses to the local music industry were estimated to be in the millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars.
Saying that piracy was often linked to other forms of organised crime Young who used the example of the sale of illegal fireworks said the police must go after those who could afford to purchase such items.
“We need to recommit to the enforcement of law. It is too easy for the public to continuously blame the government for everything that is failing in society.
“We have a lot of outcry about the sale of illegal fireworks but if I were in charge I would position myself on Old Year’s Night at the stroke of midnight in some very affluent societies in T&T and as those millionaires lit the fireworks I would have them before the courts the next day. Do not be afraid of any level of persons in society,” Young urged.
The workshop addressed areas such as the importance and enforcement of copyright and trademark rights and the role of customs in intellectual property enforcement.
INCREASING COUNTERFEIT GOODS
Michael Blackman, acting Deputy Comptroller Customs, who also spoke, said while the workshop was a welcomed initiative, Customs officers were, however, sometimes at a disadvantaged due to the law or lack of it.
“We have been challenged over the last couple of years with an increasing trade in counterfeit goods. It has always been a gray area about not being sure where our power lies in terms of how we deal with it from an enforcement perspective,” Blackman said.
He said while the training would provide a lot more clarity he said counterfeit goods had become a “very booming industry” as there has been a movement of such goods via this country’s borders.
“We have felt in some ways very powerless in the absence of proper legislation and clear directives. In a lot of instances when we have people from other jurisdictions who share their experiences sometimes we are stymied by the fact that our legislation speaks differently to how we deal with the offenders and what you can do.
“The strength in what we do in enforcement is really grounded in law. Many times we have perpetrators and we cannot convict or cannot bring them to justice because there are challenges in terms of the law,” Blackman added.
But in response Young said he was satisfied that there were enough laws of the books to deal with this matter, adding that the issue was one of enforcement which must be done more forcefully.
He added in T&T it was primarily pharmaceutical patents being infringed.
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