The Copyright Act of 1994 protects literary and artistic works by making it unlawful to reproduce or publish such works without the owner's permission.

Works Subject to Copyright

The Copyright Act defines works that it applies to as literary, dramatic, artistic and musical work, audio-visual material, cinematic film, and any other works in the fields of literature, science or fine arts and computer software.

The New Copyright Act specifically provides for the protection of computer software and no binding court decision has been drawn on this issue.

The "copyright" as defined by the Act means "the exclusive right to take any action concerning the work made by the creator." A copyright belongs to the creator of a work, subject to the following conditions:

1. In the event that the work created has not yet been publicised, the creator must be of Thai Nationality or one who has stayed in the Kingdom throughout the period of time when the work was created; or

2. In the event that the work created has already been publicized, and the creator does not fail under the categories described above, the first publication of the work must have occurred in the Kingdom.

In cases where the creator is required to be a person of Thailand Nationality, that person must not be an alien according to the Alien Business Law definition, and must be established under the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand.

Copyright Infringement

The Copyright Act includes a comprehensive list of the types of infringement covered by law.

1. Infringement by reproduction;

2. Infringement by Adaptation;

3. Infringement by Publicising without Permission;

4. Infringement by the letting of the original or the copies of a computer, an audio-visual work, a cinematography work and sound record.

International Copyright

The Copyright Act of 1978 protects works copyrighted under the laws of countries party to the Conventions on Copyright Protection to which Thailand subscribes.

Assignment of Copyrights

The Act provides that a copyright owner is entitled to grant licenses to other persons to exercise rights over the copyrighted works. The Act requires that assignment of copyright by means other than inheritance must be made in writing. In the event of the assignment of copyright, the creator of the copyrighted work retains the right to forbid the assignee to distort, delete from or otherwise change the original work.

Protection Period

A copyright in literature, drama, artistry or music is valid throughout the file time of the creator, and for an additional fifty years after their death. In the event that the creator is a juristic person, the copyright will be valid for a period of fifty years as from the authorship. If the work is published during such period, the copyright continues to submit for fifty years as from the first publication.

Penal Provisions

Persons who commit copyright infringement by means of reproduction without permission from the copyright owner may be fined Baht 10,000 to 100,000. If the copyright infringement was committed for commercial purposes, the offender shall be inflicted with a fine from fifty thousand Baht up to forty hundred thousand Baht or both imprisonment and a fine.

Civil Claims

The copyright owner is entitled to claim compensation from a person who commits copyright infringement under the Act. Legal action must be initiated within a period of three years from the date the copyright owner learned of the infringement. In no case may action be fought after ten years from the date of the infringement.

NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

If you would like further advice please contact: David Ellis, Johnson Stokes & Master, 16th Floor, Princes Building, 10 Chater Road, Hong Kong; Tel 2843 4226; Fax no. : 2845 9121. Alternatively do a text search "Johnson Stokes and Master" and "Business Monitor".