Filipino cybersquatters face hefty prison terms


Brand owners in the Philippines are expected to pursue a new law that can punish cybersquatters with 20-year prison terms.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act, which the president signed on September 12 but came into effect on October 3, aims to tackle a range of problems such as hacking and child pornography.

The act also includes cybersquatting, which it defines as “the acquisition of a domain name over the Internet in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy reputation, and deprive others from registering the same [name]”. 

Convicted cybersquatters can face prison terms of between six and 12 years, and between 12 and 20 years if they commit crimes against “critical infrastructure”. The act defines the latter as: “the computer systems, and/or networks, whether physical or virtual, and/or the computer programs, computer data and/or traffic data so vital to this country that the incapacity or destruction of or interference with such system and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national or economic security, national public health and safety, or any combination of those matters”.

If they avoid prison cybersquatters can be fined PHP 200,000 ($4,800), or PHP 500,000 ($12,000) if their crimes affect critical infrastructure. Courts can also issue fines and prison sentences as a joint punishment. 

“We know of a few high-profile incidents in the past that would be considered as cybersquatting, as defined under this new law,” said Bienvenido Marquez and Anthony Chadd Concepcion, of Baker & McKenzie in Manila. “But since rights owners are constrained to use traditional concepts of law to uphold their rights, their efforts in bringing actions before courts have mostly been unsuccessful.”

“We expect parties to take advantage of this new remedy,” they said. 

Taking down cybersquatters’ websites should also become easier and cheaper because the new law offers litigants the chance to seize domains earlier in the legal process. 

In the US, courts can prosecute cybersquatters under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. The maximum penalty is a $100,000 fine.

This article was first published on 17 October 2012 in World IP Review

cybersquatting, domain names, bad faith registration, Internet

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