Published 22 October 2021, The Daily Tribune

I have observed that our conversations regarding the coping mechanisms we resort to in this era of stay-at-home orders are bound to feature two popular names: TikTok and Netflix. These two brands have grown to be synonymous with family entertainment.

The fun of TikTok lies in the boundless creativity that it awakens in its users, who then become multimedia producers and directors in their own right. With the users’ cleverly splicing and piecing together different materials, we have found ourselves with an abundance of dance videos, comedies, and informative micro-vlogs to regale ourselves with. Netflix, on the other hand, has allowed its patrons the comfort of accessing countless films and television shows at the click of a button. Of late, it has indisputably converted many a household into a group of Korean drama aficionados.

These two are testaments to the ubiquity of audio-visual productions in our daily lives. One may be curious to know, who owns these audio-visual productions from which we derive great pleasure? Can TikTok or Netflix claim ownership over the videos exhibited through their facilities? How are these works protected within our jurisdiction?

Audio-visual productions, it must be said first, fall under our law’s enumeration of an artistic work, or original intellectual creations in the literary and artistic domain protected from the moment of their creation (Section 172, Intellectual Property Code).

Under our Civil Code, one of the ways by which ownership is acquired is through intellectual creation (Article 712, New Civil Code). Therefore, the author, or the natural person who created an artistic work acquires ownership over the same (Section 171.1, Intellectual Property Code; Article 721, New Civil Code). Moreover, the law provides that a copyright attaches to an artistic work. A copyright is simply the exclusive right to carry out, authorize or prevent the reproduction, dramatization, translation, transformation, distribution, public display, public performance, and other communication to the public of the work (Section 177, Intellectual Property Code).

Ownership is easier to determine when the work is less layered such as when it is a book, a musical composition, a painting, or a scientific discovery. In all these cases, the law provides that ownership accrues to the author, the composer, the painter, and the scientist, respectively (Article 721, New Civil Code). Things are not as one-dimensional when the work contemplated is an audio-visual production such as those we find on TikTok and Netflix. Nonetheless, from the above enumeration, it may be understood that ownership over an audio-visual production accrues to the author of the various components making up the work.

The Intellectual Property Code is more explicit in providing to whom a copyright over audio-visual productions rightfully belongs. Generally, the copyright shall belong equally to the producer, the author of the scenario, the composer of the music, the film director, and the author of the work so adapted, if any. The producer, however, shall exercise the copyright to an extent required for the exhibition of the work. Said right is not to extend to the right to collect performing license fees for the performance of musical compositions, with or without words, which are incorporated into the work, and shall at all times be subject to a stipulation among the creators aforementioned.

This is to say that users who create TikTok videos are themselves entitled to claim ownership and copyright over their composition insofar as it was originally created by them, while the producer, scenario author, musical composer, and film director typically enjoy the same over films and television shows exhibited on Netflix.

These rights may be enjoyed for a term of 50 years from the date of publication and, if unpublished, from the date of making (Section 213.6, Intellectual Property Code).

It bears noting that audio-visual productions are protected by the sole fact of their creation, irrespective of their mode or form of expression, as well as of their content, quality, and purpose (Section 172.2, Intellectual Property Code).

Clearly, what has brought so much levity to our lives is well within the sphere of protection of our laws. As may be gleaned from the foregoing, an impassioned millennial armed only with a smartphone and his TikTok application may be accorded just as much protection as a producer with full and awe-inspiring filmmaking implements capable of churning out the next blockbuster.

These rules are but consistent with our state’s avowed policy of institutionalizing an effective intellectual property system to bolster the development of domestic and creative activity, with the end goal of promoting national development and progress and the common good (Section 2, Intellectual Property Code).

With this small briefer on the rights they have over their audio-visual works, I wish every creative a fruitful process for more entertaining content to enjoy and tide over the restrictions of this pandemic with.

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