A bill is pending in Congress with the noble aim of “providing protection from personal intrusion for commercial purposes.”
HB 4807 is a measure that replaces the bill previously drafted by Reps. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr. (Party List, ABAMIN). The co-authors of the current measure are Reps. Gwendolyn F. Garcia (3rd District, Cebu), Linabelle Ruth R. Villarica (4th District, Bulacan), Jose L. Atienza, Jr. (Party List, BUHAY), and Leopoldo N. Bataoil (2nd District, Pangasinan).
The most important provisions of the measure would make still and film photographers and video-shooters, and those who publish and broadcast the photographs, films and videos, liable—if any person in them has not consented to being photographed, filmed or videoed.
Even owners of property shown in photographs, films and videos may sue if they have not given their consent to have their houses or buildings photographed, filmed or videoed.
Like still photos, moving pictures and videos, tape and other sound recordings of human voices will also become illegal—if the subject persons have not given their consent—when used “for commercial purposes” and “individual profit.”
Some have called HB 4807 “the anti-selfie bill.” Selfies sometimes include houses and buildings in the background and people near where the selfies are taken. If such a selfie gets published by a newspaper or broadcast by a TV station, it would be covered by the term “commercial purposes.” For all newspapers and broadcast stations are in the business to make a commercial profit—even if most of them are losing enterprises.
We join the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other media organizations that have registered their opposition to this proposed law.
The authors of HB 4807 should withdraw it. If they don’t, we appeal to the honorable congressmen and congresswomen to vote against it.
This is an urgent matter. For the bill has all too quickly won approval on second reading without the media organizations and civil society organizations concerned with the basic freedoms being informed that there is such a measure, much less invited to discuss the bill and its provisions.
HB 4807’s authors are commendable for their concern for the dignity of persons whose privacy is violated by photographers, film and video shooters who behave without respect. But there are already existing laws punishing these misconducts or even felonies.
But the blanket requirement to secure the consent of persons who happen to be photographed, filmed, videoed or voice-recorded will definitely make the work of publishing newspapers and magazines and of running TV stations almost impossible.
Since every newspaper exists to make a commercial profit, how can a Manila Times photographer legally take a picture of an MRT derailment if he has to get the consent of all the MRT passengers who are shown in the photo? Even the memorably award-winning photographs of sunset on Manila Bay showing strollers on Roxas Boulevard would no longer be possible. Every news photographer does his work for individual profit—even if it is only to receive his salary.
Artistic photography of street scenes—many of which have been extolled on different Internet website venues — showing ordinary people would also disappear from human civilization.
We agree with NUJP that this “Act to Provide Protection From Personal Intrusion for Commercial Purposes,” may have been filed with all the best intentions, but it does pose “an all too real threat not only to freedom of the press but on the very right to free expression.”
Indeed, as NUJP states, the bill’s avowed aim, to “curb acts of trespassing and other intrusions on personal privacy committed by any person in order to capture visual or sound impressions of an individual, with intent to gain or profit,” is overly broad as are the provisions that list the ways by which violations may be committed.
We share these statements of the NUJP:
“We agree that people are entitled to privacy and, in fact, the Constitution guarantees as much, in all matters that are personal and have nothing to do with the public interest.
“But the measure’s intent is so broad it is likely to be used as another weapon for the criminal and the corrupt to escape accountability should it become law.
“That the measure would punish even ‘the fact that no visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of a person was actually sold for gain or profit,’ makes it even more insidious.”