Tue, 19 Aug 2003

Henry, intellectual property champion

K.L Wijaya, Contributor, Jakarta

If you heard the phrase "intellectual property rights", cheap bootleg DVDs, fake designer clothes, and pirated computer software, would usually come to mind.

But, for Henry Soelistyo Budi, intellectual property is the potential engine of economic development in Indonesia. As Secretary General of the Indonesian Intellectual Property Society (IIPS), Henry is passionate about maintaining copyright security because he believes it can further develop the country.

This all started when he was considering taking a masters degree in the early 90s. He was unsure about which area to concentrate on and his supervisor at the time -- Bambang Kesowo, now the State Secretary -- predicted that intellectual property rights would be "booming" within 10 to 15 years. He urged him to continue in that vein of interest.

After completing his Masters in Commercial Law in 1993 at the University of London, Henry became fascinated by the subject in its relevance to so many industries.

"Intellectual property rights have become a commodity and now, the main commodity of the U.S.," said Henry. The marked decline of the military industrial complex at the end of the cold war -- that once provided substantial profits -- resulted in the U.S. turning to other industries for its exports and taxation, he said.

"Software is a national asset in the U.S. They are also the market leaders in literature, film and music," he added. He hopes that Indonesia can reach the same market level but laments the fact that some of its copyright laws are not enforced.

"I have once said that if the government does not take steps to enforce (intellectual property rights), they will also be responsible for the moral decay of Indonesians," said Henry. "Because people will not be able to tell the difference between legal or pirated products."

He has a point. Bootleg products, including DVD movies, fashion products and computer software, have been freely available for years in Indonesian. Many feel it is "OK" to purchase these products, despite the fact that no royalties are paid to trademark owners, no taxes are collected, and some illegal products (like pornography) are available.

Henry said, that intellectual property rights would reward people for their creativity and innovation. He mentioned how one once unrecognized songwriter became wealthy, thanks to the song he wrote, Tenda Biru (Blue Tent), being sung by popular singer- actress, Desy Ratnasari.

Compared to bootleg pirates, who steal products from other people and make quick profits by illegally mass-production, this is a much better scenario.

Piracy is far from a victimless crime. It is a known fact that Indonesian software developers are wary of producing mass market computer applications because they are likely to be copied, thus robbing them of income and profit.

But things are soon to change.

Henry noted that many companies had adopted a wait-and-see attitude during the socialization of the new intellectual property law, which officially took effect on July 29.

They only began to panic when copyright owners and their lawyers sent out letters, reminding them to be compliant with the law.

He warned that unless the new law is properly enforced, all the hard work of the police, government and copyright owners will be wasted.

Noting the consistency of the Malaysian police, who conduct piracy raids every three days, Henry says that momentum must last until people realize that they can't get away with piracy anymore.

"If our activities are sporadic, piracy will regain a foothold," he said.

Henry added that software and DVD vendors are also victims of piracy syndicates, as they are more likely to be arrested as the marketing arms of a faceless cartel.

Despite being in the forefront of the intellectual property battle, Intellectual property rights are actually a "hobby" of Henry's. His day job is at the Vice Presidential Secretariat, as the Bureau Chief for Justice and Law, assisting in drafting various legislative acts. These include the recent Intellectual Property Law, which is a consolidation of all previous copyright laws.

The new act has a built-in minimum sentence for convicted offenders, making it more likely for them to be punished with higher fines or prison.

As one of the few experts of intellectual property rights in the country, Henry has been asked to give lectures nationwide and was even called on to testify in court, on the behalf of copyright owners.

His one complaint is that he is so busy. He has traveled to various provinces around the country to give seminars about intellectual property rights and he has given training to provincial police officers.

Henry is a lecturer at Gadjah Mada, Pelita Harapan and Erlangga universities and hopes to instill a sense of legal propriety in those who may be the next Shakespeare, Bill Gates or Steven Spielberg. He also teaches them how to protect their assets and ideas.

Henry's dedication toward intellectual property rights is an example to all Indonesians, who long for their country to follow the rules of the law. People should be reminded that piracy is the same thing as stealing.