Casbaa takes Manila cable op to court over copyright infringement

MUMBAI: The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) has filed 12 new copyright infringement actions at the Department of Justice in Manila against Maguindanao Skycable, a cable TV operator based in Cotabato City.

Casbaa filed the complaints on behalf of members owning the copyright for channels AXN, CNN International, Cartoon Network, Discovery Channel, the Disney Channel, ESPN, Star Sports, HBO Asia, MTV Asia, National Geographic, Star Movies, Star World and Star Sports.

Maguindanao Skycable is one of several cable operators raided in September last year by the National Bureau of Investigation - Intellectual Property Rights Division (NBI-IPRD) for illegally acquiring and transmitting copyrighted programming from major broadcasting organisations.

According to Casbaa, despite the NBI-led raids, the Cotabato-based cable operator continued to air numerous cable channels without the necessary authorisation from the owners.

Casbaa’s representatives filed the complaints based on evidence gathered by the NBI-IPRD after intensive surveillance and the raid of the Maguindanao Skycable office and head-end. Satellite TV receivers, decoder boxes, smart cards and other equipment used to make the illegal transmissions were seized by the NBI-IPRD operatives during the raid in September.

"With the filing of criminal charges the legitimate cable TV industry is demonstrating full commitment to following through on enforcement actions. Pay-TV signal theft must be penalised as an unlawful practice," said Casbaa CEO Simon Twiston Davies.

"While a significant number of cable operators engaging in unauthorised broadcasting expressed their intention to legitimize following the September raids (and they are to be applauded) there are others that continue to air copyrighted programs without authorization from the copyright owners. If obtaining convictions is the way to make ourselves heard and heeded, then this is the direction that we will resolutely take," he added.

Davies also added that cable companies engaged in piracy unfairly compete with legitimate local pay-TV services providers who have properly obtained licenses from program owners. In addition, many such operators do not pay license fees and taxes which could help the government boost the domestic economy.

"Last year the Philippine government lost some Peso 2.1 billion as a result of piracy in the pay-TV industry. We want pirate cable operators to come clean and pay their fair share," Davies said.

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