New laws relating to Intellectual Property (IP) have the potential to revolutionise the publishing industry in Myanmar.
Publishing in Myanmar
For many years, book publishing in Myanmar has suffered under strict censorship laws, which stifled creativity and freedom of expression but, since 2012, these laws have seen a relaxation, resulting in an explosion of small-press publishers.
Under the Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law of 2014, publishers in Myanmar must register with the Ministry of Information to obtain a five-year license to print and publish.
However, when it comes to issues concerning copyright and intellectual property, Myanmar still relies on the outdated, colonial-era Burma Copyright Act 1914, which has meant that book piracy is rife and hopes of encouraging any kind of foreign investment in the industry limited.
The quest for new IP legislation
The quest for modern IP legislation has been a long, 10-year battle but, in 2019, the Assembly of the Union of Myanmar (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) passed laws, which cover Trademark Law, Industrial Design Law, Patent Law and Copyright Law. All that is now required is for the President of Myanmar, Win Myint, to issue and sign a notification to establish a date of entry for when the new laws will come into force.
These new laws show that Myanmar is beginning to take the issue of IP protection more seriously, and opens up the possibility for stimulating economic growth and foreign investment, not just in publishing, but also in the fields of technology, manufacturing, and retail.
The book market in Yangon
The appetite for traditional printed books is clearly high in Yangon. Each weekend, the area around Thein Phyu Road between Maha Bandula Road and Anawrahta Road is transformed into a market of book stalls and, between Lanmadaw and Latha districts, Yangon Book Plaza has opened as the largest bookshop in Myanmar.
Publishing at Seinyadanar Dhammacariva Sarthintaik monastery
Bhikkhu Indobhasa is based at the Seinyadanar Dhammacariya Sarthintaik monastery in Dagon Township, Yangon. The monastery has been publishing books for almost forty years, using digital desktop techniques and Burmese fonts designed at SOAS University of London.
They publish books about Buddhism and Pali language, including a Pali Grammar and a Pali Dictionary.
Supporters of the monastery assist with the printing, publishing and distribution process, and their motivation for publishing is summed up very simply by Bhikkhu Indobhasa: “I love books”.
It will be interesting to see how the publishing industry evolves in Myanmar and whether it follows the trend witnessed in so many other countries, where the long-held power balance of publishers and authors is increasingly switching towards that of its customers.
Find out more
- Find out more about BA South East Asian Studies at SOAS
- Check out Burmese language resources
- Learn Burmese at the SOAS Language Centre
- Find out about Burmese language modules
- Module: Intellectual Property Law