Published: Fri, February 15, 2013
By Joyce Ilas
Bibliophile Erika Mitra goes out of her way to have relatives buy her books abroad, because that often allows her to save money.
Mitra says relatives bring her books when they visit the Philippines.
But if the bill amending the Intellectual Property Code becomes a law, Mitra's relatives may no longer be able to do that.
Intellectual property lawyer J.J. Disini explains that an amendment to the Intellectual Property Code would allow intellectual property rights owners abroad to ban the importation of books, CDs, and other forms of media to the Philippines.
Congress has already passed the bill amending the Intellectual Property Code late last year. It's now just waiting for the signature of President Benigno Aquino III for it to be enacted into law.
Disini explains that one of the amendments to the law is the removal of Section 190, which bans the importation of more than one legitimate copy of the item for personal use.
The provision allows people to bring in more than three legitimate copies for religious or education purposes even without authorization of the author or copyright owner.
This means that an IPR owner may send notice to the Bureau of Customs banning the importation of all its products.
"In the old law, you were allowed. But Congress removed that right from you, because they deleted the provinsion that permitted you to do that," Disini explains.
"So a reasonable interpretation is that Congress intended for you not to have that right... Now why do want to have importation rights? So that they can price good differently from this country and in other countries. In other words, they can price it higher here to make more money."
Ricardo Blancaflor, director general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, says the provision was deleted to remove the limit to the number of copies that can be imported.
He clarifies that Filipinos coming from abroad can still bring in copies of books - even more than three this time - as long as they are for personal use.
Disini says there are several other unconstitutional amendments to the bill.
He is calling on President Aquino to veto the passage of the amendments to the Intellectual Property Code.
But Blancaflor insists Filipinos, particularly those coming from abroad, have nothing to fear as the amendments are meant to protect artists and creators, while making copyright works more accessible to Filipinos.
President Aquino is still reviewing the bill, taking into consideration objections, according to Undersecretary Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson.
She says there are three contentious points in the provisions:
- modifying electronic gadgets to allow them to download free music
- downloading free IP products on the internet
- prohibiting the bringing in of DVDs, books, and CDs from personal trips abroad.
Valte says all these will be taken into consideration by the Office of the President.