Note: I make every effort to produce an interesting and readable column every week. The column averages 6,500 words and takes time to edit. With the ongoing political situation in Bangkok I have been out and about following what's happening and taking photos. That has taken so much time that I have had no time at all to edit this week's column.
I apologise if this week's column is a little disjointed or doesn't flow well. Thanks for your understanding.
The challenges of running a Bangkok expat news website can seem never-ending. You have to stay on top of what's going on around town. You need to maintain a balance between telling readers what's going on without publishing anything that could be considered defamatory. You have to find new advertisers while keeping existing supporters happy, while dealing with some of the odd characters Bangkok is known for. As this website has grown and the amount of content has swelled – there are close to 10,000 articles and a similar number of photos, there is one challenge I never expected I would face – that of theft. Content from this site is routinely pinched and used elsewhere, particularly the photos. They are copied and used to dress up blogs. But sometimes it is more than that. Recently I discovered someone had copied large chunks of this site and was selling it along with stolen content from other sites as their own e-book.
I generally have a laid back approach towards the copyright of material on this site. I'm often asked by people if they can use a photo, and I'll almost always say yes. It's nice when someone thinks your photos are good enough that they want to use them. The photo gets showcased on another site and given a wider audience.
There are times when I'll say no. Usually it's when someone wants to use one of my favourite photos or a shot that was difficult to get, or something distinctive. And when images contain close-ups of people's face – whether I know the person or not – I usually say no.
But most people don't ask to use your material. They just take it and use it.
It's more annoying than anything when images or text are used without permission.
Usually a single email is all that's needed to get photos taken down, or attribution made and return links added. If that's done then that's the end of it.
However, not everyone is that easy to deal with.
I was recently made aware that chunks of this website had been copied and pasted into an e-book which is being sold at Amazon.com and other online book stores. Someone was profiting from my effort.
A preview of the book was posted on Amazon.com with chunks of decent English amongst incoherent ramblings. A quick copy and paste of parts of the book in to Google confirmed it had been copied from my site.
I searched for the author online but could not find him. I wanted to work the issue out.
I could not find an email address for him so I fired off an email to Amazon outlining the issue.
A few days later I received a real reply from Amazon, from a real person with a real name. The copyright officer at Amazon advised that the title had been removed from all Amazon sites worldwide. This was exactly the response I had hoped for, and was exactly the response I expected from the world's leading bookseller.
The same day I received an email from the author of the book who had the audacity to ask me who I thought I was claiming copyright on his book! Amazon had passed my complaint on to him when they removed the title. The English in his email was scratchy and unless he'd written it after a long night out in Pattaya, his English stunk. He provided a phone number and asked me to call him. He added that he lives in….Pattaya.
I then discovered that the book was for sale at another online reseller.
Keen to keep a record of all communication, I sent a brief, direct email to the author of the book explaining why I had laid a complaint with Amazon. I asked him if this e-book was available at any other sources – knowing full well that it was – but not letting on to him that I knew it was.
He responded, saying the book wasn't available at any other sources.
This guy was not just a thief and a liar, but a jerk.
Becoming peeved, I responded with a link showing the book was available elsewhere. I advised him that I had laid a complaint with that bookseller too.
He responded, asking me why I had done that. He went on to say that the previous day he had edited the book and removed all the material he had copied from my site. He was now admitting that yes, he had copied material from this site. He had resubmitted the book for sale.
The second bookseller's response was much less helpful than Amazon and they referred to the DCMA. They did not accept my email complaint and required me to fill out a DCMA form at their site before they would do anything.
A DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998) complaint is a complaint made by copyright owners outlining details of an alleged copyright infringement. File such a complaint to a webhost or other online service and they are bound to act promptly. Fail to do so could see them become liable for copyright material hosted on their server. This all assumes that the webhost is in America – most of the best webhosts are.
After some back and forth with the copyright thief, all very frustrating with his appalling English and brazen lies, he sent me a full copy of the e-book. He asked me to go through it and tell him what he had copied from this site, saying he would remove it. It appeared he did not know the sources of all the material that was copied. The file was a 180-page Microsoft Word document. I could not possibly remember everything I have written on this site and certainly was not prepared to sift through 180 pages to point out what I had written!
