reaction over Ravi's call
Call for regulator over chambers if
business registration is made compulsory
By Hiran Senewiratne
A government plan to enforce compulsory registration for all business
establishments in Sri Lanka has drawn mixed views from commerce
chambers and the small business community created some confusion
and triggered a call for regulations governing business chambers.
are to be forced to register with business chambers, then there
is a need to regulate chambers or every Tom, Dick and Harry can
open a chamber because it becomes a lucrative business," one
small business entrepreneur noted. While business chambers hailed
the proposal made by Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake
for obvious reasons - the membership of the big chambers will soar-there
was confusion as to whether the registration would be compulsory
the proposal, a senior ministry official said under the proposed
legislation to provide for the registration process "there
would be no compulsion on any of the businesses to register under
any business chamber."
words were very clear when he made this point at a October 11 meeting
with representatives of chambers, stressing that it would be compulsory
for every business establishment to register with a chamber. "I
expect every single company to be registered by 2005 when the new
legislation comes into play," the minister added. Chamber representatives
confirmed that the minister had used the word "compulsory registration".
move is aimed at ensuring all businesses are linked to a chamber
to make their voice felt when raising industry-related issues of
importance with the government. Currently there are some 43,400
businesses registered with the Registrar of Companies but only a
few are members of any chamber. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC),
the country's biggest single chamber, has 500 direct members.
Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Consumer Affairs,
said the proposed law wouldn't affect the interests of any party
or chamber. The subscription fee would be based on the capital of
a company. Registration would apply to partnerships and limited
wholeheartedly backed the proposal but were clear that their autonomy
should not be tampered with. Renton de Alwis, CEO and Secretary
General of the CCC, lauded the move but reiterated the need for
the autonomy of the chamber to be preserved.
Chamber of Industries President Ranjith Hettiarachchi said the compulsory
registration process would provide a forum for "voiceless"
business people to express their grievances.
the Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry Macky Hashim
welcomed the move and recalled how he made a similar proposal to
the then Trade Minister Lalith Athulathmudali in the 1980s. He said
compulsory registration is prevalent in Singapore and Malaysia.
But small businessmen
were not so sure about the concept saying if companies are forced
to register with chambers on payment of a subscription fee then
there should be some way to ensure these chambers work for the benefit
of Weerodara Stationery Ltd, Rohitha Ranaweera said most chambers
only look after the interests of big business while ignoring the
needs of small companies. Chambers also charge exorbitant rates
which small firms cannot afford, he said.
Managing Director of Athula Caterers (Pvt) Ltd, said though his
company is not a member of any chamber, this type of legislation
is necessary under the present business climate. He too called for
a regulatory body to regulate the chambers if compulsory registration
is being enforced.
copyright law protects artistes
A new bill to update the island's archaic copyright law that is
in the offing will provide better protection to the work of creative
artistes and bring it in line with international trade-related agreements.
The draft bill
to amend the Code of Intellectual Property also provides for a mechanism
to resolve disputes and specific compensation for artistes whose
copyright has been violated.
increasing development of technology a lot needs to be reformed,"
said Dr. M. Karunaratne, Director of the National Institute of Intellectual
Although other areas of trademarks and patent may also need reforms,
the field of copyright "is very archaic", he said in an
For the first
time, there will be a dispute resolution system where the Institute
of Intellectual Property will act as the agency for dispute resolution.
"Most artistes are poor and can't go to court. Once an application
is made we will attempt to resolve it and this will save time and
money," Dr. Karunaratne said, adding that it was a "very
Bill aims to protect the economic and moral rights of authors. At
present the author has the exclusive right to reproduce, transform,
translate, modify his work and distribute it and also communicate
it to the public.
existing code falls short of preventing the import or export of
unauthorised copies. Customs cannot prevent the import or export
of the many copies of software programmes and music CDs that find
their way into Sri Lanka.
There have been cases where a song produced by a particular singer
finds its way abroad, is made into cassettes or CDs, imported back
into Sri Lanka and sold.
All this is done without the consent of the original author and
the existing law is helpless to prevent such marketing.
discs and software CDs are a very common area of concern because
the economic rights of the author do not deal with his exclusive
right of importation.
The new bill
strengthens these rights. However, there is confusion with regard
to programmes downloaded from the Internet which have to be copied
in order to be used or studied. The concept of 'fair use' in the
Bill balances this need for reproduction with the exclusive right
of the author.
to have a balance between the need for knowledge and the need to
protect the rights of the people who put effort and money to produce
various things," said a senior government lawyer. However,
even the proposed Bill fails to cover certain issues in relation
to programmes on the Internet.
There are conflicting
views as to whether the Internet ought to be used freely (programmes
copied freely) for the benefit of society or whether stress should
be laid on preserving the economic and moral rights of the authors.
"As far as Sri Lanka is concerned there is nothing in the statute
books and even the amendments don't provide anything," said
The new Bill
will bring copyright laws in line with the provisions of the Trade
Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS agreement)
which is the basis of intellectual property laws in Sri Lanka. The
TRIPS agreement is a comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual
property established in 1995.
Under the new
copyright provisions, the Court has the power to award a minimum
compensation of Rs. 50,000 to the author as compensation for violation
of his economic rights. Presently, no provision for minimum compensation
Bill also focuses on rights with regard to layout designs of integrated
circuits and the use and rental of phonograms, areas not addressed
Dr. Karunaratne said that whenever a particular copy of a film or
song is rented out, the original owner does not get anything out
of it while "some businessman earns money".
the Bill the author and the producer will each be entitled to 50
percent of the profit made every time a CD is produced or a recording
is done and distributed. A proposal to monitor the number of copies
sold in order to protect the economic interests of the author is
under consideration. Remuneration has also to be paid to the producer
and the performer if a particular work is played on the mass media.
The new Bill
will also deal with the rights of performers. It is possible under
the existing code to tape or video a performance and broadcast it
without the performer's permission. The talent of the performer
can thereby be marketed. The Bill hopes to remedy this by giving
the performer the exclusive right to 'fix' his performance, namely
to video, record or broadcast it.
of satellite transmissions is no more a grey area. The Bill will
also protect the rights of broadcasting organisations. Provision
will be made to prevent the copying of a programme telecast by one
broadcasting station by another, which is then rebroadcast by the
latter. Exclusive rights will be granted to the station that was
responsible for the original broadcast to rebroadcast and to authorise