OMB wants law amended to cover Internet-based content

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he is supporting the amendment of the Optical Media Act of 2003 (OMA) to give the country’s anti-piracy watchdog sharper teeth against the more tech-savvy movie and television content pirates.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian

Gatchalian, who presided over the recent hearing of the proposed 2020 budget of the Optical Media Board (OMB), said the 16-year-old law has been rendered antiquated by the development of newer technologies and the changing viewing behavior of many Filipinos.

The lawmaker also noted that with the on-going migration of pirated materials from compact discs (CDs) and Digital Video Discs (DVDs) to Universal Serial Bus (USB), Secure Digital (SD) cards, and internal and external storages, the OMA needs to be amended in order for the OMB to cope with fast-changing technology.

“Now that I had the opportunity to scrutinize your budget and the OMB’s mandate, the more I am convinced that we need to update the law,” Gatchalian said. “This law has been overlooked in the past and, you know, technology is also moving fast.”

“The law is quite antiquated already and it is good practice to update our laws from time to time, especially taking into consideration advancements in technology and trends around the world. So, we’re very open and we request OMB to submit their legislative proposals,” he added.

During the hearing, Gatchalian pressed OMB chair Anselmo Adriano on how the anti-piracy watchdog intends to efficiently implement its mandate as an enforcement agency, aside from conducting regular raids for pirated movies in retail outlets.

Adriano, for his part, agreed with Gatchalian that pure enforcement alone will not succeed. Aside from conducting raids, the OMB chairman said the agency launched an anti-online piracy awareness campaign that aims to educate the public about the illegal content consumption, and the proliferation of illicit streaming devices.

Adriano bared during the budget hearing that piracy has elevated itself already over to the Internet, which he finds very alarming. Being a storage-based regulatory agency, Adriano admitted that they are powerless when it comes to piracy committed on the Internet.

“And as much as we would really want to regulate all of these things, unfortunately, our law, Republic Act 9239, which was passed way back in 2003, does not, I repeat, does not cover anything over the Internet. We are basically a storage-based regulatory agency,” the OMB chairman said.

Data from the OMB shows that the agency has accumulated over P3-billion worth of confiscated optical media discs over the past three years. Meanwhile, there were 1,673 USB flash drives confiscated during OMB operations from January 1 to September 15, 2019.

During the same period, the OMB has seized a total of 428,505 pirated optical media products with an estimated value of P219 million. However, Adriano noted that there had been a drastic reduction in the retail of optical media discs or DVDs by approximately 57% over the past three years.

“I think, moving forward, please submit to us two things — but this is not subject to your budget but mas magandang mapag-usapan — iyong legislative proposal. Hopefully, we can have that concept paper written up in the next few months,” Gatchalian said.

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