Warrantless Search For Copyright Infringement

First was the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175) which was issued temporary restraining order until further notice by the Supreme Court after fifteen (15) cases were filed against it for curtailing the internet freedom of Filipinos. Now comes Republic Act No. 10372 amending certain provisions of the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines (RA 8293) which was approved by the President last February 28, 2013. Although no case has yet been filed, it is widely feared that this law if implemented as-is would allow warrantless searches on cases involving copyright infringements and strip Filipinos of the right to bring home copyrighted music, movies, and books from abroad even if they are intended for personal use only.

While there was already some intensive online discussions on the issue of curtailing our rights over copyrighted materials for personal use, the same cannot be said about the warrantless search provision contained in the amendment to Section 7 of RA 8293 that allows the enforcement agencies to “conduct visits during reasonable hours to establishments and businesses engaging in activities violating intellectual property rights and provisions of this Act based on report, information or complaint received by the office (meaning the authorities)”.

According to technology law expert Atty. JJ Disini, the newly amended IP Code allowing warrantless searches of business establishments and offices for violations of IP rights has worse effect than the provision about bringing in copyrighted materials for personal use. He said the amendments seek to expand the meaning of infringement to include the making of temporary copies which would make i-cafe owners, mall owners, lessors, and online  content providers become answerable to infringements done by others. The other opinions of Atty. JJ Disini regarding the new IP Code can be read on this link.

According to a news release by the IPOPHL (Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines), public consultations on the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the newly-amended IP Code will be held this month. The same news mentioned that the IRR must be put in place within 180 days from the law’s effectivity. I wish a representative of the internet cafe industry be invited to the said public consultation.

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