Aquino urged to veto IP Code amendments

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Feb 14 2013 10:12 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2013 07:03 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Internet rights activists are urging President Aquino to veto proposed amendments to Intellectual Property Code that they say will make jailbreaking an Apple device or importing books from abroad illegal.

Officials of Democracy.Net.PH said the proposed amendments to Republic Act 8293 infringe on the right of the people to import books, media and music for their own personal use.

"The proposal is a dangerous measure that potentially criminalizes daily actions which are crucial for the daily living, psychic well-being, and self-improvement of Filipinos. The gravity of the infringement that SB 2842 and HB 3841 will bear on key rights cannot be minimized," the group said in a statement.

The internet activists, who are espousing the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF) that has been proposed by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, said there is a need to balance the protection of intellectual property rights.

"Intellectual property legislation must respect and protect the rights of the creators, the innovators, and the users. Protection of intellectual property rights cannot and must not come at the expense of any one of the stakeholders. Congress proposes to make amendments that are regressive and restrictive in this age of innovation, technological progress, and creativity," the statement added.

Ricardo Blancaflor, director-general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), earlier said on ANC that the proposed amendments to Republic Act 8293 that Congress has passed should not be cause for panic.

"You can bring in as many CDs and DVDs and books as long as you don't infringe on the rights of creators. This is a fear of something that does not really exist," he said.

Lawyer Oli Reyes, one of the proponents of the MCPIF, told that while Blancaflor said one can still import books, the legal interpretation of that right was deleted by the amendments to RA 8293.

According to Bureau of Customs chief Ruffy Biazon, a Department of Finance directive on the importation of books allows a person to import up to 6 copies of any one book or printed material without the need to pay taxes to the government.

Florence Agreement

The directive, Department Order No. 57-2011, mentions the Florence Agreement wherein signatories countries such as the Philippines vowed not to apply customs duties or other charges on the importation of specific books and materials.

Pierre Galla, another MCPIF proponent, however, said the proposed amendments to RA 8293 violate the Florence Agreement's promotion of the free flow of ideas.

Reyes agrees. "Florence - you can't impose duties on books. New 8293 [amendments] imply you can't import at all books for personal use," he said.

IPOPHL, in a statement Thursday, said the IP Code amendments actually allow Filipinos returning from abroad to bring in more than 3 copies of legitimate copyrighted works.

"Under Section 190.1 of the present RA 8293, importation for personal purposes means that you are only entitled to import in the Philippines up to 3 copies of copyrighted works in your personal baggage. By deleting these provisions under the amendment, there is no longer any limit to the number of copies that can be imported," the statement said.

"Importation shall not be considered copyright infringement if it falls under the general exceptions which includes fair use," the agency added. "The deletion of Sections 190.1 and 190.2 in fact allows for religious, charitable, or educational institutions to import more copies, for as long as they are not infringing or pirated copies, so that more Filipino students in the country may use such works."

IPOPHL: Jailbreaking only an aggravating circumstance

It also reiterated that jailbreaking is not a crime under the amendments.

"The amendments require that you first be found guilty of copyright infringement, and that is the only time that jailbreaking or circumvention of technological measures increases the imposable penalty and damages that can be awarded by the courts. You still need to be found guilty of copyright infringement, as jailbreaking is merely an aggravating circumstance that increases the penalty," the agency said.

Journalist Raissa Robles earlier said proposed amendments to RA 8293 will make it illegal to modify a device to remove restrictions on what and how apps and content can be stored and used.

"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," she wrote on her blog.

Lawyer JJ Disini, in an interview with ANC, said the proposed amendments expand the ruling on infringement.

He said apps and files saved on a device can make a person liable for violating the Intellectual Property Code.