Monday 10 December 2012

Copyright in the Philippines

Recently finding myself in Manila, the warm and balmy capital of the Philippines (which was fortunately not hit by typhoon Bohpa), I thought it appropriate to write a post on the copyright bill recently approved by the Philippine Senate. The bill still needs to be approved by the lower house of Congress and the House of Representatives before it can be signed by the president and become law, a move which is anticipated to take place this year.

Like many Asian countries, the Philippines' international reputation in respect of copyright and  distribution of counterfeit goods is poor. According to a Senate press release, Senator Manny Villar, the principal sponsor of Senate Bill 2842, says that the bill will better enable the Philippines to fight piracy, prevent theft of intellectual property and protect copyright works. The Philippines international reputation, in particular in respect of the US, is clearly a driver for reform:
"Villar said that copyright piracy in the country was so bad that the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a private group composed of trade associations in copy-right based industries in the United States, had recommended the Philippines and 12 other countries to be placed in the Priority Watch List of the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) 2011 Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

"To be included in the USTR's Priority Watch List means that countries do not provide an adequate level of IPR protection, enforcement or market access for persons relying on intellectual property protection," Villar explained.
He said the passage of the Anti-Camrecording Act of 2009 had prompted the removal of the Philippines from the USTR's out-of-cycle review last year. However, he added, the Philippines remain in the lower level Watch List since 2005.

The US have specified in their Special 301 Report  for 2012 that the Philippines should remain on the US watch list meaning that, as a trading partner, the Philippines does not provide adequate protection of US IP rights protection and enforcement.
The new bill seeks to remedy this by expanding the scope of infringement to include contributory infringement as well as the circumvention of technological measures and rights management information. It also provides for statutory damages in addition to actual damages.

Further the bill will restrict fair use under Philippine law so that it applies only to a limited number of copies, but specifies that the right does extend to include blind and visually-impaired persons' use of non-commercial works, in line with WIPO's proposed exemption.
It will be interesting to read the bill in full if it is passed this year, and to see what impact it has on the rapidly developing economy of the Philippines.

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