G-Series, an audio-visual production company, was fined Tk1 lakh in 2019 for releasing the film "Nijhum Oronye" on YouTube without the permission of the producer. This was the first incident of fine in the history of Bangladesh's copyright office.
That same year, playwright F Zaman Tapas made a complaint against a company named Factor Three Solution for telecasting and selling one of his plays without permission. The company was fined Tk2 lakh under the Copyright Act.
Since these two cases, the number of people visiting the Bangladesh Copyright Office for resolving issues of intellectual property rights has increased. The number of copyright registration has also increased.
In 2017, the number of copyright registrations was only 570. In the span of just three years, it has increased to 3,621 in 2020.
Even though the number is still very small compared to other countries, it is slowly increasing.
According to people concerned, those involved in creative work are not yet well aware of copyright. For this reason, there is not much interest among them in preserving the intellectual property rights of their own works.
Jafar Raja Chowdhury, registrar at the Copyright Office, said the issue of intellectual property rights is being taken very seriously now. "People's confidence in our work is growing. They think they will get justice in the Copyright Office," he said.
In 1974, the first copyright law was introduced in the country. Since then, revolutionary changes have taken place in the realm of science and technology which have expanded the scope of creative work under copyright.
Considering these changes, in 2000, a new copyright law was enacted in the country. In 2005, some amendments were made to this law.
The Bangladesh Copyright Office provides services for copyright registration, assistance in resolving appeals, anti-piracy task force operations etc. It also serves as a focal point of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
The office registers the copyright of various creative works, including literature, drama, music, records, fine arts, films, radio and television broadcasting, computer software etc.
Registration is highest in films, lowest in software
According to the Copyright Office, copyright laws are mostly violated in film, photography and music.
Most copyright registrations are being done for films. According to the copyright laws, the category of film includes full-length and short films, animated films, documentaries, dramas, music videos, movie songs, commercials, etc.
In 2018, the number of copyright registrations for films was 342. In 2019, it increased to 1,310. Last year, 1,526 films were copyrighted.
Eminent film director Morshedul Islam told The Business Standard, "Domestic and foreign digital platforms of entertainment have become popular. Many people earn a handsome amount of money from there. There is also a risk for the contents to be misused on digital platforms. Due to this the number of copyright registrations is increasing."
There were 189 copyright registrations in music in 2018. The following year it dropped to 100. Last year a total of 213 songs were copyrighted.
According to people concerned, the number of copyright registration in music is low due to a lack of awareness. Various digital platforms, including YouTube, are flooded with songs without the permission of the lyricists, composers and singers.
Lyricist Latiful Islam Shibli expressed his frustration over copyright violations. "I do not want to talk about copyright. What good is a law if it does not work?" he said.
Five years ago, the Copyright Office formed a task force to stop piracy, but so far, they have not conducted any operation. Copyright Inspector Atiquzzaman said, "We cannot conduct any operation without a written complaint. No one has complained to us in the past five years."
The situation of copyright registration in computer software, apps, websites and information technology category is very grim. In 2018, there were 94 copyright registrations in this category. In 2019, there were 155 copyrights, and in 2020, the number decreased to 120.
AKM Fahim Mashroor, former president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), said, "90% of the software developed by the country's IT professionals so far has not been copyrighted. Software developers do not take legal issues seriously."
There is also little interest in copyright registration for radio and television broadcasting and fine arts. In these categories, the number of registrations is very few.
Copyright registration in literature increasing
Data from the Copyright Office shows that the number of copyright registrations in literature is relatively high. In 2018, there were 532 registrations in literature, the following year 611. And last year it increased to 700.
Farid Ahmed, owner of Somoy Publishing, told The Business Standard that a large portion of creative people are not aware of copyright.
"There are also very few writers in the country who have a large readership. As a result, piracy of books is not very common. Only when authors are in danger do they understand the importance of copyright registration," he said.
Novelist Selina Hossain thinks the number of copyright registrations in literature is not satisfactory. "Writers should be more aware of this. Publishers, young and old, should pay equal attention to the copyright of books by all types of authors," she said.