Court of Appeals rules in favor of GMA Network in copyright infringement case filed by ABS-CBN

Nov 18, 2010
The Court of Appeals upholds an earlier resolution by former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez that "the inadvertent airing of the five-second footage squarely falls within the scope of Section 212 of the [Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines] considering that said footage constitutes a mere short excerpt compared to the entirety of the subject news footage."


The Court of Appeals (CA) has ruled in favor of GMA Network in a copyright infringement case filed by ABS-CBN Corporation in relation to the airing of the video of Angelo dela Cruz's homecoming in 2004.


According to the corporate communications department of the Kapuso Network, the 14-page decision released recently by the CA clears the owners and officials of GMA-7 of any liability under Republic Act 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines.



The case stemmed from the alleged unauthorized use of footage of Dela Cruz's arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) aired during GMA-7's newscast on July 22, 2004.



Both GMA-7 and ABS-CBN deployed news teams on-site to cover the arrival of Dela Cruz, an overseas Filipino worker who was kidnapped in Iraq.



ABS-CBN claimed that GMA-7 "stole" its exclusive live coverage, prompting the Kapamilya Network to seek damages in the aggregate amount of P200 million.


However, GMA-7's lawyers countered by saying that the footage was actually taken from Reuters Television Service (Reuters), where GMA-7 had a subscription contract for news video feeds.



In the decision penned by Associate Justice Josefina Guevara-Salonga dated November 9, 2010, the Court of Appeals reversed the resolution of the Department of Justice issued by then Secretary Alberto Agra last June 29, 2010, which directed the filing of charges for violation of Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines or RA 8293 against officers of GMA-7.



Instead, the CA reinstated the earlier resolution of the DOJ issued by former Secretary Raul Gonzalez on August 1, 2005, which ruled that the "airing of Dela Cruz's homecoming was done in good faith and cannot be regarded infringement of copyright."



Secretary Gonzalez's resolution was reversed by Agra after ABS-CBN filed a motion for reconsideration.



The CA found no probable cause to charge GMA-7 executives, namely, Chairman and CEO Atty. Felipe L. Gozon; then EVP and now President and COO Gilberto R. Duavit Jr.; SVP for News and Public Affairs Marissa L. Flores; VP for News Programs Jessica Soho; AVP for News Operations Grace Dela Peña-Reyes; and then News Program Manager John Manalastas.



The court ruled that Secretary Agra, "by ordering the filing of information without proof that probable cause exists to charge petitioners with a crime... committed an error in his decision."



The CA agreed with Secretary Gonzalez that "the inadvertent airing of the five-second footage squarely falls within the scope of Section 212 of the Code considering that said footage constitutes a mere short excerpt compared to the entirety of the subject news footage."



According to the report furnished by the corporate communications department of GMA Network, the CA decision said: "Since the material was received by GMA-7 without notice of 'No Access Philippines' from Reuters and CNN, GMA-7 cannot be charged with having knowledge of the ownership of the material by another and in fact stopped the airing upon notice that the same feed was aired over ABS-CBN."



The CA ruling also said: "The nature of the said news footage is undeniably newsworthy being a current event, that the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole is minimal and thus cannot be considered as a copyright infringement.



"To require petitioners to proffer their defenses during trial when it is evident, at this point, that no probable cause exists to indict them to begin with is a glaring error of jurisdiction on the part of the respondent Secretary and verily defeats the purpose of preliminary investigation," it added.

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The Court of Appeals upholds an earlier resolution by former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez that "the inadvertent airing of the five-second footage squarely falls within the scope of Section 212 of the [Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines] considering that said footage constitutes a mere short excerpt compared to the entirety of the subject news footage."
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