It looks like the Philippine Congress has once again messed with our freedoms as it has passed a law that could make bringing home books, movies, or music from abroad for personal use, against the law according to Raissa Robles. Previously under Section 190 of the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines or Republic Act 8293, Filipinos could bring home works without the author’s permission if it belongs to the “personal baggage belonging to persons or families arriving from foreign countries.”
The new law in question sought to amend RA 8293 and has already been sent to President Benigno Aquino III, pending his approval. These new amendments have removed various sections that had protected Filipinos from bringing in works for personal use.
The amendments don’t only affect folks bringing home goods from abroad, as under this new law, modifying your device in order to remove restrictions, for example jailbreaking an Apple product or rooting an Android device, you can be held criminally liable for “copyright infringement.” It also introduces the concept of “digital rights management” (DRM) to our criminal law, which covers how we use digital software, that has repeatedly backfired in other countries. Penalties for infringing on copyright ranges from three years in jail and at least Php 150,000 in fines for the first offense, up to nine years in jail and Php 1.5 million for the third and subsequent offenses. You don’t even have to be directly infringing on copyrights to be held liable. For example if leasing out a space and your tenant infringes, you could also be held liable.
A few of the amendments made to RA 8293 were catalogued by Robles, who highlighted in red parts that were pertained to personal use. Section 190 pertained to brining in works without the need for the author’s consent, while Section 212 contained exceptions for the unauthorized use of music.
Within the amendments submitted, both sections were nowhere to be found. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) had an active role in drafting the amendments and as such were asked why these felt the need to erase certain sections of RA 8293.
According to Ricardo Blancaflor, IPO Director General:
The greater good has to be served. This law is for everybody. I think instead of people criticizing it, I think people should recognize it’s a long awaited legislation. It was done within the bounds of the law. The good side of the law should also be highlighted. Hindi negative that some interest groups are pushing. We should be congratulated for the great work we are doing.
These amendments may seem like they are for the greater good, but they have vast implications on the freedoms of everyday Filipinos. With personal use protection removed from the picture, these amendments could be liable to abuse when Filipinos bring in copyrighted material from overseas. What do you think about these new amendments to Republic Act 8293?