Counterfeit goods and internet piracy lower tax revenues and make the region unattractive for investors.
By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 29/08/13
Black market enterprises that sell pirated music and movies harm the region's economy. [AFP]
A task force established by Kosovo's government to stop the sale of counterfeit goods is showing results and joining a trend of regional governments that are aggressively targeting pirated materials.
Authorities confiscated thousands of counterfeit CDs and DVDs in the first week after the government's August 16th announcement that it will have a zero-tolerance policy on piracy.
"In first raids, the Market Inspectorate seized 10,000 copies of CDs of foreign music, movies and computer software … and if proved that they are counterfeit then legal proceedings against the sellers of these products will follow,” Valon Kashtanjeva, the director of the office for copyrights in the Ministry of Culture, told SETimes.
Kashtanjeva said the materials are considered pirated because copyright owners are abroad and no one in Kosovo is authorised to sell the recordings. He said most of the seized materials are movies and English music being sold for 1 euro a piece, far below fair market prices.
The Kosovo police cybercrimes unit, which is part of the task force, is investigating more than 200 internet addresses that are reported by copyright owners that allegedly produce counterfeit material. Most of these links deal with foreign music and movies.
“I hope that very soon we will be able to block those sites," Kashtanjeva said.
Experts have long decried counterfeit goods as harmful to the economy. Balkan nations that improve intellectual property protections will reduce piracy, increase tax revenues and make the region more desirable for foreign investors.
The governments in Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia have departments that monitor intellectual property violations. Serbia, in particular, lost nearly 87 million euros due to pirated software in 2011.
Kosovo police last month arrested Emrush Thaqi, the owner of Emra Com in Pristina, on charges of violating copyright, tax evasion and counterfeit laws.
"Based on police investigations the arrested signed on behalf of a company false contracts with another company and provided copyrights of all products produced by a third company, damaging the latest with about 30 million clicks on YouTube," Kosovo Police spokesman Brahim Sadriu told SETimes.
Authorities said they will next target bookstores that illegally print and distribute schoolbooks in violation of copyright laws.
The head of market inspectorate, Ruzhdi Shehu, said that the task force will also be working at border crossings.
"The Kosovo Customs is part of the task force and it will provide its support to the legal powers in terms of border control of such products, or more precisely against pirated material imported from other countries. In this regard every imported product that lacks appropriate legal documentation will be seized and legal action will be taken against those who are trying to put these products on the domestic market," Shehu told SETimes.
Artan Zeneli, of the Buzuku printing house in Pristina, told SETimes that he supports the effort.
"An alarming issue is the publication of schoolbooks without criteria and against copyright duties," he said.
How do you think counterfeit goods hurt the state economy? Leave a comment below.