The Rights Stuff

COMMENTARY

Wilson Tieng: A Strong Voice Against Online Piracy

. — 17.04.2018

Few people can claim to have a passion for protecting intellectual property quite like Wilson Tieng. Since founding Solar Films in 1980 and Solar Entertainment Corporation in 1993, Mr. Tieng has witnessed firsthand the growth of the Philippine entertainment media industry. From the first color television programs in the 70s to today’s transition to digital platforms – this industry pioneer has been at the crux of it all. Demonstrating relentless energy, he continues to champion the rights of local artists in the ever-changing media landscape.

From Movie Buff to Media Mogul

Mr. Tieng’s love for storytelling began at a young age, when his father would take him and his brothers to the movies. These experiences had a profound impact on him, so much so that his youthful passion would later translate to major business success. Before establishing Solar Entertainment, one of the largest content providers and channel operators in Sokiutheast Asia, Mr. Tieng founded Solar Films, which provided Filipino audiences with access to foreign cinema. Over the years, the company’s roster of entertainment offerings expanded to seven channels, catering to a wide range of tastes and interests. Consecutively, Mr. Tieng moved into alternative content: In 2015, he launched Sinag Maynila Film Festival as a way to promote quality local independent films. In other words, if you have ever enjoyed a foreign series, cheered during a televised Pacquiao match, or seen a local indie movie, you have Mr. Tieng to thank.

The Flipside to Going Digital

Today, Mr. Tieng knows better than anyone consequences of going digital. Consumers are no longer glued to hefty television sets, but to slim, pocket-sized screens. Filipinos have, notably, welcomed digital platforms with open arms – More than half of the nation’s 103 million people have access to the Internet, and 58% of Filipinos are active on social media1. In a 2015 article, The Huffington Post named the Philippines, “A Digital Lifestyle Capital in the Making.” 2 Marketers are able to effectively target their audiences, while content creators are cropping up left and right. It’s a vibrant time for Philippine media.

However, the digital boom does not come without a flipside. At present, the Philippines ranks 18th worldwide for volume of unauthorized file-sharing [per capita?]3, and 10th in the total number of bit torrent downloads4. For many Filipinos, torrents, media-sharing, and streaming have become a cheap, easy way to unlawfully access media content.

As a staunch supporter of the media industry, Mr. Tieng warns that these illegal online practices come at a price. Each year, the Filipino entertainment industry loses millions of pesos to online piracy. The creators of original, quality media content are essentially deprived of what is due them. “When they lose income,” Mr. Tieng explains, “they lose the resources to create, market and deliver more content. And when they cut down on content, they let go of the artists and other people needed to create content – directors, producers, writers, musicians, composers, cameramen, sound engineers – all real people who are victims of piracy.”

A direct result of piracy is the stifling of creativity, which makes it impossible for the industry to grow. New productions will not be financed if creators do not receive adequate support from audiences.

Solutions to Online Piracy

While there are a number of effective solutions to prevent online piracy across the globe – eg. site blocking for copyright [link to latest infographic] is currently in use by 42 countries – Mr Tieng says, “There is a lack of specific legislation criminalizing online piracy,” in the Philippines. Mr. Tieng wants to see laws that give power to the authorities to penalize digital offenders.

He would also like to see a dedicated law enforcement unit to address online intellectual property crimes.

The private sector can play its part against copyright infringement. For example, in coordination with government agencies and the creative industries, advertisers can withdraw ad placements from local infringing websites and platforms, reducing profits to infringing websites. An Infringing Website List (IWL) scheme is currently in place in six Asia Pacific countries, including Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In addition, internet service providers may work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to identify and take down flagrantly infringing websites. In 2016, the most used torrent website, KickassTorrents was shut down, severely denting the level of online infringement. Mr. Tieng is confident that this can be done again.

Lastly, Mr. Tieng strongly suggests that the value of intellectual property should be taught in schools and via information campaigns. The Filipino public must understand the nature of piracy, and its negative effects. “We need to make people understand why piracy is a crime,” he emphasized.

Protecting Our Content

Past local inforcement operations have not been without success. In 2015, three pirates from different locations were nabbed by authorities for streaming copyrighted local programs. The following year, the Philippine National Police Anti-cybercrime Group arrested a man in Pampanga for running a website that illegally distributed copyrighted films. Attracting around 5,000 monthly visits to his website, the operator was earning at least Php120,000 every month.

Though these initiatives are commendable, there is still a long way go. According to Mr. Tieng, what the country truly needs is a shift in our collective attitude towards online piracy. Law enforcement, Government, the private sector, the creative industries and the average Filipino must work together to preserve, protect and respect intellectual property in all forms – film, music, photography, games and books and more.

Today, while Mr. Tieng remains consistently vocal on the topic of copyright theft, he is one of very few speaking up on the issue. But if more Filipinos take action against this growing threat, there is a much greater likelihood that the local creative industry will not only survive, but flourish and progress.


Sources

PH spends most time online and on social media—report. (2017, January 30). Rappler.com. Retrieved from https://www.rappler.com/technology/features/159720-ph-spends-most-time-online-and-on-social-media-report.

2 Revesencio,J. (n.d). Philippines: A Digital Lifestyle Capital in the Making? The Huffington post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonha-revesencio/philippines-a-digital-lif_1_b_7199924.html

De Vera, A. B. (2014, February 11). Newsbytes.ph. Retrieved from http://newsbytes.ph/2014/02/11/2-us-anti-piracy-groups-slam-rising-online-piracy-in-ph/

Pilipinas, kabilang sa mga nangungunang bansa pagdating sa unauthorized at illegal filesharing. (2014, March 4). GMA Network. Retrieved from http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/video/stateofthenation/195884/pilipinas-kabilang-sa-mga-nangungunang-bansa-pagdating-sa-unauthorized-at-illegal-file-sharing/video/

Slow death for video rental business. (2008, 29 September). GMA Network. Retrieved from http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/money/content/123621/slow-death-for-video-rental-business/story/.