Understanding Copyright Law

By Mommy Donna and Kib - May 31, 2020

These days, we have been seeing a lot of "For Sale" worksheets on social media to keep our kids occupied during the community quarantine. However, it has also been noticed that these worksheets are either downloaded from a free website or from a paid online subscription. In addition, some electronic copies of well-known novels are also given for free.

The violation of Copyright Law was raised upon seeing these materials online.

I posted a question about this on my personal Facebook account to know the scope of this law. I only know that the law is protecting printed materials like books. I am not sure if the law also protects books in PDF format and paid subscriptions.

A friend of mine sent me a link to read about Copyright Law.

I thought that there is no provision on the electronic format of the materials on the first glance until another friend who is a paralegal in the United States sent me a message about my question. She read the law and told me that there is actually a provision about the digital format. However, it is weak.

So, let's define Copyright Law first before we go to the juicy details.

Copyright Law is protecting the original intellectual works in both artistic and literary forms. This covers books, pamphlets, articles, scripts, lectures, newspapers, music, etc. The Copyright Law is created to protect the interest of the author, writer, composer, artist, etc. 

However, there are also written materials that are not covered by Copyright Law, such as ideas, concept, and public documents such as legislative writings and court documents. It also includes digital contents such as Facebook status updates, photos, videos, blog posts, audio files, and games. Digital content is something that is produced specifically for distribution over the Internet. 

The Philippine law on the protection of written works are very strong; however, with regards to the digital content, it is still a gray area. 

The Copyright Law is applicable on the day of creation of the work.

The piece of work is covered by the Copyright Law while the author lives and an additional fifty years after the author passed away.

Violation of the Copyright Law is called copyright infringement.

Copyright infringement is a criminal act violating the provisions of the Copyright Law. The most common violations of the Copyright Law are the following:

  • When the copyrighted material is sold by a third party without giving proper credit or portion of the sale to the author;
  • When the copyrighted material is distributed for free without the permission of the owner; and
  • When the copyrighted material is shown in public without seeking the permission of the owner
To know more about Copyright Law, read more about it here.

Now that you already have an idea about the Copyright Law, how can we apply it in electronic copies of written works?
  • When you purchase a digital format (PDF) of your favorite book and you decided to share it away for FREE, you are violating the Copyright Law.
  • When you purchase digital formats (PDF) of your books and you decided to SELL it without the permission of the author, you are violating the Copyright Law.
  • When you photocopy the WHOLE BOOK without permission from the author, you are violating the Copyright Law.
  • When you paid a subscription of worksheets or any other material, and you decided to REPRODUCE and SELL it, you are violating the Copyright Law.
  • When you SELL free downloadable materials, you are violating the Copyright Law.

Those who will be caught violating the Copyright Law are punishable by law.

  • 1-3 years imprisonment and a fine amounting to Php50,000-150,000 (first offense)
  • 3-6 years imprisonment and a fine amounting to Php150,000-Php500,000 (second offense)
  • 6-9 years imprisonment and a fine amounting to Php500,000-Php1,500,000 (third and subsequent offenses)

So, to avoid violating the Copyright Law, here are the things that you can do:

  • If there are missing pages or misprints on the material, ask the publisher or author directly for a copy of the missing page. 
  • For free resources, give the source/URL instead of giving the actual downloaded material.
  • For PDF copies of the book, encourage your friends to purchase it instead.
  • For paid subscriptions, tell your friends to subscribe instead.
  • Buy the original book rather than photocopying the whole book.

Let us respect the works of the authors. They worked blood and sweat on their works so let us give them what is due to them.

I also call on our legislators to review the Copyright Law to update the provisions there.

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