Many countries around the world have site-blocking regulations or laws in place or are considering implementing them. The Philippines sits in the latter category and is attacking the issue with gusto.
A new bill introduced by Senator Vicente “Tito” Castelo Sotto III highlights the thorny issue of online piracy and the reputation of the Philippines as a supposed “safe haven” for such activities.
“The Philippines is, unfortunately, one of the countries described by Internet pirates as ‘safe’ for uploading, downloading, linking, torrenting, and stream infringing content without fear of prosecution. The Philippines continues to be a haven for cyber criminals who illegally make content available on the Internet,” the bill begins.
“Years ago, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) was able to disrupt the notorious pirate torrent site, KickAssTorrents (kat.ph), by seizing the .ph domain – the country’s code domain. However, these prolific pirates simply changed their domain to that of another country – to .to for Tonga or .so for Somalia, just to cite an example.”
The bill seeks to “empower” the country’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) while forcing local Internet Service Providers to take “reasonable steps to disable access to sites whenever these sites are reported to be infringing copyright or facilitating copyright infringement.”
In broad terms, copyright holders will be expected to file a complaint against sites with the IPO which will then consider various aspects of their infringing, including the “flagrancy” of sites, whether operators demonstrate a “disregard” for copyright, whether sites have been blocked by courts elsewhere, and if blocking would be proportionate.
Within 15 days of an application, the IPO will have to produce a report and distribute it to copyright holders and ISPs. A Review Committee should then consider the case and if it agrees with the IPO, will issue a Notice of Approval within 10 days. Just five days after that, the IPO will be required to hand down an order requiring ISPs to take “reasonable steps” (URL, IP address, domain blocking) to disable access to the “infringing online location” listed in the complaint.
While ISPs will be able to file an objection if they disagree with the findings of the IPO, non-compliance with a finalized blocking order could have serious consequences.
“If the recommendation of the IPO to cancel the license of the ISP is proper and meritorious, the Commission shall facilitate the prompt cancellation of the license of the ISP,” the bill reads.
While site-blocking in other regions is usually carried out under the authority of a court order or injunction, this appears to be the first time that ISPs will find themselves under a direct threat to either block sites or go out of business.
The full bill can be found here (pdf)