Online piracy is taking a heavy toll on the Philippine economy, with losses running up to billions of pesos and thousands of workers deprived of income opportunities.
The advocacy group CitizenWatch, in a statement, urged the government to act fast to combat the cyber pirates.
“Many Filipinos have already lost their jobs due to piracy before the pandemic,” said lawyer Tim Abejo. “The lockdowns worsened their situation. It’s time the government stepped in through stronger legislation and better enforcement.”
The economic consequences of online piracy have been tracked by numerous organizations.
As early as 2010, copyright-based industries contributed 14.14 percent to Philippine employment. Such industries were also responsible for 7.34 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the same year, according to a 2014 study carried out by IPOPHL and commissioned by the World Intellectual Property.
Ten years hence or in 2020, at the start of the pandemic-induced lockdowns, online content piracy was estimated to have translated to P1 billion in potential revenue losses to local video producers, distributors and aggregators in 2020, according to a study by Media Partners Asia.
The same illegal online activities also deprived legal subscription video-on-demand (VOD) services of some P6.3 billion in 2020, according to a study that placed the Philippines in third place in terms of VOD piracy in Asia.
“Rampant piracy in the country makes investors reluctant to invest in Philippine content production,” Abejo said.
“That is a sure way to kill not just a huge economic potential and the genuine spirit of creativity and innovation among our people,” he added.
The Philippine movie industry, in particular, felt the blow through low admission in cinemas. The Film Development Council of the Philippines said that in 2017 – years before the pandemic struck – admission rate was only between 14 percent and 18 percent, out of a population of 104 million.
The council also said the entire chain of workers in industries related to filmmaking were suffering from the ongoing copyright infringement and piracy. This included not only actors, producers and directors but all workers involved in the production of a film – composers, make-up artists, and crew.
The pandemic worsened this already dire situation, according to the 2022 Asia Video Industry Association Report.
The 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival, in full digital format, only gained 3 percent of gross revenues realized the previous year. Piracy has been identified as the main culprit.
“The raging issue of E-Sabong is yet another case where illegal websites operating outside the regulatory authority of PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) were accepting bets emanating outside the Philippines and targeting our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers).
These illegal e-sabong websites do not care if they encourage gambling addiction and underage gambling. E-Sabong pirates have stolen billions in fees due to government and hampered the enforcement of the presidential directive to close these operations,” Abejo said.
“The revenue loss impacts not just the industries directly targeted by online pirates but the also the thousands of
linked businesses supported by companies producing any digital content and software,” Abejo said.
“All these point to the incontrovertible fact that piracy is crippling the growth potential of linked ecosystems of digital innovators,” Abejo said. “The government and legislators must now step in.”
Abejo said that the government should help turn Filipino talent potential into an industry that is thriving and competitive.
“We have the creative assets to produce globally marketable content instead of just being a source of creative talent for foreign companies,” he said.
Among the concrete measures that can be taken by the government, specifically by Congress, is the amendment of the Intellectual Property Code to give the IPOPHL greater administrative enforcement power and enable the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) to block sites more swiftly.
Currently, sites can be blocked within two hours from the release of an order from the. “But more could be done,” Abejo said. “Site blocking needs a strong legal mandate and be extensively enforced to have observable, substantial impact.”
He said studies have shown that site blocking only decreases piracy if a good number of sites are blocked. “If just a few sites are blocked, then the users would only go to other unblocked sites.”
Amendment of the law would also allow for greater information sharing and development of effective site-blocking processes, Abejo said.
Abejo said the Philippines should aim to develop an entertainment industry modelled after the success of South Korea.
According to the IFPI Global Music Report 2021, South Korea is the sixth largest music market in the world and is the second-largest market in Asia after Japan. In 2020, the total value of the Korean music market was estimated to be $6 billion, representing a growth of 8.9 percent over the previous year according to the recent industry report by the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), a public agency that oversees the promotion of Korean content.
“We have our own unique qualities here that can appeal to a global market. Our new leaders should support the huge pool of Filipino creative talent with empowering policies that would provide incentives and effective protection against piracy that is now killing what should be a globally competitive sector,” Abejo said.