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Intensifying campaign against film piracy


by Nickie Wang

A film pirate that records the movie you are watching might be just sitting next to you. This line sounds familiar, you always see this whenever you watch a movie in theaters.

In many years that I have been in and out of the major multiplexes, I have not seen any film scalawag who got apprehended by authorities for recording even just snippets of a movie. Yes, we have appropriate laws but they are loosely implemented by the concerned groups. Well actually, apart from this fact, our laws don’t have the fangs.

Piracy creates a big dent in the profits of films and productions houses. Based on a study conducted by the Motion Picture Association of America, annually, the industry losses $ 18 billion worldwide, and 9 percent of the illegally camcorded films can be traced back to Southeast Asia, majority of which are from the Philippines.

According to Mike Robinson, MPA chief content operations officer, the Philippines is now a hot spot accounting to the most numbers of pirated DVDs and CDs in the region (and this made me cringe as the official looked at me straight into the eyes while telling me this alarming figure).

“We don’t have any problem with countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. The focus is on the Philippines because pirated copies here are in demand,” Robinson told the Standard Today during the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the Philippine National Police, National Association of the Philippines, the Motion Picture Anti-Film Piracy Council, and the MPA.

On the other hand, the Optical Media Board, which is now headed by Ronnie Rickets, was not invited to grace the significant event. The OMB is also known for closely working together with the police in raiding vendors and shops that sell illegally copied movies and music records.

Robinson furthered that illegally camcorded films from the Philippines find their way to America and even Europe because of their almost the same quality compared to the original copies. Reason being, copies from the country do not have subtitles, “Compared to the ones coming from Russia and Ukraine for example,” the American official added.

“Let us take for example the film Inception,” said Robinson. The blockbuster movie that stars Leonardo DiCaprio had its first pirated DVD copies on the same day it was commercially released in the Philippines and it instantly gained high demand from [pirated] film enthusiasts in many parts of the world due to its clean and clear copy.

So what’s the new law all about?

Republic Act 10888, better known as the Anti-Camcording Act of 2010, allows the affected private parties to file proper complaints in court and hold illegal camcorders to strict liability.

The Act prohibits and penalizes unauthorized use, possession and control, with the intent or attempt to use audiovisual recording devices to transmit or copy a cinematographic film. Simply put, using video recording gadgets like mobile phone, digital camera or iPod to film any movie sees serious threat to the film industry. Robinson explained that film pirates who will be found guilty of violating the provisions of the Anti-Camcording Law shall be subject to a fine of 50,000 to 750,000 pesos plus a minimum of six months in jail.

“As the first country in Southeast Asia to establish such law, we hope that the Philippines can serve as an example to its neighboring countries,” Robinson exclaimed, added that countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and most specially Singapore do not have any major film piracy issues.

The initial effort is commendable but how are they going to be consistent in this battle is a different story. We have witnessed great attempts to combat the proliferation of illegally copied films but they seem to grow and now a major player in the black market.

What spells the end of local cinema?

Much has been said about the eventual demise of Philippine cinema. Industry insiders like filmmakers, film producers, actors, and writers when asked about the cause of the problem will simultaneously point their fingers to Hollywood films and piracy as culprits.

The truth is underneath the blaming a bigger problem that most of these insiders are missing out. They failed to look at their own backyard first by asking themselves why foreign movies, specifically the ones from Hollywood, find their ways in the local cinemas and gain more audience compared to the locally produced ones. They blindly ignore the fact that they are also at fault.

This time let’s use the thriller Salt, for illustration. The movie breached the 100-million-peso mark after 12 days of commercial release, it disappointed Judy Ann Santos and Sarah Geronimo starrer film Hating Magkapatid with 65 million pesos gross for its 12-day run.

It’s summertime in the US, meaning it is the most anticipated period of the year for the Americans because of the release of the best and the big-budgeted movies. After Inception, Salt, The Last Airbender, and The Ghost Writer, a couple more brilliant films are on their way to our movie houses and this dictates the fate of movies like In Your Eyes (Viva Films and GMA Films) and Sa ‘Yo Lamang (Star Cinema).

Every year, this has always been the case and what local producers do is to express their sentiments on unequal footing. Sure they are correct; the competition is not fair, most specially that they compare their crappy movies to the well-made ones.

We cannot curse in the foreign movies. We cannot blame them of the state-o- the-art technology they used to create film, and most of all we cannot blame the people who work behind them for coming up with innovative, logical, and moving tales that make local movies pale in comparison.

One prominent filmmaker proposes to have a law that limits the number of foreign films to be exhibited commercially. He affirms that it will open the market to locally produced films thus pumping more blood to the industry’s veins. But that just leaves us with no option, that arbitrarily encloses Filipinos as unsophisticated viewers and not able to appreciate intelligent films.

Recent foreign films releases were blockbusters and that proved Filipinos are sophisticated enough to digest sophisticatedly crafted films. Opposite to what local producers and filmmakers believe that Filipinos can only digest domestic issues, sex and violence, and romance. There is nothing wrong with these themes only if they are not awfully executed.

The so-called insiders have not learned, and they believe that constant poor reviews they receive from critics are just a piece of illogical bashing. If the landscape of Philippine movie industry remains regressive then we have no other options but to really patronage films that empower, entertain, and educate us, which of course the qualities that local films lack.

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