Infringing materials-A A +A
Monday, February 18, 2013
I'VE been boning up on my foreign languages by reading literature written in French and Spanish that include Harlequin paperbacks and of course the more serious novels of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende in original Spanish bought from the secondhand bookstore Booksale.
Unfortunately, this motley collection of foreign language books might land me in the hoosegow for violating the newly amended Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines (RA 8293). In fact, the only thing stopping me from suffering my day in court is the presidential signature, warned investigative journalist Raissa Robles.
In the course of buying these books in Booksale, my fellow "criminals" will include university and college professors, lawyers and judges, not to mention students who buy these books for the sheer pleasure of reading, be they modern poetry, bestsellers to how-to books and celebrity magazines.
My personal home library is at risk of being raided and my second books labeled as contraband. Technology law expert Atty. JJ Disini said that the newly amended Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines (RA 8293) allows warrantless searches of business establishments and offices for violations of IP rights.
Disini pointed out that, in other countries, the so-called "first-sale doctrine" basically allows original buyers to do whatever they want with the copyrighted material.
"For example, if you buy a book, you can do whatever you want with it. You can even sell it," argues Disini. "As a result, there is a thriving secondhand book market abroad. Those books may then be imported into the country."
But Disini says that the amended law may prevent importation of otherwise authentic books, because the law is vague on what materials may be considered to be infringing on intellectual property rights. In fact, under the revised RA 8293, the mere possession of a "temporary copy" of copyrighted material already makes one criminally liable.
Ouch moments for our students who are writing their thesis or term papers. The amendments seek to expand the meaning of infringement to include the making of temporary copies.
"The problem is, what is meant by 'infringing materials'? For a lot of intellectual property owners, it can mean that you're already infringing their rights merely by their not allowing you to possess their materials," he explained.
At a time when jejemon rules to subvert the English language of our youth, the revised RA 8293 is beginning to look like a ban on reading literature. Or worse, the 21st century version of the Nazis' book burning.
Disini said that this can impact not just the personal ownership of copyrighted materials, but also even the wholesale importation of the same -particularly under Section 190 on the "Importation and Exportation of Infringing Materials" in the revised law.
"What's going to happen now is that copyright owners can simply go to the Bureau of Customs and say that copyrighted items can't be imported except by certain identified persons," he said. Disini warned that this could give companies the ability to control market prices by leveraging the law to prevent the importation of copyrighted materials -even if these happen to be legal copies.
Disini also warned that an amendment to Section 7 of RA 8293 would allow warrantless inspections of establishments (read: Booksale), an act which, he says, is clearly unconstitutional. The constitution prevents government agents from entering private spaces such as offices and homes without a warrant issued by a judge.
Reading is now an act of subversion. "The first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it," said American political activist Abbie Hoffman in his Steal This Book. So be it!
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 18, 2013.