CASBAA applauds Philippines cable undertaking

Rose Major

The settlement of a cable piracy case in the Philippines has been called “a significant step towards guaranteeing copyright protection for broadcasting” in the country by the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA).

Turtle Cable, an infringing cable operator in Camarines Sur, has agreed to refrain from broadcasting unauthorised TV programming and exclusively distribute legally authorised TV broadcasts. The undertaking is legally binding.

The case was the result of a series of complaints filed by CASBAA. Settlement was signed a year after the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines served its very first pay-TV temporary restraining order.

The IPO order barred Turtle Cable from re-distributing international cable channels for which it does not have a distribution contract. Proceedings were about to enter the trial stage before the IP Philippines’ Bureau of Legal Affairs when settlement was reached. If the case had proceeded to trial, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) could have revoked Turtle Cable’s operating license, under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding between IP Philippines and NTC implemented in 2007.

“The firm resolve of IP Philippines demonstrates there is a clear justification under Philippine law and international treaties for broadcasters to authorize – and collect relevant fees for – the distribution of their programming,” said John Medeiros , Deputy CEO of CASBAA. “CASBAA commends IP Philippines for its professional handling of this case as well as its commitment to support the prevention of cable piracy in the Philippines .”

But more needs to be done in the Philippines, said the organisation in a statement. Pay-TV piracy is estimated to have cost the industry US$100 million in 2008 alone.

Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr., IP Philippines Director General added: “The illegal and unauthorized broadcasting of copyrighted television programs has caused significant economic losses to legitimate cable operators here and around the world. It deters the growth of the copyright industry which employs more than 300,000 people in the Philippines alone.”

However, a combination of technological, commercial and administrative pressures may have begun to take positive effect.

“Cable operators are coming to the conclusion that life will be much easier if they just use authorized programming,” said Tim Bautista, COO of channel distribution agent Cable Boss. “To help encourage legal pay-TV operations and help cable companies grow their business, our company is prepared to be flexible in arriving at sub-licensing deals.”