Bill allowing authorities to block websites with pirated content hurdles House second reading

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading the bill aiming to require internet service providers to block websites with pirated content.

House Bill 7600, or the proposed Act Strengthening the Powers and Functions of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL), is set to amend the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines to include the scope of what would be considered as pirated content, which could include posts published online.

The bill, authored by Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, was approved via voice voting.

In his sponsorship speech, Salceda assured that the people's right to due process would not be violated once the bill is passed into law.

"In practical terms, it allows the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines to receive complaints and petitions to take down infringed content posted online, or to conduct site blocking. The complaints can be heard in a simplified manner that also adheres to the constitutional requirement of due process including means for appeal," he said.

"And within five days, the IPOPHIL can decide on the complaint, and 48 hours thereafter, compel an internet service provider to block the offending site," he added.

The proposed measure also eyes more enforcement functions, which include guidelines on gathering intelligence information, conduct of investigations, and development of countermeasures to piracy.

Salceda said digitalization has made it so easier for content to spread. He added that this harms the victim content creators whose works are being pirated.

"Once pirated content becomes viral, it becomes very difficult to prevent other users from accessing it. Copyright laws become impossible to enforce on viral content. So, the point of any intellectual property enforcement law in the digital age must be to prevent infringement before it becomes viral," he noted.

According to Salceda, creative industries account for 7.5% of Gross Domestic Product, with digital content creation contributing as much as 0.46% of GDP to the economy.

"It will continue to grow, but so will the cost of online piracy, already estimated to cost around 0.12% of GDP, or more than one-fourth the size of the total digital creatives sector. Without enforcement, piracy will kill this sector in its infancy," he said.

"I urge the House to prevent this post-partum economic abortion and allow this very highly potent sector to flourish and mature," he added.