The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on copyright registration and the entertainment sector in the Philippines
Quisumbing Torres, Taguig City
Jose Angelo Tiglao
Quisumbing Torres, Taguig City
Maria Veronica Manalo
Quisumbing Torres, Taguig City
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented global economic downturn. By March 2020, the virus had spread widely to various regions of the Philippines. In response to the surging number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon Island, where the nation’s capital is located, under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to quell the spread of the virus. Due to lockdown restrictions imposed by the national government, over two million employees were laid off during the first five weeks of the Luzon-wide lockdown. Business enterprises and workers were greatly affected by the subsequent halt in economic activities. Consequently, various calls for the relaxation of community quarantine measures have been advocated to both the national and local government. So far, as of August 2020, the Philippines’ community quarantine measures have been generally loosened by the current administration, with areas previously placed under the stricter community quarantine schemes now allowed to transition into more lenient forms of quarantine.
A particular dilemma arises during the harrowing new reality brought about by Covid-19. The pandemic has caused severe distress to the entertainment sector. Businesses have ceased operations, crew members have fallen ill and most filming productions have halted. Workers in the film and audio-visual sector have found it difficult to continue providing content for their programmes and shows. In similar manner, and given the limited access to judicial remedies during the stricter forms of community quarantine, owners of intellectual property rights (IPR) have also been acutely affected by government measures. Aggravating the current problems experienced by various IPR owners, the public health crisis has given way to the proliferation of IPR infringement, particularly in consumer goods and entertainment media. Consequently, the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR) has warned the public of the surging number of cases relating to online piracy. These circumstances have resulted in a lingering predicament for the copyright and entertainment sectors.
Protecting artists: streamlining and facilitating the registration of works to safeguard the exclusive IP rights of scientists, inventors, artists and other gifted citizens
The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has issued revised rules on the various services under the Bureau of Copyright and Related Rights (BCRR), which officially came into effect on 5 September 2020. These revisions deal with the resolution of public performance disputes, rules on resale rights, copyright rules for government, copyright registration and the accreditation of collective management organisations. Of particular importance to the entertainment sector is IPOPHL Memorandum Circular (MC) No 2020-025, which deals specifically with the protection of the exclusive rights of artists and other gifted citizens to their IP creations.
In order to facilitate the registration of works, IPOPHL MC No 2020-025 revised and updated the existing Rules and Regulations on Copyright Registration and Deposit currently covered by IPOPHL Office Order No 13-171. This applies to both manual and online registration of copyrighted works and the recording of deeds of assignment, transfer and exclusive licence of copyright, before the IPOPHL. Through the introduction of the online registration scheme, authors and artists are now able to register their works digitally without having to file their applications for registration manually or physically. Under the new rules, certificates of copyright registration can now be issued by the BCRR via digital media. This safeguards the artists’ rights to their work, especially when online piracy is rife. Lastly, in order to expedite the process of registering copyrighted works, IPOPHL MC No 2020-025 streamlines the specific documenting requirements for heirs and assignees, providing a means of depositing works and adopting a separate procedure for manual registration.
Promoting health and safety protocols for the film and audio-visual sector: new guidelines in response to the Covid-19 pandemic
In response to the resumption of business operations under the general community quarantine (GCQ), the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), together with the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE), issued Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No 2020-001. It contains guidelines for the resumption of production work and filming activities in the film and audio-visual sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, it contains specific health and safety protocols which must be followed when conducting film and audio-visual production shoots and other audio-visual activities during the public health crisis. In issuing the JAO, the government has recognised that, as the film and audio-visual sector begins to resume operations, there is a need to protect its workers, together with their families and immediate communities.
Given the need to protect the health and safety of all personnel involved in the film and audio-visual duties during the ongoing pandemic, the JAO has instructed all producers/employers to ensure that their workplaces are compliant with the minimum standards of Covid-19 mitigation as imposed by the DOH. Furthermore, production companies and workers are directed to comply with current community quarantine protocols in which the production site or workplace is located, including curfews and other related guidelines and local issuances. For purposes of Covid-19 mitigation, the JAO has also required the presence of an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Officer on production sites. Of particular significance, the government recognised the rights of all workers in the sector to refuse work which they reasonably believe is potentially hazardous to their own health and safety or that of others. In order to properly assess and identify the occupational hazards in their workplace, workers are required to be aware of safety and health hazard identification, as well as on risk assessment and control.
General precautionary measures have also been put in place to ensure that workers remain healthy despite the resumption of work. All producers, employers, and employees are further required to comply strictly with social distancing measures, non-use of smoking and electronic cigarettes or vaping devices on production sites, observing personal hygiene measures, wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times, and subjecting themselves to self-quarantine in the event of having come in close contact with people who were confirmed or are suspected as Covid-19 cases. In protecting film and audio-visual sector’s vulnerable workers, the FDCP, DOH, and DOLE have further discouraged producers and employers from allowing the following to work on production sets: (1) persons under 21; (2) persons over 60; (3) persons of any age with existing conditions; and (4) women with a high-risk pregnancy. A certified medical personnel is also required to be on the production set at all times to conduct temperature checks and properly enforce the necessary precautionary health measures if a crew member falls ill.
Finally, the FDCP, in partnership with the DOH and DOLE, has been mandated to implement the JAO’s Safe Filming Programme. It is to create a global resource website outlining the principles of safe production. The website will provide information about systems, resources, forms, and all related documents and issuances to the film and audio-visual sector to ensure a safe working environment in the Philippines for both local and international film productions. This initiative is considered a platform by which the Philippines can actively collaborate with international film commissions and stakeholders to share best practices and relevant updates relating to managing the risks and spread of Covid-19 across various regions and worldwide.
By examining present economic realities under the lens of this unprecedented pandemic, the Philippine government can continue to devise new and effective strategies to deal with the Covid-19 public health crisis. With the adoption of clearer guidelines on Covid-19 prevention and control in the film and audio-visual sector, producers and employers are now in a much better position to formulate, revise, or alter their corporate policies and protocols, as well as their business continuity plans, for sustained economic growth. Furthermore, the importance given by the government on artists’ rights to their work prevents the proliferation of piracy and further enhances the sector’s growth.
In the entertainment sector, the most valuable asset is content. Consequently, the creativity, ability, and capacity to develop enriching, substantial and high-quality content for viewers and consumers are significant for the success of all involved. The vital importance of both intellectual property rights and protecting the people behind the entertainment sector clearly necessitates the development of reasonable, comprehensive, and effective measures to help combat Covid-19, particularly in light of the recent resumption of business and the reopening of the sector.
 Presidential Communications Operations Office, ‘Metro Manila now in GCQ’, 17 August 2020, available at: https://pcoo.gov.ph/news_releases/metro-manila-now-in-gcq, last accessed 11 October 2020.
 Flanders Investment and Trade, ‘CORONAVIRUS – The situation in Philippines’, 28 April 2020, available at: www.flandersinvestmentandtrade.com/export/nieuws/coronavirus-situation-philippines?fbclid=IwAR1W0cUK149HnPLwaFKk6eS8f5JlkJ-SrhB3qTP2EawCclKvaB5BiDJw5fo, last accessed 11 October 2020.