The City Council of Manila passed an anti-flicker piracy ordinance on Tuesday, July 8, and became the first city or town in the country to enact such a law.
The ordinance, titled the Film Protection Ordinance of Manila of 2008, penalizes the use, possession and/or control of audio-visual recording devices for the unauthorized recording of cinematographic films and other audio-visual works and/or their soundtracks in an exhibition facility, cinemas, etc.
The passage of the ordinance came exactly three weeks after an anti-flicker piracy seminar hosted by the Motion Picture Anti-Film Piracy Council was held at the Kalayaan Hall of the Club Filipino in Greenhills Center in San Juan City as part of activities under its intensified Suportahan ang Industriya ng Pelikula…Sugpuin ang mga Pirata campaign.
During the said seminar, officials from government, as well as producers, exhibitors and distributors of the film industry, lay out their battle plans against what is turning out to be the debilitating effects, economically and otherwise, of film piracy. In that particular instance, it was flicker piracy—a system of illegally shooting or copying films being shown in cinema houses through camera recording devices, from sophisticated cell phones and other recording
The seminar featured a detailed battle plan as presented through a powerpoint lecture by Atty. Joji Alonso, the counsel of the Anti-Film Piracy Council.
Atty. Alonso said that the faster and easier way to put more teeth into the campaign against film piracy is to enact local ordinances since it will take a longer time and greater efforts to come up with a national legislation for this purpose. She said that local ordinances will therefore serve as stopgap measures to combat piracy more effectively.
She even mentioned that the City of Manila was already laying the groundwork for the crafting and passage of such an ordinance.
Section 3 of the new ordinance is reprinted hereunder:
SEC. 3. Acts constituting unauthorized use or possession of audiovisual recording devices.—Any person, who, at a time when a copyright subsists in a cinematograph film or other audiovisual work or its soundtrack, without the authority/or consent of the copyright owner or exclusive licensee thereof:
(a) uses or attempts to use an audiovisual recording device, such
as camcorders, video recorder, handycam, etc. to transmit or make a copy of any performance in an exhibition facility of such cinematograph film or other audiovisual work or its soundtrack, or any part thereof; or
(b) has in his/her possession an audiovisual recording device, as described in par. (a) hereof, in an exhibition facility with the intent of using or attempting to use the audiovisual recording device to transmit or make a copy of any performance in the exhibition facility or such cinematograph film or other audiovisual work or its soundtrack, or any part thereof, shall constitute offenses punishable under this Ordinance.
The ordinance also requires theaters or cinema houses to post at least two notices warning against the bringing of audiovisual recording devices inside the establishments.
Prescribed penalties for the violation of this ordinance is imprisonment of six months to one year and a fine of P5,000 or both in the discretion of the court.
Council President Ric Camaligan, also senior vice-president for leisure and entertainment of SM Philippines, said that the prompt action of the city council on anti-flicker piracy will hopefully counteract the alarming downtrend in the local film industry.
Without film piracy, he stressed, the film industry in the country can generate theater ticket sales of some P7 billion annually nationwide. But since film piracy became sophisticated, brazen and widespread in the last two years, revenues from theater ticket sales of local as well as foreign films could only approximate P4.5 billion annually.
Atty. Alonso, for her part, aid the measures being undertaken by the llcaol governments must be backed up by a more effective network of coordination between the local film producers, the distributors of foreign films, theater owners and the Anti-Film Piracy Council, on one hand, and the Department of Justice, specially its National Bureau of Investigation, on the other, that will seek to arrest, charge and prosecute flicker pirates.
With an arrest-to-prosecute system set in place, film piracy is expected to diminish and this will ultimately mean that local and foreign films will increase their theater grosses, Atty. Alonso added.
In the last anti-flicker piracy seminar, Atty. Alonso discussed this type of film piracy in relation to the Intellectual Property Code. She said that films or movies, and other audiovisual and cinematographic works are entitled to copyright protection.
The copyright for films shall belong to the producer, the scriptwriter, the music composer, the director and the author of the work adapted into film but the producer shall exercise the copyright required for the exhibition of the work in any manner, Atty. Alonso explained.
She added that piracy is basically infringement of copyright which means that only the film owner or producer may make copies or reproductions of a film and all other persons must secure his consent to make copies or reproductions.
Atty. Alonso stressed that unauthorized movie camcording in cinemahouses theatrens the future of the film industry. It is particularly damaging because it occurs at the very start of the movie distribution cycle.
She compares the crusade against flicker piracy as fighting in the trenches or frontlines. The other phases of piracy are the actual production of duplicated or pirated copies in illegal warehouses and the sale of these pirated wares in public.
Atty. Alonso lamented the fact that it is already illegal to distribute unauthorized material but current law makes it difficult to arrest people caught with camcorders at the movie houses simply because there is no such law prescribing this as illegal.
Unlike in the United States, she added, where the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act was enacted in 2005 which made recording a film in theaters illegal. The first part of the Act is the Artists’ Right and Theft Prevention Act of 2005. which increased penalties for copyright infringement.
This act provides theater owners and employees with both civil and criminal immunity for questioning suspected violators or detaining them while law enforcers are being summoned, she clarified.