My Thoughts on Cybercrime & Piracy (or How I Want My Friends To Patronize My Work)

Date posted on October 12, 2012


A friend of mine posted a link to this amusing cartoon from, with a message relating it to the passage of the Cybercrime Law. When my friend mentioned that the Cybercrime Law “does not serve the interest of the people, but serves to protect the interest of the big companies who own copyrights to artists’ works,” it somehow felt wrong to me. He said that the Cybercrime Law was not “protecting the artist’s intellectual property by being ‘anti-piracy.'” I was against the Cybercrime Act’s passage too, but something about his statement felt incongruous with my sentiments, so I clicked on the link to see the website.

The cartoon basically says big music publishers’ (like EMI) control and share of the revenues from sales have greatly diminished over the years, relinquishing more of it over to the musicians. It proceeds to say that we should push for a more direct interaction between the consumers and the musicians, where every cent we spend buying music goes to the artist. I agreed, specially on the last point, but it also pushed me to distill my stand on the Cybercrime Law.

Because of the current online landscape, I thought, aren’t musicians already capacitated to make the self-preserving choice to make their music directly accessible (allowing them to dictate their own terms for remuneration, keeping for themselves the entire “retail” price)? Di ba parang, was it Radiohead who tried this? This is a real question by the way. An impression of how it is now, as opposed to an informed insight into the workings of the music industry.

My point being, piracy happens because the musicians sign off the rights to the music publishers, giving the publishers the rights which they invoke against unpaid sharing/downloads. Simply put, if they didn’t sign off these rights, there wouldn’t be ‘piracy’ to begin with. Part of what they sign up for when they sell the rights to their music is the benefit of advertising and promotion, which is what forces them to this (often) oppressive setup. Much as I agree that getting 23¢ out of an 18$ retail price in exchange for publicity & promotion seems grossly unfair, it doesn’t follow that piracy in itself is justified.

I guess what I’m ultimately driving at is… I don’t see this Oatmeal editorial as anti-piracy exactly. And I while I also am against the passing of the current draft of the Cybercrime Law, I don’t believe that its protection of copyright infringement is among its biggest flaws.

Sadly kase, music, in these terms, is not all art but also commerce. It shouldn’t stop us from lobbying for increased royalties for the true artists, but we should be careful not to become unwitting accomplices of copyright infringement. The setup alluded to by the cartoon should rightly draw attention to the unjust capitalist bullying that happens between big Music Publishers and hard-working artists. Or in parallel cases, between Film Distributors and actors/writers/producers. (Oddly enough, this is coming from someone who doesn’t own the copyright to his scripts!)

I welcome what torrents and filesharing have done in making music and films easily accessible, but I’m not going to say that getting them for free was something I had a right to.

Ako personally, in the case of my self-produced short films, I made them without any intention of making money out of them, so I make them available on my website. If someone made it available through torrents, I wouldn’t mind it being shared by everyone, so more people can watch it. Kaya nga I didn’t go shopping for producers, offering its copyright in exchange for funding. I made it without any intention of getting back the money that I spent shooting and editing and shopping for the food that acted as compensation for those who worked pro-bono (or in some instances, the hugely discounted talent fees I paid my actors). So yes, please, go on and share it all you want – for free, too!

But when friends find out that I wrote or directed a certain movie for a film company and ask if I can give them a torrent, it’s not entirely flattering. Kase a part of me wants them to pay for the movie as they watch it in the cinema or buy the DVD, cause sad to say, while I also consider it my art, it is also how I make a living. In a way, especially for those who are not fans of Pinoy films, what they seem to say is, “You’re my friend so I’ll watch your film, but I don’t appreciate your work enough to pay for it” – unlike how they might, say, brave the long lines at the cinemas on the first day of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

In a way kase, patronage of music and films, and other forms of entertainment and art, is in huge part measured by sales, and my currency as a commercial scriptwriter or director is partly based on the public patronage of my work. This is how I’m able to demand a reasonable compensation for my art.

So again, while I am against the current draft of the Cybercrime Law, I hope the protection it gives against copyright infringement survives. Strike down the parts that constitute double convictions resulting from the distinction between libel and online libel; the violation on equal protection rights of those considered as Information and Communication Technolgy (ICT) users; the relaxation of the Constitutional requirements for surveillance thus violating rights to privacy of communication; and most importantly, the “takedown provision” that empower the DOJ to be the one-stop shop on all online matters, minus the requirement of a fair trial or conviction. But that of copyright infringement, let’s be careful about that.

It really all boils down to… sana next time, support me by watching my films in the movie house 😉