Macedonia has rules to halt copyright violations and intellectual piracy. However, as the situation on the street demonstrates, implementation has been a problem. Inspection agencies say they simply don't have the staff.
In late April, police, customs officials and Culture Ministry inspectors seized 3,000 CDs and DVDs in Veles. They found pirated copies of hit movies, as well as illegal CDs and non-licensed Microsoft software. Four shops were closed down and misdemeanour charges were filed. The material seized will be destroyed after court proceedings are completed.
The action was the third since the start of the year. The other two were carried out in Skopje and Bitola.
The Culture Ministry says it plans to step up the fight across the country, starting next month. The intensified action will begin as soon as an amended version of Macedonia's copyright law, providing for stricter penalties and broader powers for inspectors, goes into force.
Besides music, movies and software, other types of pirated merchandise are widely available. Customs officials say they have confiscated some 44,500 counterfeit items of clothing and perfume, sold under brand names such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and Lacoste. The phony products come to Macedonia via illegal routes from China and Turkey through Bulgaria, officials say.
Meanwhile, legitimate industries are suffering. The number of movie theatre visits has declined sharply because of pirated films, and fewer CDs are being released. Moreover, the problem could hamper Macedonia's bid for EU membership. The bloc is currently providing assistance, via the CARDS programme, in an effort to cut back on piracy.