Philippines Heads Toward Expanded Copyright Law

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The Philippine Senate, the upper house of the country’s bicameral congress, has approved a bill that seeks to put teeth into its copyright law as the island nation fights a bad reputation as one of the Asian states with high piracy rates. But it also seeks to protect fair use of copyrighted material. [update: bill text added]

Senate Bill 2842 [pdf], passed on third and final reading last week, calls for the creation of a dedicated copyright office, to be called the Bureau of Copyright, which, if this measure becomes law, will come on top of the existing agency tasked with overseeing intellectual property rights protection – the IP Office of the Philippines.

The mandate of the new office is to “handle policy formulation, rule-making, adjudication, research and education,” according to a release.

The bill also seeks to expand the scope of what could be considered as infringing activities. “Provisions on copyright infringement will include contributory infringement, circumvention of technological measures and rights management information as aggravating circumstances, and the option to collect statutory damages instead of actual damages,” the release added.

The bill also includes new provisions on technological protection measures and rights management, made in compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and gives an additional mandate to the IP Office to monitor collective management organisations.

While the bill seeks stronger copyright enforcement, it also calls for the expansion of the scope of its copyright law’s fair use provision by exempting the blind and visually-impaired persons from securing permission for their use of non-commercial production of copyrighted works. This provision would enable the Philippines to “genuinely adhere to the international principle of fair use,” said Sen. Manuel Villar, Jr., the bill’s principal sponsor, as quoted by infojustice.org, a blog of American University law school.

The bill still needs to be approved by the lower house of Congress, the House of Representatives, before the Philippine President could sign it into law.

The Philippines has been sensitive to the fact that it remains on the watch list of the Office of the United States Representative for 2012 which unilaterally decides in its “Special 301 Report” [pdf] whether its trading partners are providing adequate protection of US IP rights protection and enforcement.

Maricel Estavillo may be reached at maricelestavillo@gmail.com.

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