I was amazed this e-book would be published. It was a mishmash of material copied from various sources and pasted together, with no progression or flow. There was some original content – obvious by the appalling use of English.
I sent an email pointing out that the e-book was basically a compilation of material from various websites. He responded that some material he had taken because it was not copyright – by which I assumed he means there was no copyright symbol on the website from which it was taken.
Such symbols aren't required. Copyright is automatically granted to the creator when his / her work is created. Material published online is copyright as soon as it is published. There is no need to register the copyright or include a copyright or any other symbol. With that said, registering the copyright with the Copyright Office in America comes with various advantages. Text, photos, manipulated images, design templates – it's all copyright! Material taken from one site and used on another without permission or consideration is theft.
His final email was that this is Thailand, he lives in Thailand and as such there is nothing I can do.
I gave him many chances to do the right thing. All he had to do was to remove the material and that would have been it. No talk of damages for the sales he had made or anything like that. It was an easy out, but he wouldn't listen to reason.
With copied goods available at tourist markets all over the country, copied DVDs sold openly, often right under the noses of the authorities, and some malls full of counterfeit goods, it's easy to think that Thailand has no copyright laws. The truth is very different. Thailand has onerous copyright laws.
An old friend has a business in Bangkok employing several staff. There is an IT guy who performs various IT duties and is responsible for maintaining the company website. 95% of said website is in English, along with a small amount of Thai. My friend speaks basic Thai, but does not read it. When police arrived at his office with a warrant to search the premises he had no idea what it was about. It transpired that his webmaster had copied one paragraph in Thai from a competitor's website on to the company website. The senior cop explained that as a complaint had been laid they were bound to investigate. The last I heard was that the matter remained unresolved. What was clear was that there would be a settlement cost – and it would not be insignificant.
In another case that goes back 10 years, an American webmaster resident in Bangkok filed a suit against a Thai national who had copied two pages of text from his website and republished it in print form. The court awarded damages of 160,000 baht plus legal costs which as best I can recall were around 20,000 baht.
In the final case I personally know of, a friend copied a map from the Internet and used it in glossy brochures he had printed and distributed free to promote his establishment. The map had been edited to show customers where his business was located. The creator of the map found out about it and contacted my friend. The issue was resolved after my friend agreed to reprint all the brochures using that map – with a free advertisement for the website from which the map had been taken. He also had to pay 70,000 baht to the map creator to settle the issue.
Copyright in Thailand is a big deal.
So what do I do about this guy with the e-book? At one point he showed a willingness to remove the offending material, but he clearly does not know which websites he has taken material from, and it appears he did not seek permission from any of those sites. What pissed me off was that he told lie after lie even when I was willing to give him an easy way out. He showed himself to be untrustworthy and unreasonable. I believe in giving people a chance, but this guy was pure arrogance.
Soon the book will become unavailable from all sources and at that point I will consider the issue closed.
He will no doubt try to publish it elsewhere so I'm keeping my eyes out for Thailand related e-books published under his name.
It is very easy to get any content taken from your site removed from the offending website. It need only be a single photo or a copied paragraph – you can get the material taken down. If the site is hosted at a server in the USA, all you need to do is complete a DCMA complaint with the webhost (and there is plenty of information online as to how you go about doing that). You can also lodge a DCMA complaint with Google and get the pages showing your content removed from Google search results.
This exercise has helped me to understand the options available and the steps you must make if someone copies content from your site. It's also nice to know that if they are in Thailand there are further steps you could take. I would be loathe to pursue legal action against someone because you could cause them serious grief but if they refused to comply, well, who knows?
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken near the start of Sukhumvit soi 22, outside the Domino's pizzeria and the Holiday Inn. There are two prizes each week, a 500 baht voucher to use at Bully's, on Sukhumvit Road between sois 2 and 4 and a 300 baht voucher to use at Sunrise Tacos, Bangkok's original Mexican grill with several branches in Bangkok.
