Filipino stores raided for
selling pirated DVDs
(Top, l-r): Bulacan Fashion, Universe Communications and Bon-Bon were among the six stores in Montreal and Toronto that recently surrendered hundreds of pirated DVDs of ABS-CBN content (Bottom l-r): Samples of the pirated DVDs that the stores were illegally selling in Canada.
Six stores in Toronto and Montreal surrendered over a thousand pirated DVDs of Filipino entertainment content on March 7 and 8, 2017. The police raid was the latest action in the worldwide efforts of media giant ABS-CBN to crack down on illegal sales of its TV shows and movies. Included in the enforcement actions were Bulacan Fashion, Bon-Bon, Wayne’s Collectibles, and Universe Communication Ltd. in the Toronto area, another store in Dragon Centre in Scarborough, plus a store located at 6057 Victoria Avenue in Montreal.
“The stores were selling poor quality copies of ABS-CBN’s movies, which tarnish our customers’ viewing experience and damage the ABS-CBN brand,” said Elisha Lawrence, ABS-CBN Head of Global Anti-Piracy. “In addition, Canada is robbed of the taxes it deserves as these stores sell these DVDs for cash and pay no taxes to the government. Everyone are losers if this isn’t stopped,” she added.
The raids in Canada follow similar recent actions in China and the US.
A sample of the marketing material that distributors of the illegal Filstream box have posted on Facebook.
On February 28, 2017, police in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, arrested the owners and operators of a company that illegally programmed pirate Internet TV (IPTV) boxes and marketed them around the world under the Filstream brand. The Shenzhen police team seized the company’s servers and business records as part of a criminal investigation of the illegal distribution network.
Alan Zhou and Roland Lu of Shenzhen Welnavi Technology Co. were charged with copyright infringement on March 2, 2017. Two senior programmers at the factory were also arrested and charged with copyright infringement with a maximum penalty of seven years in jail. Shenzhen Welnavi has been completely shut down. All those arrested are expected to remain in custody pending trial, which is likely to take place next year.
The arrests in China were the culmination of an eight-month worldwide investigation spearheaded by ABS-CBN. To date, the investigation has resulted in the arrest and seizure of Filstream box distributors in Illinois and Florida. Filstream IPTV boxes also carried content from other Philippine networks such as GMA, TV5, and Aksyon TV, as well as US networks, HBO, National Geographic, Discovery and CNN.
Lawrence said that ABS-CBN plans to continue to enforce criminal and civil actions against anyone who steals its movies and TV shows and offers them via an IPTV box, free websites or on YouTube, Daily Motion and Facebook.
ABS-CBN filed a lawsuit on February 28 against the web site, KissAsian.com in Florida, which it accused of illegally streaming its television shows and movies, such as Dolce Amore and Be My Lady. ABS-CBN is seeking damages of over $8 million from KissAsian.com for allegedly infringing the trademarks and registered copyrights of 27 of its shows and movies.
“These pirate sites often victimize our fans when they access these sites and are later attacked by malware which steals their financial and personal data. We are going after every pirate wherever they live and operate. We arrested and sued numerous pirates last year and we plan to quadruple that effort this year,” said Elisha Lawrence.
ABS-CBN said last month that it was awarded an amended default judgment of nearly $11 million against 11 websites that illegally stream the company’s shows and movies. Among the pirate websites that provide ABS-CBN’s content were Freepinoychannel.com and Pnoytambayantv.com, each ordered by the US court to pay $1.18 million in statutory damages. Lambingan.to, Pinoynetwork.to and Tambaytayo.com were ordered to pay $1.09 million each and Pinoymovie.to, $1.24 million in statutory damages.
Meanwhile within the Philippines, copyright infringement goes largely unpunished. Josephine Santiago, the Director General of the Intellectual Properties Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) said in an interview last year that only 15 digital piracy convictions were made between 2011 and 2016.
“In five years, we just had 15 convictions. You would agree that there should be more than that. Unfortunately we are powerless to really put all the violators in jail,” she said. “When we see a violation around us, our hands our tied because intellectual property rights are private rights. Because these are private rights, we need to have a complainant, that is what the nature of intellectual property is,” Santiago said.
Last year, on Intellectual Property (IP) Day, April 26, 2016, Wilson Tieng of Solar Entertainment Corporation said that the Philippines lacks specific legislation criminalizing online piracy. The Philippines currently has only two laws on digital piracy – the Intellectual Property Code, and the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Tieng argued that the only time piracy is penalized is when provisions of the two separate laws are applied in connection with each other.
“It would be simpler and more effective if one specific law were passed solely to define and penalize online piracy and provide procedures to prosecute the same. This will make it easier for law enforcement authorities to apply the law and go after online pirates,” Tieng said, adding, “The Philippine ranks 18th worldwide in the volume of unauthorized sharing, 10th in the number of Bit Torrent downloads. As a result, it is estimated that 70 percent of film distribution in the country is controlled by pirates.”
According to a joint statement in April 2016 by the IPOPHL, the Motion Picture Association (MPA), and the Department of Science and Technology Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO), it is estimated that nearly 200 million pirated movies and TV shows in the Philippines were shared on P2P networks in 2015.