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Sony Music Philippines vs Judge Dolores Español et al
Intellectual Property – Law on Copyright – Probable Cause
In 2000, Sony Music Philippines sought the assistance of National Bureau of Investigation agent Lavin as they complained that Solid Laguna Corporation, together with its officers were engaged in the replication, reproduction and distribution of videograms without license and authority from Video Regulatory Board (violation of P.D. 1987); that Solid Laguna was manufacturing, selling, and distributing various titles of CDs in violation of Sony Music’s copyrights (violation of RA 8293). Agent Lavin, in applying for a search warrant, stated before Judge Español that an unnamed person provided them information as to the presence of pirated CDs in the premises of Solid Laguna; that Lavin and other witnesses were accompanied by unnamed persons to enter the premise and conduct further investigation. The judge then issued two corresponding search warrants; one for probable violation of PD 1987 and the other for probable violation of RA 8293.
The search warrants were subsequently enforced and items were seized from Solid Laguna on the strength of the two warrants.
Solid Laguna thereafter presented a certification that they are actually authorized to manufacture and sell CDs by the VRB at the same time it asked the court to quash the search warrants and return the items seized. Judge Español then quashed the search warrant issued for probable violation of PD 1987.
Judge Español later quashed the other warrant because of the fact that the items seized as a result of the two warrants were commingled hence they cannot be examined properly. Judge Español also ruled that the issuance of the warrant stemmed from the intimation made by petitioners that Solid Laguna was not authorized to manufacture and sell CDs but in fact they were authorized by the VRB. This being, the warrants are of no force and effect because of the lack of probable cause.
ISSUE: Whether or not Judge Español is correct.
HELD: Yes. The issuance of the search warrant in question did not meet the requirements of probable cause. Judge Español did not accordingly err in quashing the same, let alone gravely abuse her discretion. It is also within her authority to quash the said warrants based on her findings which were found to be valid by the Supreme Court. Further, it cannot be overemphasized that not one of the applicants of the warrants testified seeing the pirated discs being manufactured at Solid Laguna’s premises, they merely relied on unnamed persons which is at best are hearsays.
The Supreme Court also noted that the lack of supporting evidence and documents in applying for the search warrants on this infringement case does not mean that the master tapes of the alleged copies being pirated should have been produced. It is true that the Supreme Court, in 20th Century Fox Case, underscored the necessity, in determining the existence of probable cause in copyright infringement cases, of presenting the master tapes of the copyrighted work. But, as emphatically clarified in Columbia Pictures vs CA “such auxiliary procedure, however, does not rule out the use of testimonial or documentary evidence, depositions, admissions or other classes of evidence xxx especially where the production in court of object evidence would result in delay, inconvenience or expenses out of proportion to its evidentiary value. What the Supreme Court is saying is that any evidence presented in lieu of the master tapes, if not readily available, in similar application proceedings must be reliable, and, if testimonial, it must, at the very least, be based on the witness’ personal knowledge.
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