Fight vs illegal downloading continues

Patricia Esteves - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Last month, the Philippine Association of Recording Industry (PARI) scored a win against piracy when it shut down Kickass Torrents (KAT.ph), a torrent site that hosts illegal music downloads.

But only after a few weeks, the illegal downloading site was back to business, using another domain and name.

PARI president Marivic Benedicto has admitted that the problem of illegal downloading has proven more difficult and complicated to police.

“We used to deal with just pirated DVDs and CDs sold in Quiapo, but now we are dealing with a much more widespread enemy — the illegal downloader. Anyone who has access to the Internet can illegally download movies and music, violating copyrights,” Benedicto said during a recent presscon.

That’s why she said it is high time to amend the current anti-piracy law, which should include punishment and penalties for illegal downloaders.

As of today, there is no provision in the anti-piracy law that includes illegal downloading as a violation.

Filipinos have truly kept up with the changing times. Before, people would simply go to Quiapo or Greenhills to buy pirated CDs, but now they’ve come to know the convenience of downloading movies and music from the Internet.

“Why shell out a few extra pesos when you can have the movies for free? The images are crystal clear and you don’t need to leave the confines of your home to access the movies, ” Benedicto told reporters.

She reiterated her appeal to lawmakers in amending and updating the anti-piracy law, saying not doing so will set back the country’s efforts to fight piracy in the country.

After two decades, the US has recently removed the Philippines from its piracy watch list, following significant reforms put in place by the country.

The announcement was posted on the website of the Office of the US Trade Representative a few weeks back and coincided with the first state visit of US President Barack Obama in the country.

The Philippines has been consistently on the watch list since 1994 and was first listed in 1989. Because of its many significant legislative and regulatory efforts to protect and enforce intellectual property rights, it was finally taken off the list.

Benedicto said among the many programs that PARI has strictly implemented is the removal of KAT.ph. The case started in 2011 when the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (FPI) of London requested its regional office in Hong Kong for assistance. The site indexes over 8.5 million torrents and is the fourth most popular BiTorrent site in the world that time. The site was previously named kickasstorrents.com before April 2011, when it transferred to a “.ph” domain name hosted by dotPH Domains Inc. (dotPH), a local domain service provider. This was allegedly done to avoid domain seizure by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the US.

The domain operator has changed the site’s hosting services in different countries, including the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Spain, to probably evade authorities and legal sanctions against the site. Due to the copyright infringement committed by KickassTorrents, it was proposed to be included in the notorious market list by the US government.

“The use of “.ph” in a domain name of an illegal website gave the impression that the Philippines is condoning piracy. Thus, before 2011 ended, the members of PARI agreed to pursue the case with the ultimate objective of stopping “the use of the PH domain for music piracy,” said Benedicto.

“We chose to file the case in the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) instead of the regular courts because we felt that being the agency tasked to oversee the protection of intellectual property, the IPO would be in the best position to understand our issues. We weren’t disappointed. Just six months later, we succeeded in taking down the KAT.ph domain through the temporary restraining order that the IPO granted against Kickass Torrents, and the order served to dotPH to cease and desist from providing the domain name of KAT.ph that allows users to access the illegal website. The achievement created worldwide buzz and projected that the Philippines is serious in dealing with all kinds of online piracy and other IPR violations.”

Sadly, she said, a month after that achievement, KAT Torrents was back using another name. But she added that they would not stop until they have addressed the problem.

Lawyer Ricardo Blancaflor, director general of IPO, who was also present at the presscon, said: “Protecting the creativity and hard work of the Philippines’ screen community is of paramount importance to IPO. We are implementing stricter security measures to safeguard our film community. However, we need the utmost cooperation and participation of the public in our campaign. We must show the rest of the world that we are all partners in eradicating piracy and other IPR violations.”











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