ABS-CBN vs Philippine Multi-Media System Inc.

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Intellectual Property – Law on Copyright – Must-Carry Rule

Philippine Multi-Media System Inc (PMSI) is a signal provider which has cable and satellite services. It is providing its satellite services through Dream Broadcasting System. PMSI has its “Free TV” and “Premium Channels”. The Free TV includes ABS-CBN, GMA-7 and other local networks. The premium channels include AXN, Jack TV, etc which are paid by subscribers before such channels can be transmitted as feeds to a subscriber’s TV set which has been installed with a Dream satellite.

ABS-CBN is a television and broadcasting corporation. It broadcasts television programs by wireless means to Metro Manila and nearby provinces, and by satellite to provincial stations through Channel 2 and Channel 23. The programs aired over Channels 2 and 23 are either produced by ABS-CBN or purchased from or licensed by other producers. ABS-CBN also owns regional television stations which pattern their programming in accordance with perceived demands of the region. Thus, television programs shown in Metro Manila and nearby provinces are not necessarily shown in other provinces.

In May 2002, ABS-CBN sued PMSI for allegedly engaging in rebroadcasting and thereby infringing on ABS-CBN’s copyrights; that the transmission of Channels 2 and 23 to the provinces where these two channels are not usually shown altered ABS-CBN’s programming for the said provinces. PMSI argued that it is not infringing upon ABS-CBN’s copyrights because it is operating under the “Must-Carry Rule” outlined in NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) Circular No. 4-08-88.

ISSUE: Whether or not PMSI infringed upon the copyrights of ABS-CBN.

HELD: No.  The “Must-Carry Rule” under NTC Circular No. 4-08-88 falls under the limitations on copyright. The Filipino people must be given wider access to more sources of news, information, education, sports event and entertainment programs other than those provided for by mass media and afforded television programs to attain a well informed, well-versed and culturally refined citizenry and enhance their socio-economic growth. The very intent and spirit of the NTC Circular will prevent a situation whereby station owners and a few networks would have unfettered power to make time available only to the highest bidders, to communicate only their own views on public issues, people, and to permit on the air only those with whom they agreed – contrary to the state policy that the (franchise) grantee like ABS-CBN, and other TV station owners and even the likes of PMSI, shall provide at all times sound and balanced programming and assist in the functions of public information and education.

PMSI was likewise granted a legislative franchise under Republic Act No. 8630, Section 4 of which similarly states that it “shall provide adequate public service time to enable the government, through the said broadcasting stations, to reach the population on important public issues; provide at all times sound and balanced programming; promote public participation such as in community programming; assist in the functions of public information and education.

The “Must-Carry Rule” favors both broadcasting organizations and the public. It prevents cable television companies from excluding broadcasting organization especially in those places not reached by signal. Also, the rule prevents cable television companies from depriving viewers in far-flung areas the enjoyment of programs available to city viewers.

 

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