Monday, June 14, 2010

Towards Having An IP-Compliant Society

One of the functions of I-Cafe Pilipinas as the national advocacy organization representing the internet cafe owners and operators in the country is to bring to the attention of our stakeholders issues and programs that would greatly affect the manner in which they conduct their businesses.

In this regard, we say that we are quite alarmed with the latest development that is taking place in which certain sectors in the ICT industry (private organizations and government agencies) are conceptualizing and promoting programs with the aim of creating an Intellectual Property  (IP) Compliant Society in the Philippines.  We believe that the conceptualization and promotions of these programs would not only have an effect on the internet cafe industry but also in the manner in which the whole ICT industry in the Philippines conduct their businesses.

First of all, we want to  make it clear that I-Cafe Pilipinas supports all actions of both private organizations and government agencies that would promote the protection of intellectual properties in the Philippines.  From the very beginning we have been very active in promoting to our stakeholders to use only licensed software in their operation and have cooperated fully with Microsoft Philippines in the promotion of their I-Cafe Program that provided opportunities to the internet cafe operators to be able to purchase affordable software licenses for their operations. Our stand is unwavering that it is to the best interest of our stakeholders to use only Intellectual Property Compliant Software in their operations.

What we do not support are programs and activities that would:
  1. Curtail the Human Rights of the stakeholders in the IT industry in the guise of Intellectual Property Rights Protection;
  2. Put an additional layer of Red Tape to an already over regulated industry that would provide hindrance to its development and growth; and
  3. Use these programs to collect fees that could reach to a large amount of financial resources that is not directly accountable for use in the development and growth of the ICT industry in the Philippines.
Specifically, I-Cafe Pilipinas does not oppose the issuance of the IP Seal by the IP Coalition if it is done under the following context and practices:
  • Create public awareness of IPR at all levels of the community;
  • Give due recognition to ICT firms that complies with the IPR law by providing an IP Seal of Excellence;
  • It is common industry practice to provide accreditation and the awarding of Seals of Excellence to firms who are able to comply with the set of standards set by the accrediting organization like the ISO Certification for industries and the PAASCU accreditation for schools, colleges and universities;
And lastly, we do believe that it is the right of the IP coalition to impose fees that are necessary for the accreditation of those ICT firms that would voluntarily avail themselves of the IP Seal of Recognition.

What I-Cafe Pilipinas opposes is the use of the IP Seal of Recognition in the following instances:

a) For IPR enforcement – in order to motivate ICT-based businesses in the country to avail themselves of the IP Seal of Excellence, the IP Coalition promised the recipient a one-year immunity from software piracy enforcement initiated by the Business Software Alliance (BSA). This we truly believe curtails the Constitutional Right Against Self Incrimination. ICT companies who would not voluntarily avail themselves of the IP Seal of Recognition are branded as IP non-compliant and therefore gives the right for the BSA to initiate software piracy enforcement against them. It undermines the basic constitutional process that provides individuals and businesses protection against illegal searches and the disruption of their businesses.

The use of the IP Seal of Excellence for IPR enforcement also undermines the basic right of the individual or of businesses to choose which systems that they believe would provide productivity in their organizations. The IP Seal of Excellence would be given only to those businesses that uses the products who are members of the IP Coalition and it would not provide recognition to those business organizations that uses Alternative Systems in their operations which are also IPR compliant. Thus raising the possibility of business organizations being continually harassed by software piracy enforcement initiated by BSA.

b) Possibility of Making the IP Seal of Excellence Mandatory in Business Registration Purposes – the IP Coalition is known for its strong legislative advocacy to strengthen the Regulatory Framework of the IP laws in the country. The Coalition was at the forefront of the advocacy for the passage of the Optical media Law (Rep. Act 9239), a law that regulates the manufacture, mastering, reproduction, sale, importation, and exportation of optical discs and is very much active promoting IPR ordinances in the different municipalities and cities around the country through their LGU Template. There is a high probability that through the legal process the IP Coalition would be able to make the IP Seal of Excellence mandatory before any ICT company would be able to register their business in the country. It would provide another layer of red tape that would greatly affect the ability of our ICT firms to compete in the open market in terms of cost of doing business.

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