Metro Manila Film Festival files criminal charges against social media users who pirated its movies

Filed against users who illegally streamed movies from the festival slate on their social media accounts

The committee behind Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) has filed charges against social media users caught pirating films screened as part of its 2020 slate.

According to ABS-CBN, MMFF has filed complaints against 15 users to the Optical Media Board (OMB) for illegally streaming on their social media accounts films from the festival’s 2020 edition.

At least three were taken into custody by agents of OMB, which serves as the country’s national agency overlooking anti-piracy matters. Lawyer Cyrus Valenzuela, chief of the OMB’s legal division, said that they were able to trace these social media users, most of whom used their real names online.

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The 15 individuals charged were found to have streamed films in exchange for minimal fees ranging from P15 to P30 per movie, or from P50 to P300 for access to the entire festival line-up.

Tickets for MMFF, which was hosted virtually for the first time and is still streaming on Upstream until January 7, are available at P250 per film.

ABS-CBN reported on January 5 that the OMB had received a total of 49 reports of piracy pertaining to MMFF entries.

“Remember: Piracy is a crime,” Danilo Lim, chairman of MMFF and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), said in a statement reported by Inquirer.Net. “We shall pursue these violators to the full extent of the law and we shall keep a close watch against film pirates.”

The 15 individuals are accused of violating the Intellectual Property Code (RA 8293) and the Optical Media Act of 2003 (RA 9239). If found guilty, they could face up to 90 days in jail or fined up to P50,000 under the Optical Media Act. The Intellectual Property Codes imposes up to three years’ imprisonment and up to P150,000 in fines for first-time offenders.

The festival’s Anti-Piracy Task Force coordinated efforts with OMB in narrowing the list of individuals. Lim maintains that the festival will continue to work with authorities in the matter, establishing a permanent committee to engage with official efforts in apprehending violators.

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Director Antoinette Jadaone – whose film Fan Girl was part of MMFF 2020 and also targeted by illegal streamers – previously addressed piracy concerns in a press conference in December.

“Piracy is always illegal,” she said. “It’s bad, but it’s worse when it’s happening during the pandemic. Now that we are hanging on for dear life, all the more we are being stepped on.”

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