Gov’t puts teeth into anti-piracy battle

Legislation filed to create media watchdog

MANILA — The Philippines is finally getting serious about piracy.

A bill has been filed in Congress that will create a media watchdog with teeth to help curtail theft of intellectual property. It seeks to protect all kinds of entertainment — films, recorded music, interactive entertainment software, and most other recorded or filmed works.

But the film industry has been hurt the most. Pirated copies of blockbusters films can be bought — before they even hit the theaters — for as little as 98¢.

Big names in the Philippine film biz, led by Marichu Vera Perez-Maceda of high-profile Sampaguita Pictures, have lead the antipiracy movement, while actors, directors, producers, musicians, composers and other showbizzers have joined the fray. Rallies and noisy media events have been held to call attention to the war against piracy.

One of the goals of the bill is to create the Entertainment Media Regulatory and Anti-Piracy Board (EMRP).

Government-backed initiatives against piracy have been rendered toothless in the past, mainly because the laws were not implemented. But this org plans to involve other government agencies such as the Dept. of Trade and Industry in the pursuit of its goals. The antipiracy watchdog is also authorized to regulate the import and export, manufacture, reproduction, distribution, sale and lease of entertainment media.

The bill also recommends stiffer penalties for violators and gives the EMRP the power to initiate prosecution.

Critic and university professor Patrick Flores says, “If the Philippine government responds to this problem judiciously, it may be able to help the industry buy time and possibly regain its footing in the field. “

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