Terms and conditions: The prizes are ONLY available to readers in Thailand at the time of entering and are NOT transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per calendar month. You only have one guess per week and ONLY the first answer emailed counts! You MUST specify which prize you would prefer and failure to specify a prize will disqualify you from being eligible to claim one.
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – The protestors had to pee!
I still don't understand why tourists flock to Bangkok. Perhaps, in the case of Russians / Middle Easterners / Indians, it's so much safer by comparison. But Westerners? Let's have another Airport Dingbat Party like 2008. A friend and I had just got in for a planned holiday at Koh Lanta. The woman running the place was very nice, but started prevaricating, "Oh, the protesters needed to use the bathroom, so they had to let them into the airport…" My friend is a lawyer so he told her something I never read in any of the news coverage: every day, there are legal papers that must be physically moved to another destination, by air. Contract, letters, documents which must be transported. If they aren't, deals expire, money is lost, lawsuits / contracts broken. Sure, some Red Bull / vodka bucket-swillers don't mind spending a few days in an airport before returning to Farangland. But the documents must be transported. It is unreasonable to close an airport for political infighting. This is why the Hong Kong airport remained open during, say, the WHO-meeting (security was so tight the HK Police were out sealing manhole covers beforehand). It's not reasonable. But in Bangkok, anything goes. The protestors had to pee. She wrung her hands and moaned. Then I told her about the Hong Kong couple who had to return to HK, so they took a night minibus to Phuket to get a flight. Driver fell asleep. Bus crashed. She survived, he didn't.
Pouting bargirl gets 3K.
I have noticed a considerable hike in overnight fees for bargirls in Bangkok, whereas in Pattaya they are happy with 1,500 to 2,000 baht. I had not barfined a Bangkok bargirl for some time and when I passed this little bar with no customers on soi 18 they would call out the usual welcome. One night I took pity and took a seat. I was the only customer and with 2 girls working there, straight away the mamasan tries to fix me up with both. "You no have to pay barfine if you take both". Ok, I'll take one off your hands for tonight. I chose the pretty Isaan girl, the mamasan duly informing me that she was farm-fresh, her 2nd day in Bangkok. Yeah, whatever, but she did appear to have that shy demeanour and could not speak a word of English. Her colleague took her to one side and briefed her for about 5 minutes, presumably about what would be expected. So off to the 7 Eleven for snacks and drinks, and when I looked at her face in the bright lights of the shop, I was surprised how young she looked. I asked her to show me her ID which confirmed she was 19. Back in the room looking at her again she looked about 14. I thought I can't go through with this. It just felt creepy. I put on the TV for her (cartoons) and told her to make herself at home while I put space between us and slept. In the morning I had an early appointment and was late so I offered her 1,500 baht for her sleep over. She held up 3 fingers. What? You want 3,000 baht? And was she adamant, ranting in Thai. I did not want any unpleasant scene so I paid her the 3,000 baht. I realise that I should have ascertained the fee beforehand, but usually in the past I have never discussed money and offer them a donation in the morning.
Mother not concerned about Bangkok protests!
My mom (aged 84) is here in Cambodia and when her visa expires she will head to Bangkok for about a week then come back for another month. I don't think her presence will help any of the bar owners there, but Jim Thompson will be happy. She has no fears and was there in April, 2010, when the red shirt stuff was going on also. If mom isn't scared of going, your readers shouldn't be!
Long-term Bangkok expat does Jakarta.
I'm in Jakarta working on an assignment. I gather that the Bangkok Airport Departure level turnstiles could be circumvented by intrepid travellers walking in to the car park opposite at a lower level, going up to the requisite floor and then hailing a taxi. Mind you, I have not tried it and won't get the chance until I return. In this busy, sprawling city of Jakarta, getting a taxi is like a breath of fresh air compared with Bangkok. Taxis are plentiful and cheap. You get in, tell the driver where you want to go, he puts the meter on and away you go. Fares are comparable with Bangkok. A bad thing relates to smoking – there are no restrictions here so bars get very smoky and many people smoke these ghastly Kretek, clove cigarettes which smell awful and spit sparks at people which can make holes in light clothing like shirts…lovely! I was in a very popular sports bar last Saturday night where they showed ALL the Premier League matches. Whilst I was watching Everton vs. Liverpool on one screen, the adjacent screen was showing the New Zealand vs. England rugby league semi-final. Now that was great.
