By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III
Two weekends ago, this column discussed in an article entitled “May bars and restaurants play copyrighted music without permission?” the legal implications of live playing by bands in restaurants of copyrighted music.
Relatedly, this week, in another case decided by the Supreme Court, it was held that cable television networks should likewise be wary of “transmitting a musical composition” which is copyrighted as it may constitute as an infringement.
The ruling is redolent of videoke singing wherein the background is “googled” from the internet. This, too, may run afoul of copyright law/s.
Thus, in Philippine Home Cable Holdings, Inc. v. Filipino Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers, Inc., G.R. No. 188933, which came down on February 21, 2023, it was illumined that:
“When a cable television system operator transmits a musical composition fixed in an audiovisual derivative work over a channel they control and operate, the operator is making that work accessible to members of the public from a place or time individually chosen by them. This is the essence of the “communication to the public” right in the Intellectual Property Code.
X x x
To uphold a copyright infringement claim, the following must be proved: first, the complainant or plaintiff’s ownership of a validly copyrighted material, and second, the defendant or respondent’s exercise of any the enumerated economic rights without the consent of the copyright owner or holder. For the second element, it must further be shown that the exercise of the economic right was inconsistent with any of the limitations on copyright and permissible unauthorized reproductions and importations”.
An element of copyright infringement is “communication to the public”. Thus, when speaking of videoke singing in our barangays and communities, the penchant of some to turn on blaring speakers for their singing to be amplified, should be curbed on the grounds of both being a noise nuisance and for copyright infringement.
Philippine Home Cable Holdings, Inc. further teaches that:
“To emphasize, copyright over an original work is unaffected even when that work is used in a derivative work. And the grant of copyright protection to the derivative work does not by itself make the use of the original work, or any part of it, lawful absent the copyright holder’s consent. Precision Audio may warrant that it holds the copyrights to the videoke works fixed in the laser discs purchased by petitioner, and it may license or assign any of the videoke’s economic rights to petitioner as part of the sale, but that does not affect the copyright over the underlying musical composition which is a component of the videoke. At most, Precision Audio validly granted to petitioner the right to publicly perform or communicate to the public the videoke, but not the composite original works which economic rights were held by others, such as the composers, authors, or publishers that respondent represents” (Philippine Home Cable Holdings, Inc. v. Filipino Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers, Inc., G.R. No. 188933. February 21, 2023).
Still, the simple rule is to be mindful of the right to peace and quiet of our neighbors. Let us limit the videoke singing to the confines of our own homes so as to avert violating the principle of “communication to the public” to the end that not only that we accord our neighbors their right to peace and quiet, but we can avoid infringing on copyrights altogether.
(The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates– a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor, MCLE lecturer, bar reviewer and a book author. His website is etriiilaw.com).