• Dating game shows not copyrightable

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    A popular dating game show in the Philippines was aired from 1970 to 1977. While it was being aired, the corporation that owned the show submitted a certificate of copyright for the show’s format and style of presentation.

    Sometime in 1991, the president of the corporation stumbled across a new dating show while he was watching television. To his surprise, the dating show was practically identical to the dating game show aired by the corporation years ago. He immediately wrote the producers of the new dating show informing them of the corporation’s copyright and demanded that the show discontinue airing. The producers apologized and requested a meeting to discuss a possible settlement but continued to air the show. Another demand letter to discontinue the show was sent, to no avail. Hence, the corporation filed a case for copyright infringement, alleging substantial similarities in the content and execution of both shows in violation of intellectual property law—[t]he substance of the television productions complainant’s Rhoda and Me and Zosa’s It’s a Date is that two matches are made between a male and a female, both single, and the two couples are treated to a night or two of dining and/or dancing at the expense of the show. The major concept of both shows is the same. Any difference appear mere variations of the major concepts.

    The Supreme Court clarified that “copyright does not extend to the general concept or format of its dating game show” or mechanics of a television show. First, Sec. 2, P.D. 49, Decree On Intellectual Property, and Sec. 172, Intellectual Property Code Of The Philippines, do not include the format or mechanics of a television show as classes of work entitled to copyright protection from the moment of creation.

    Copyright, in the strict sense of the term, is purely a statutory right. It is a new or independent right granted by the statute, and not simply a pre-existing right regulated by the statute. Being a statutory grant, the rights are only such as the statute confers, and may be obtained and enjoyed only with respect to the subjects and by the persons, and on terms and conditions specified in the statute.

    Second, the Court reiterated that copyright protection is granted to finished works and not to concepts. As such, “copyright does not extend to an idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”

    The Court also added that if any part of the 1970’s dating game show was protected under copyright, it would be the audio-visual recordings of each episode, falling under “cinematographic works and works produced by a process analogous to cinematography or any process for making audio-visual recordings.” Unfortunately, the Court could not rule on the matter since no copies of the original television show were submitted in evidence.

    The essence of a copyright infringement is the similarity or at least substantial similarity of the purported pirated works to the copyrighted work . . . Mere description by words of the general format of the two dating game shows is insufficient; the presentation of the master videotape in evidence was indispensable . . . A television show includes more than mere words can describe because it involves a whole spectrum of visuals and effects, video and audio, such that no similarity or dissimilarity may be found by merely describing the general copyright/format of both dating game shows (Joaquin Jr. v. Drilon, G.R. 108946, 28 January 1999, J. Mendoza).

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