History of the Videogram Regulatory Board (VRB) and the Optical Media Board (OMB)

A. Beginnings of Piracy

Piracy  of  films  and  music  in  one  form  or  another  has  proliferated  from  the  time technology for reproduction became easily accessible to the public.

In  the  1970’s,  when  the  cassette  became  a  popular  musical  format,  it  opened  up  a whole new market for portable music. Soon, as the demand for products skyrocketed, so did the  demand  for  tape  recorders,  which  eventually  became  cheap  and  openly  available  to  the market leading to the problem of pirated music cassettes.

In  the  mid-80’s,  the  Betamax  became  the  first  audio-visual  playback  device  that allowed  the  public  to  record  a  show,  and  to  make  multiple  copies  of  one  show  on  a minimum of two videocassette recorders.

This  soon  brought  about  a  trend  in  the  Philippines.  During  Martial  Law  however, access  to  foreign  materials  was  limited  on  the  government-controlled  media.  There  was  a delay of several months before a movie could be seen in local theatres.

The  phenomenon  of  video  rental  shops  was  born. Video  rental  shop  owners  would record  programs  from  satellite  feeds,  make  copies,  and  rent  them  out  to  the  middle  and upper  classes. The  facility  of  Filipinos  in  understanding  the  English  language,  coupled  with colonial  mentality,  helped  make  the  first  video  rental  shops  a  haven  for  the  entertainment- hungry public. Betamax players soon became obsolete in other parts of the world, and were replaced  by  the  video  home  system  (VHS)  tapes  and  laser  discs.  Nonetheless,  they  did  not become  obsolete  in  the  Philippines.  On  the  contrary,  because  of  the  obsolescence  of  the Betamax in other parts of the world, the price of Betamax players in the Philippines suddenly dropped and became very affordable. Its popularity therefore dramatically increased.

The movie industry started to feel the effects of film piracy as more and more families bought  cheap  beta  machines  and  stayed  home  to  watch  movies  before  they  were  made available in the market.

The  movie  industry  started  to  decline.  At  the  same  time,  there  was  much  public clamor  about  the  lack  of  regulation  of  video  shops  and  products  and  the  disregard  for censorship and copyright laws. In addition, Government was not collecting any taxes.

This brought about the creation of the Videogram Regulatory Board (VRB), which was the government regulatory agency mandated to protect not only the copyrights of the various film & music producers, but also functioned as a classification and ratings entity.

In as much as the VRB was an effective deterrent on piracy in magnetic media format, the  government  unfortunately  could  not  keep  up  with  the  rapid  pace  of  technology,  which quickly  introduced  optical  media  to  the  consuming  public.   The  proliferation  of  this  type  of media  brought  about  an  easier  and  faster  way  of  piracy,  and  soon  the  Optical  Media  Board (OMB) was created by Congress through R.A. 9239 to address this menace.

The Republic Act No. 9239 is an act regulating optical media, reorganizing for this purpose the VRB, providing penalties therefore, and for other purposes.  This Act is known as the Optical Media Act of 2003.