As usual I am left wondering how any company in Thailand does any business. Here's a timeline of my dealings with True Visions. Wednesday: call to say we are moving from Bangkok to Kalasin and arrange for them to pick up the box on Saturday. Saturday: box collected. Then they call to say they will come and fit the satellite in Kalasin on Wednesday. Monday: a call from True asking where we are in Loei. Wednesday: no-one shows up from True. We call, and they have no record of us and will call back. They don't call back. We call again several hours later and they say they will come on Monday. Later, we miss a call from them. Thursday: We call and they have no record of us and will call back. The saga continues. They sure aren't acting like a company that wants any business.
Spasso's, a triple plus venue!
I recently had a drink at Spasso's. It was 300 baht for a beer +10% service +7% VAT, + 13.33% E-tax, allegedly added after 10 PM at venues with live music. Is this something you have heard of? It was news to me!
Girl of the week
Jeab, 31, fetish house mistress, Bar Bar, Patpong soi 2.
Jeab is a senior mistress at Bar Bar with 7 years' service.
She would love you to visit her so she can give you a good thrashing!
Bars in Bangkok popular with the Japanese might have noticed a downturn in trade with the protests heating up, getting more coverage and more countries issuing updated travel advisories and warnings about visiting parts of Bangkok. No group of travellers is as sensitive to problems abroad as the Japanese and they are usually the first to cancel trips and avoid a destination with problems, be it disease, natural disaster, political problems or whatever. What that means is that you might not only get a seat in bars popular with the Japanese like Rainbow 4, you might actually get a smile from some of the girls. But don't go thinking you'll get a discount!
From the trenches, one Nana Plaza bar boss said to me that some week nights this past week that 11 PM was like 7 PM on a Sunday. There were noticeably fewer people about. Customers of the naughty bars have traditionally been a resilient bunch who visit rain or shine, protests or peace – at least that is how the punters of yesteryear were. Many of the older guys have moved on or settled down and it seems that the newer generation are much more sensitive to problems. I can only guess that those relatively new to Thailand might have been spooked by what is being reported in the press and have stayed away.
So what's the deal with the political situation in Thailand now? Things really heated up this week. For those of us resident here who know our way around and know where things are happening, it really is no great concern and for most travellers it shouldn't be an issue. Khao San Road, the backpackers' area, is very near the main protest site but even then, on Khao San Road it's business as usual. There was an influx of protestors in the shopping district of Siam Square but that aside, other areas popular with foreign visitors are fine. A full report with photos about the protests and how it relates to visiting Thailand at this time can be found here: Bangkok protests 2013. Of course things are unpredictable and no-one knows what will happen next.
The Nana Group of bars (Angelwitch 1 & 2, Billboard, Wild Things and more) has increased prices by 5 and 10 baht for beer and top shelf drinks respectively, making local beers 155 baht and top shelf drinks 160 baht. It's the smallest of price increases and should barely be noticed by consumers.
Speaking of Angelwitch, why did the Pattaya operation close on Friday night? There have been problems with the electrical supply on that soi. Beach Club was closed for a day too – because of electricity. Friday is the last day of the week you want to be closed on, especially if it was something avoidable like problems with the electricity. Angelwitch reopened on Saturday night.
On busy soi 15 off Pattaya's Walking Street, Private Dancer A Gogo has specials every Wednesday night. On Wednesday 4th & 18th of this month, it's crazy curry night with a free curry at 10:30 PM. On Wednesday 11th and 25th Chang draft beer is 65 baht all night long. And every Sunday there is free chilli con carne.
Prices for a naughty are going up in Pattaya's soi 6. They had been a bargain for a long time, ok, for a short-time…I think you know what I mean. You could still say they are a bargain but doubtless some will cry into their cheap draft about prices rises. Most girls on soi 6 ask for 1,000 baht today, meaning 1,300 baht all in and not 700 baht – 1,000 all in as it has been for some time. Apparently one of the main contributing reasons to the price increase is that some girls on soi 6 were going to well-known day time fun place Kinnaree up on the hill and when word spread that they could get a thousand up there, everyone on soi 6 started asking for – and getting – 1,000 baht.
