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Philippine Catholic bodies told to clean up their copyright act

Plagued by rampant piracy, copyright infringements, publishers, artists and composers seek action from bishops
A Filipino policeman supervises the removal of destroyed fake DVDs during a ceremonial destruction of counterfeit and pirated goods at the National Police headquarters in Manila in this June 23, 2010 file photo

A Filipino policeman supervises the removal of destroyed fake DVDs during a ceremonial destruction of counterfeit and pirated goods at the National Police headquarters in Manila in this June 23, 2010 file photo. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 27, 2023 06:56 AM GMT

Filipino artists and composers and Catholic publishers on Jan. 26 urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to shun pirated digital materials at its institutions, including schools, parishes and seminaries.

The appeal comes as the Catholic-majority nation is planning to piece together what would be an Anti-Digital Piracy Act to complement the existing laws, as the Philippines was sixth among Asian nations in 2021 in illegal streaming and downloading, with 1.3 billion clicks, according to the country's regulator dealing with the production, use and distribution of recording media.

The Composers' and Artists’ Association decried a “steep” decline in royalties of its members due to widespread piracy by Catholic schools, parishes and seminaries.

 “We beg our dear bishops to implement stricter guidelines on the use of original music and videos for retreats and religious gatherings. Schools also must use original music and videos. There is a moral dimension in piracy. It is stealing,” Mildred de Dios, the association’s spokesman, said.

"Expensive seminary formation was not an excuse for copyright infringement"

 “Our composers — many of them doing Mass and religious songs — do not receive any royalties from their work,” de Dios, also a singer, told UCA News.

 For Catholic publishers, copyright infringement is taking place within seminaries.

 “We understand that seminary formation is really expensive and that our seminarians — most of them — did not come from well-to-do families. But their materials in their libraries should be original books and publications,” Philippine publisher Arnold Frias told UCA News.

The Catholic Publishers’ Association of the Philippines categorically said that expensive seminary formation was not an excuse for copyright infringement.

Frias said the association has got information that several seminaries, specializing in philosophy and theology subjects, are photocopying original books.

“Even the biggest seminaries allow photocopying of an entire book. This is copyright infringement,” Frias added.

The recording media regulator, the Optical Media Board, which is attached to the President’s Office, has already proposed a bill to combat rampant digital piracy.

 "The agency is in the early stage of drafting the Anti-Digital Piracy Act," its chairperson and CEO Jeremy Marquez told reporters on Jan. 25 as illegal streaming and downloading rose 35 percent to 1.7 billion clicks last year.

 Piracy cases pose a "major risk" to the economy as employees lose their jobs, Marquez observed.  

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