Can they do that? The UAAP and its copyright issue

By: Toby Pavon

On March 19, 2023, UAAP Twitter was sent into a frenzy, not because of a big win in the volleyball tournament, or a key recruit announcement, but because of an email sent by the UAAP Media Team to the different media partners.

The email read:

“Dear valued media partners,

We hope this letter finds you well. We are writing to inform you of a new policy regarding the recording of games for the UAAP Season 85.

Effective immediately, we regret to inform you that recording of games, whether in short clips or in full, will no longer be allowed. This decision was made in compliance with the request of our broadcast partner, Cignal.

Please be advised that the only area within the game venue that will allow recording is during the post-game interviews at the media room. All other interviews with UAAP personalities should be conducted outside the venue.

We understand that there may be a need for game clips in your reports. If so, we kindly ask that you send an email to [redacted] to request for the necessary footage.

Moreover, we would like to remind you that Cignal holds the exclusive copyright of the UAAP videos. Hence, they reserve the right to issue copyright strikes on any UAAP videos posted on social media accounts.

We appeal for your utmost cooperation and understanding in this matter. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to the UAAP Season 85 Media Team.

Thank you for your unwavering support and cooperation.


UAAP Season 85 Media Team.”

The uproar on social media stems from the implication in the letter that Cignal, the current copyright owner of the UAAP, is banning people, members of the media, from taking their own videos while inside the game venue, except inside of the media room.

This essentially means, no highlight reels, no cinematic reels, no sideline videos, no crowd reaction videos, no scrum interviews outside of the media room, no personal reaction videos while inside of the venue and no to a lot more video content.

But why?

The email reasserts the purpose for this policy, Cignal’s copyright as the exclusive broadcast partner of the UAAP. After the loss of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise, the rights to broadcast UAAP games was awarded to Cignal, granting them exclusive copyright. As the copyright owner, Cignal can use the broadcast for profit, and regulate or prevent other persons from doing the same. It is normal and understandable for a corporation to want to protect their intellectual property especially when they would have had to pay millions of pesos to acquire it.

The law is clear with regard to what rights Cignal may exercise with regard to the UAAP:

“Copyright or Economic Rights

SECTION 177. Copyright or Economic Rights. ‑ Subject to the provisions of Chapter VIII, copyright or economic rights shall consist of the exclusive right to carry out, authorize or prevent the following acts:

177.1. Reproduction of the work or substantial portion of the work;

177.2. Dramatization, translation, adaptation, abridgment, arrangement or other transformation of the work;

177.3. The first public distribution of the original and each copy of the work by sale or other forms of transfer of ownership;

177.4. Rental of the original or a copy of an audiovisual or cinematographic work, a work embodied in a sound recording, a computer program, a compilation of data and other materials or a musical work in graphic form, irrespective of the ownership of the original or the copy which is the subject of the rental; (n)

177.5. Public display of the original or a copy of the work;

177.6. Public performance of the work; and

177.7. Other communication to the public of the work. 

Under Section 177 only Cignal may reproduce its copyrighted work, both in whole or in part, only Cignal may broadcast their work, only Cignal may display their work. This much is clear. But it begs the question, is a UAAP game a piece of “work” contemplated under the Intellectual Property Code?

Section 172 of the Intellectual Property Code lists what constitutes “work” subject to copyright:

Original Works

SECTION 172. Literary and Artistic Works. ‑ 172.1. Literary and artistic works, hereinafter referred to as “works”, are original intellectual creations in the literary and artistic domain protected from the moment of their creation and shall include in particular:

(a) Books, pamphlets, articles and other writings;

(b) Periodicals and newspapers;

(c) Lectures, sermons, addresses, dissertations prepared for oral delivery, whether or not reduced in writing or other material form;

(d) Letters;

(e) Dramatic or dramatico-musical compositions; choreographic works or entertainment in dumb shows;

(f) Musical compositions, with or without words;

(g) Works of drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture, engraving, lithography or other works of art; models or designs for works of art;

(h) Original ornamental designs or models for articles of manufacture, whether or not registrable as an industrial design, and other works of applied art;

(i) Illustrations, maps, plans, sketches, charts and three-dimensional works relative to geography, topography, architecture or science;

(j) Drawings or plastic works of a scientific or technical character;

(k) Photographic works including works produced by a process analogous to photography; lantern slides;

(l) Audiovisual works and cinematographic works and works produced by a process analogous to cinematography or any process for making audio-visual recordings;

(m) Pictorial illustrations and advertisements;

(n) Computer programs; and

(o) Other literary, scholarly, scientific and artistic works.

172.2. Works 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. (Sec. 2, P.D. No. 49a)


Derivative Works

SECTION 173. Derivative Works. ‑ 173.1. The following derivative works shall also be protected by copyright:

(a) Dramatizations, translations, adaptations, abridgments, arrangements, and other alterations of literary or artistic works; and

(b) Collections of literary, scholarly or artistic works, and compilations of data and other materials which are original by reason of the selection or coordination or arrangement of their contents. (Sec. 2, (P) and (Q), P.D. No. 49)

Nowhere in the list of what constitutes Original Works, and Derivative Works, can we find an athletic competition. The broadcast of an athletic competition is copyrighted work under letter (l) of the enumeration of Original Work, so it is clear as day, that what Cignal creates through its broadcast team is considered their Original Work, and they have the exclusive right to distribute it. But not the contest itself, not the game itself, not whatever organic interaction happens inside the game arena. Surely, Cignal and the UAAP would not argue that their games fall under paragraph (e), right?

