Congress erased every Filipino's right to bring home music, movies and books from abroad

Posted at 02/14/2013 11:59 AM | Updated as of 02/14/2013 12:29 PM

Everyday, many Filipinos arrive in Manila, bringing back with them books as well as DVDs and CDs of music and movies they bought in other countries for their personal use.

They can do this without fear of being questioned because it’s a right specifically granted “to persons or families arriving from foreign countries” under Section 190 of the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines or Republic Act 8293.

What these Filipinos probably do not know is Congress has just passed a law erasing this right. The law — a consolidated measure amending RA 8293, was sent to Malacañang Palace on January 29, 2013 and just needs the signature of President Benigno Aquino III to become effective.

That’s not all.

Under this new law, once you modify a device (for instance “jailbreaking” an Apple product such as an iPhone or iPad) in order to remove restrictions on what and how apps and content can be stored and used — you can be held criminally liable for ”copyright infringement.” The amended version introduces for the first time in our criminal law the concept of “digital rights management” (DRM) – which also covers how we use digital devices on the Internet and which behaviors are considered criminal.

Penalties for “jailbreaking” and other forms of copyright infringement range from three years in jail and at least P150,000 for the first offense, and up to nine years in jail and P1.5 million pesos for the third and subsequent offenses.

There’s more.

If you happen to be leasing out space — for instance, if you’re a mall or building owner — to someone who infringes copyright, you could be held liable.

And that’s not all.

If someone else had downloaded music from the Internet and shared the file with you, and you then uploaded it onto your technological device and listened to it, you could also be held liable if the download site was one that the US recording and movie companies have been trying to shut down.

Downloading music was the sixth most popular reason for surfing cited by 683 Internet users ages 10 to 17 in a 2009 study conducted by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communications for UNICEF.

Authorities say that downloading music was made illegal as far back as the year 2000, when then President Joseph Estrada signed the E-Commerce Act into law. They point to Section 33 of the E-Commerce Act which punishes with fines and jail “piracy or the unauthorized…downloading” of, among others, “copyrighted works including legally protected sound recordings or phonograms…through the use of telecommunication networks…in a manner that infringes intellectual property rights.”

They neglect to point out, though, that the last part in Section 33 contains a qualifying clause which states that downloading becomes illegal only when done “in a manner that infringes intellectual property rights.”

Intellectual property rights are spelled out in RA 8293 – the Intellectual Property Code.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.