It is work as usual for Optical Media Board (OMB) chair Ronnie Ricketts this holiday season.
As the annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) kicks off with its parade of stars today, Ricketts will be seen aboard OMB’s own float, which is meant to promote the agency’s antifilm-piracy campaign.
On Christmas Day he will lead OMB teams in doing the rounds of movie houses to catch violators of The Anti Camcording Act (RA 10088). So far, Ricketts noted, there have been zero arrests since the OMB started monitoring theaters three years ago for the duration of the MMFF which, this year, runs from Dec. 25 to Jan. 8.
His visibility has been paying off, Ricketts told the Inquirer, especially now that the OMB has modified its approach in dealing with film piracy. Though operations still involve daily raids on targeted stalls, Ricketts explained, he has been focusing on several phases in the organized fight:
Phases of the fight
“First is what I call ‘ugnayan.’ I talk directly to the people who sell the pirated discs. Then I discuss with them the important points in our information campaign. The third stage is transformation, at which level the offer to engage in alternative livelihood projects is made. The last is an assessment of whether our actions worked or not.”
Ricketts added that he devised this approach to avoid violence during OMB raids. “People get hurt, hindi maganda, parang may giyera pag pinapalabas sa TV (It looks bad; it looks like a war when the raids are aired on TV).”
The change has turned out well, said Ricketts. He’s very proud that the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
—a coalition of trade associations representing US copyright-based industries—has acknowledged “the closure of the market [and distribution hub] in the Quiapo district of Metro Manila.”
In a letter submitted to the Office of the US Trade Representative, the IIPA said: “It demonstrates that…piracy can be reduced. OMB and the Mayor of Manila (Fred Lim) should be commended for these unprecedented enforcement actions.”
Ricketts recalled a “historic” achievement, when he and Mayor Lim witnessed the turnover of sacks of pirated discs—an act initiated by members of the Muslim community in Quiapo. “They are now honest, unlike before,” said Ricketts.
Though he has a long way to go, Ricketts admitted, the gains that the OMB has racked up in other piracy centers are noticeable. “Only 30 percent of vendors remain in St. Francis Square (in Ortigas Center). We are now concentrating on Metrowalk (in Pasig).”
He said the alternative means of employment for vendors are sponsored by organizations endorsed by Malacañang. “We’re talking of 100 product lines that the vendors can sell—beauty products, health products, gadgets, accessories.”
To further encourage the vendors, Ricketts thought up a unique proposition: “In Quiapo, we gave them enough time to sell all their remaining stocks of pirated discs so they could have the capital to sell other goods.”
Those with no capital, they have three months to pay the goods on consignment. “But it’s not the OMB that handles that,” Ricketts clarified. “That’s the work of our partner organizations.”
OMB does its job in coordination with other government agencies such as the Intellectual Property Office, Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Association of Recording Industry, Philippine National Police and Bureau of Customs, among others.
There’s no reason to believe that fighting piracy is a losing battle, Ricketts insisted. The key to success is sincerity: “I visit them (vendors) regularly. I walk the streets of Quiapo without bodyguards.”
The way to deal with the problem, he added, is like karate: “I parry the blows.” Ricketts was introduced to karate when he was 6, which explains why he became an action star.