Christmas season in the Philippines has traditionally been signaled by Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas carols being played in public places. However, this may not be the case this year, as the Supreme Court has issued a decision against private establishments that play copyrighted music without the permission of the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Inc. (FILSCAP).

The high court upheld the right of FILSCAP to license public performances and collect license fees and/or royalties for copyrighted works of its member artists.

FILSCAP is an organization accredited by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines to fulfill the role of a Collective Management Organization (CMO) for music creators and copyright owners. Its primary functions include licensing the public playing, broadcasting, and streaming of songs belonging to its members and the members of its affiliated foreign societies.

Currently, the organization holds the rights to over 40 million songs, which accounts for 90% of the world’s popular music, including the works of their member, Jose Mari Chan.

In order to have the legal rights to play copyrighted songs, establishments are required to pay an annual fee ranging from P2,000 to P100,000. For music lounges, bars, or restaurants, a daily rate of P50 to P500 is applicable.

According to FILSCAP, approximately 65% of the license fees are remitted to songwriter, composer, and publisher members as royalties. The remaining 35% is used to administer these royalties and the organization’s socio-cultural activities.

In an interview, Chan stated that singers and composers do not earn as much as they did before, despite the continuous patronage of his songs over the years.

He attributed this to the digitalization of music, which, according to him, generates only a small amount of income for them.

“Not anymore. The technology has changed. No one buys records, CDs, cassettes anymore,” he said.

Despite this, Chan shows less interest in amassing fortune for his Christmas songs. In fact, he is up for its mass consumption as long as its message still comes across.

“I’m in it for the goodwill, and for the joy that people have in their hearts when they sing,” he said.

Recitation or performance under the Intellectual Property Code is considered lawful solely for charitable institutions and pertains to works that have previously been made accessible to the public. Additionally, when a song is played in public for activities like research, criticism, or teaching, it may potentially infringe upon copyright.

Nevertheless, not all songs are subject to copyright restrictions. Christmas classics such as “Jingle Bells,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “Silent Night” are excluded from copyright protection due to their status as timeless classics.

Fortunately, both major malls in the city are FILSCAP license holders, as indicated on the organization’s website. However, the extent to which this Supreme Court decision will impact the prevalence of Chan’s carols on the airwaves during the ‘ber’ months remains uncertain.

Nonetheless, as another beloved Filipino Christmas carol proclaims, “Kahit na anong mangyari, Tuloy na tuloy pa rin ang Pasko.”

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