Champagne A Gogo, the first gogo bar on Soi LK Metro, is due to reopen its doors tonight after a lengthy closure while the bar was renovated. This is not an official grand reopening but a soft opening.
Word from the neon jungle in Pattaya is that trade has not been affected at all, as it has been in Bangkok.
Obviously they have a lot more important stuff to worry about at this time, but it's still pleasant nonetheless to not have observed nor have heard any reports of the boys in brown stopping foreigners walking on Sukhumvit in the area around the Asoke intersection.
The best steak deal in Bangkok has to be at The Londoner. Order The Londoner Steak-Frites and you get an imported tenderloin (not sure where it's from but most likely NZ or Oz) with fries and salad for 450 baht. That's a fair price for a lovely cut of meat. And on Monday and Tuesday nights The Londoner offers 40% off making it a bargain 270 baht . It's not a huge cut and it may not be big enough for those with a large appetite, but as far as quality goes, it is as good as any steak I've had in Bangkok.
And a word on steaks in Bangkok. Some of the 5-star hotels charge astronomical rates for steak with upwards of $US100 in some places for just the meat with vegetables and potatoes not included. There are only so many food importers in Thailand and most steakhouses and restaurants offering steak get their meat from the same food wholesalers. What costs an arm and a leg in one place could be less than a third of the price elsewhere.
It's nice to see bars trying something new or special, but I notice a trend that is getting worse – crap happy hours and naff parties. What sort of venue has a happy hour where draft baht is on special for 100 baht? Is that really going to entice customers inside? And what about these naff party nights where it seems no different to any other night except for a free shot of the world's worst tequila late at night and girls dressed in silly clothes that make them look worse than they usually do! Why don't more venues do a real happy hour like say The Londoner which does 2 drinks for the price of 1 all night long on Wednesdays and it's packed! I absolutely understand how some venues don't do a happy hour as they don't want to attract the price conscious. But to those venues which do have a happy hour, give us a genuine reason to visit!
There are many things on Thai TV you will never see on TV in Farangland and the other night there was a report which represented an aspect of Thai culture well. An elderly couple was being interviewed about life, their living conditions and generally how bad their life was. They were living in a shack in a rural area, had little to eat and led a very basic existence. The reporter asked them how such a situation came to be and the couple explained that it was because their kids didn't support them. The reporter found this shocking, almost unbelievable. What amazed me was that the kids were named and their jobs stated in what seemed like a way of really humiliating them in a country where face counts for so much and where the responsibility of looking after your parents is taken very seriously. So if your girlfriend or wife talks about the need to look after her parents – which of course is a good thing anywhere in the world – yeah, it really is a big deal in Thailand!
German photojournalist Nick Nostitz has lived in Thailand for more than 20 years but even with all that experience in country he was caught out this week. Once known as the nightlife photographer, Nick produced the superb Patpong: Bangkok's Twilight Zone, an amazing photo book about his time in the nightlife. But the nightlife stuff is behind him and he has been covering the political turmoil and protests for years. All that time in Thailand counted for nothing when Nick found himself in hot water at the protest spot at Democracy Monument and he was set upon because he is known to be sympathetic towards the red shirts. Within minutes extreme vitriol appeared on Facebook about him. After being roughed up, he was ultimately ok, and hopefully other foreigners in the area don't get caught up like he was.
While I am not in agreement with the travel advisory warnings from some Western countries about travel to Bangkok, one ought to check with their insurance company if these protests – and more specifically – the travel advisory warnings – have any effect on travel insurance. I seem to recall something from 2010 about how certain exclusion clauses mean that some aspects of the policy may not apply in cases of civil unrest and / or when a government travel advisory warning is in place. Like I say, the best thing to do is to check with your insurance company / agent.