If there is a right for Cignal to restrict members of the media from taking videos of the game, videos during the game and videos at the game venue, it does not come from the Intellectual Property Code. If there is a right for Cignal to restrict members of the media from posting videos they took in the venue onto their own websites, social media pages or outlets, it does not come from the Intellectual Property Code.

One of the biggest concerns when the email made the rounds on social media, was that Cignal would be going after social media accounts that use snippets of their broadcast to post play breakdowns, highlights and replays of significant events. Are these forms of media violations of Cignal’s copyrights?

Section 184 of the Intellectual Property Code provides for the limitations on copyright:

“SECTION 184. Limitations on Copyright. ‑ 184.1. Notwithstanding the provisions of Chapter V, the following acts shall not constitute infringement of copyright:

(a) The recitation or performance of a work, once it has been lawfully made accessible to the public, if done privately and free of charge or if made strictly for a charitable or religious institution or society; (Sec. 10(1), P.D. No. 49)

(b) The making of quotations from a published work if they are compatible with fair use and only to the extent justified for the purpose, including quotations from newspaper articles and periodicals in the form of press summaries: Provided, That the source and the name of the author, if appearing on the work, are mentioned; (Sec. 11, third par., P.D. No. 49)

(c) The reproduction or communication to the public by mass media of articles on current political, social, economic, scientific or religious topic, lectures, addresses and other works of the same nature, which are delivered in public if such use is for information purposes and has not been expressly reserved: Provided, That the source is clearly indicated; (Sec. 11, P.D. No. 49)

(d) The reproduction and communication to the public of literary, scientific or artistic works as part of reports of current events by means of photography, cinematography or broadcasting to the extent necessary for the purpose; (Sec. 12, P.D. No. 49)

(e) The inclusion of a work in a publication, broadcast, or other communication to the public, sound recording or film, if such inclusion is made by way of illustration for teaching purposes and is compatible with fair use: Provided, That the source and the name of the author, if appearing in the work, are mentioned;

(f) The recording made in schools, universities, or educational institutions of a work included in a broadcast for the use of such schools, universities or educational institutions: Provided, That such recording must be deleted within a reasonable period after they were first broadcast: Provided, further, That such recording may not be made from audiovisual works which are part of the general cinema repertoire of feature films except for brief excerpts of the work;

(g) The making of ephemeral recordings by a broadcasting organization by means of its own facilities and for use in its own broadcast;

(h) The use made of a work by or under the direction or control of the Government, by the National Library or by educational, scientific or professional institutions where such use is in the public interest and is compatible with fair use;

(i) The public performance or the communication to the public of a work, in a place where no admission fee is charged in respect of such public performance or communication, by a club or institution for charitable or educational purpose only, whose aim is not profit making, subject to such other limitations as may be provided in the Regulations; (n)

(j) Public display of the original or a copy of the work not made by means of a film, slide, television image or otherwise on screen or by means of any other device or process: Provided, That either the work has been published, or, that the original or the copy displayed has been sold, given away or otherwise transferred to another person by the author or his successor in title; and

(k) Any use made of a work for the purpose of any judicial proceedings or for the giving of professional advice by a legal practitioner.

184.2. The provisions of this section shall be interpreted in such a way as to allow the work to be used in a manner which does not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the right holder’s legitimate interests.

SECTION 185. Fair Use of a Copyrighted Work. ‑ 185.1. The fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching including multiple copies for classroom use, scholarship, research, and similar purposes is not an infringement of copyright. Decompilation, which is understood here to be the reproduction of the code and translation of the forms of the computer program to achieve the inter-operability of an independently created computer program with other programs may also constitute fair use. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is fair use, the factors to be considered shall include:

(a) The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;

(b) The nature of the copyrighted work;

(c) The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(d) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Under the law, there are several instances where copyrighted materials may be used without violating the copyright owner’s rights, these include instances of free private performance, quotation in news, for teaching or illustrative purposes in a broadcast—or quite simply, any use that would fall under fair use.

With these definitions, compiling snippets to use as illustrations in a breakdown video or Twitter thread would count as fair use as they are providing commentary on the subject of the copyright. They would not and should not be seen as violations of Cignal’s copyrights.

So, what CAN Cignal assert their copyrights against?

Cignal has the right to stop other persons attempting to re-upload whole or substantial portions of their broadcast. Cignal also has the right to stop people from simultaneously broadcasting or re-broadcasting their broadcast. Cignal has a right to stop people from uploading non-transformative snippets of their broadcast attempting to profit from them.

Not so much an assertion of their exclusive copyright over the UAAP, but Cignal also has the right not to accredit members of the media it deems undesirable and too uncooperative, barring them access from coverage of the games. Cignal, through the UAAP and the venue coordinators, also has the right to refuse entry to people they deem undesirable and uncooperative.

In conclusion, it can be seen through a reading of the UAAP Media Team’s email that Cignal’s assertion of its rights is not based solely on law. Cignal is, after all, a corporation, one that is obligated to turn a profit for its shareholders. What is unfortunate in the revelation of this policy is the idea that the people making the decisions at Cignal do not see the wealth of fan-generated, and other outlet generated content as adding to the value of their intellectual property, the UAAP, but instead, sees them, no matter how small, as competitors.

One response to “Can they do that? The UAAP and its copyright issue”

  1. Atty. Pavon, you are a blessing to the media in general. The 1987 Charter’s Bill of Rights also supports “our” sentiment that “no law shall be passed abridging” press freedom.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s