Industry applauds Philippines site blocking rule but stakeholders must be patient

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The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) published rules on site blocking, to disrupt access to pirated sites significantly and reduce piracy rates in the country. IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba signed Memorandum Circular 23-025 or the Rules on Voluntary Administrative Site Blocking on Sept. 20, 2023.  The rules goe into effect two months from that publication date.

Under the rules, a rights holder or a duly authorized representative files a written request with the IP Rights Enforcement Office (IEO), with a filing fee, after which an officer from the IEO is given ten working days to submit an Evaluation Report that recommends the issuance or non-issuance of a site blocking order. It is then escalated to the Supervising Director or Deputy Director General, who is given five working days for approval.

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Responding to blocking requests

The blocking request is then served to the administrator of the concerned website, or is published on the IPOPHL website if no contact details of the website administrator is found.   The website administrator is given seven calendar days from receipt or publication to file a protest.

If no protest is received from the website administrator within the given period, the Supervising Director or Deputy Director General will issue a site-blocking request to the ISP within 48 hours, and is given a subsequent 48 hours to enforce the block.

ISPs sign on to the policy

To implement the rules, IPOPHL signed partnership agreements with the Philippines’ National Telecommunciations Commission and with ISPs Globe Telecom, Inc., Smart Communications, Inc., PLDT, Inc., Sky Cable Corp. and DITO Telecommunity Corp.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, ISPs commit to willingly block sites directly upon IPOPHL’s request issued after a determination of violation, thereby streamlining the current process which requires the involvement of the NTC, the agency being the primary regulator of ISPs.

ISPs can disable access either to entire Domain Name Systems (DNS); IP addresses; Uniform Resource Locators (URL) for targeted websites, or through any other alternative means.

Further reading

IPOPHL rolls out new site blocking rules to stamp out piracy, redirect consumers to legit markets.  Press releease. September 25, 2023. Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL)

ISPs, anti-piracy partners laud IPOPHL’s site blocking rules for empowering proactive action. Press release. October 4, 2023. Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL)

Consumer Risks from Piracy Sites in the Philippines. Research report. August 2023. by Paul Watters. Cyberstomy Pty Ltd.

Why it matters

A period of as long as 15 days will elapse between the date of an initial piracy complaint and the date at which the request is escalated for internal approval, which can take as long as another seven days. Following that, ISPs are given two days to present the blocking request, and the site administrator is given two more days to respond.

Total elapsed time from blocking request to final site response: up to 26 days, if Piracy Monitor is interpreting the declaration correctly.

While it’s a step in the right direction, urgency is lacking.  By contrast, the time allowed in Italy for an ISP to tender a blocking request is 30 minutes.

Applause in any case

“The rules are a result of years-long work with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and several internet service providers (ISPs) who refuse to sit down and watch while our creative industry suffers. With the site blocking mechanism soon up and running, IPOPHL, as ex-officio member of the Philippine Creative Industries Development Council, is ecstatic to say the Philippines now has an essential tool to protect the creativity that drives our economy and defines our cultural landscape,” said IPOPHL Director General Barba.

Yolanda Crisanto, Globe Telecom’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications, said the new rules are a wish come true for the company which has been running its #PlayItRight anti-piracy campaign since 2017.  “What we are doing today is such an important step. We are no longer tied down. We can do something about piracy,” Crisanto said, adding that she still hopes to see the site blocking bills at Congress and Senate passed into law for stronger and wider-scale implementation.

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