Dutchman Tom contacted me this week and requested information about advertising his tattoo studio near Rotterdam in the Netherlands on this site. I told him that given his location I wasn't confident he'd get enough customers and rather I would simply give him a nice mention in the column instead, so here goes: Sak yant are the traditional tattoos you see on Thais and the most common example is the 5 vertical strips of khom characters tattooed on one's left shoulder blade. These tattoos are believed to provide protection and good luck and are usually drawn by a monk using a long stick in a procedure that is said to be extremely painful. Tom started his small private sak yant tattoo studio 8 years ago after developing an interest in sak yant tattoos. Today customers from all over Europe go to his studio for an original sak yant tattoo. He is not a monk but does all the rituals, just as monks do. 2 months ago the studio was blessed by the monk Ajarn Loung Podam from the Wat Jangsirisamphan in Bangkok. He also got a blessing for a sak yant he designed, a love yant that the temple has given the name yant puttho. This yant can be taken together with the one you love or with your family. He is the first farang outside Thailand to receive such blessings. In the Netherlands Tom helps Thais resident there and part of the money made at the studio goes to a temple in Bangkok. Tom has a website where you can find more about him and his yak sant tattoo studio.
I get asked to mention parties, events, promotions and what not in this column and receive several large JPEG files / posters each week for inclusion. Some I include and others I do not. Not including a poster can cause some to rant. There is no exact formula about what makes the cut and what doesn't. More than anything, it comes down to what is a fit with the column, and how much space is free. If you send in a poster / promotional material and it doesn't make it, don't get nasty because you'll drastically reduce the chances of anything you send in ever appearing.
Quote of the week comes from "Narrative of a Residence in Siam" written by Frederick Arthur Neale way back in 1840, "The Siamese women though utterly devoid of any moral principle are, to do them justice, excellent housewives."
Reader's story of the week is "When Your Tilac Dies".
From The New York Times, the protests in Bangkok spur concerns about stability in Thailand.
The BBC summarises the main issues and reasons behind the current Bangkok political protests.
British kickboxer Lee Aldhouse got 25 years in the big house for murdering a US Marine in Phuket 3 years ago.
Immigration officers are offering taxi services in Phuket before arrivals even get
processed by Immigration proper.
Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: I have been told that if I make an official complaint to the Thai police and it is not upheld, or the person is found not guilty in court of what I accuse them of then that person can lay criminal charges against me for false accusation. Is this true? We have problems with a neighbour in our moobarn, a problem which cannot be resolved within the moobarn and an issue that concerns criminal activity. I want to go to the police but my wife says that the complaint won't be upheld and I could then face legal action. Is this true? It seems crazy! Can you please explain the process of making a criminal complaint against another in Thailand and what the potential repercussions are for the complainant? This is concerns a criminal matter, not civil.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: In order to make a criminal complaint, you must first go to the police with your complaint. You would need to make sure you have enough evidence to persuade the police to take the case.
It would be possible for your neighbour to proceed with a legal action against you once his or her innocence has been proved in Court, or if the Court dismisses the case. However, the neighbour would have to make a very good case and collect sufficient evidence and facts as well as witnesses before proceeding.
A claim of a false accusation can be made in the following circumstances:
1. The official visits the suspect. If your neighbour (the suspect) is found clean of suspected offence he or she could and may file a complaint against you that you have made a false accusation.
2. If the Court dismisses the case due to lack of evidence or for any other reason.
3. The accused proves his / her innocence after a full court trial.
If you have serious issues with your neighbour you may wish to hire a lawyer to help you negotiate. If your neighbour is actively involved in a serious crime then you may wish to consult with a lawyer before going to the police. Sunbelt Asia has experienced lawyers who are fluent in both English and Thai who can assist you in any negotiations or dealing with the police and courts.
The protests in Bangkok really escalated today and no-one can be quite sure about what might happen next. While I still believe that Bangkok is generally safe for visitors – assuming they stay away from the protest areas – there are parts of the city that now absolutely should be avoided. Tension is high on parts of Ramkhamhaeng Road and the area around Government House should absolutely be avoided. The situation is fluid and no-one can be sure what will happen next. Be safe.
Your Bangkok commentator,