It seems that since the beginning of 2013, I have not posted a personal or editorial piece of any sort, which is supposed to be the reason why I put this website up in the first place. I don’t claim to have any authority that makes my thoughts and opinions the most credible stuff you’ll ever read, most likely far from it. However, I see this as an exercise to write more outside of work, especially about relevant issues. For this first full-blown editorial of the year, I talk about a particular bill that has caught quite a bit of attention recently concerning “Cybercrime.”
This is targeted to Filipino readers. But if you’re from another country and would like to put in your two cents, feel free to do so.
Everything here leads from this post in Raissa Robles’ website. It does worry me and a lot of other people who value being able to bring valuable material here from overseas, including books and other media. Please read that article before proceeding.
Raissa Robles is a veteran journalist, currently a correspondent for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and Radio Netherlands, who writes editorials in her own website, some of which have become both widely read and controversial.
Perhaps what really makes the now-controversial parts of Republic Act 8293, or the Intellectual Property Act, really bad for me is that it includes books. Any sort of legal mechanic that restricts distribution of books of any kind in any degree is a violation of democracy and human rights, as I see it. While this doesn’t outright ban books, it does limit its incoming traffic from overseas, which is a mistake. It’s not exactly Fahrenheit 451 level (See what I did with that reference there?), but I still express my dismay with that.
It must be noted though that digital media has made it way easier to not rely as much on physical media, since you can download and copy files in a multitude of ways. The reason why I bought a tablet is so that I can download ebooks and read them whenever I want. However, that freedom is also being threatened by the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which is full of vague descriptions and overgeneralized statutes that make it a big threat to the name of democracy.
The idea of the Cybercrime Prevention Act is actually good in concept. I myself have been a victim of online and SMS harassment, and it would be great if the law can protect me from those who seek to disrupt my life through digital means. Of course, as with most things, people would agree to what’s convenient for them. If someone is not affected by the bad parts of a law due to his lifestyle and preferences, then there’s no real reason for him to disagree other than if he’s militant.
In this case, the current form of the Cybercrime Prevention Act isn’t up for the job it’s supposed to do as a law, and it has received an indefinite extension of its temporary restraining order
Piracy and Copyright Infringement
The topics of piracy and copyright infringement are still quite slippery slopes, in my opinion. Others don’t see it as such, and I somehow understand why. In fact, I’m good friends with such a person, and he has a lot of valid points, although mostly in his own consumer’s perspective. But the ringer is how it is for the creators of those books, movies, games, and so on. Perhaps I’m lucky since I’m mostly about the video games, digital distribution is now king in the gaming market, and that I simply just buy what I like.
However, there are some things like books and DVDs that I do buy from overseas, especially instructional material from Dog Brothers. Come on, they’re DVDs about Filipino martial arts techniques, so how the hell can the Philippine government keep me from getting those? By the way, this is not an advertisement, I just really like the Dog Brothers.
Going back to this issue, both bills have a lot to do with the whole piracy question, but offer misguided answers that seek to impose short-term solutions that only serve the powerful minority. Long-term solutions to piracy and copyright infringement is something that has to be thought out more and not just be about restriction after suffocating restriction.
Corruption and Conspiracies
There is all this noise about how the Bureau of Customs is supposedly the most corrupt government agency in the Philippines and how the upper 1% seeks to keep the masses stupid so that they can better control them. While the spooky talk isn’t all that far-fetched according to those who wholeheartedly believe it, conspiracies are really just a bunch of problems that people suddenly connect the dots with and somehow figure out that those behind them are in collusion, while it then turns out that they aren’t really related and just so happened to look like they were somehow, which is true with a lot of things in this world. It’s like what Robert Anton Wilson once said, that you can make out believable ley lines as long as you have a small enough map and a thick enough pencil.
I’ve heard horror stories about customs and how they try to squeeze every cent they can when you have had a package from abroad sent here, like how they get handled like crap and how the heavy tariffs ruin everybody’s day. In any case, I would like to get sources to published statistics that point out with hard facts that the BoC is the most shit-laden agency in our government. Whether it proves or disproves that claim, I’m genuinely curious and will do my own homework on it, but help would be greatly appreciated.
Then there is the all-powerful corporation. I’d definitely not pirate stuff if I’m sure that most of my money goes to the creators, which may not entirely be the case. According to sources like this, average musicians only earn 6% of their income from record sales. While it’s a case for eliminating piracy, it also calls into question the
The One-Two Punch
It’s basically a one-two punch to the Filipino’s access to foreign media. Arguments for increasing patronage of local media notwithstanding, there are plenty of people, mostly in the middle and upper classes, who prefer having more options.
If the Cybercrime Prevention Act does become a law and actually is effective in keeping the public from free access to various media, and the Intellectual Property Code does limit people from bringing in what isn’t really what you’d call “contraband”, then it effectively limits the amount of exposure that Filipinos can get from everywhere else in the globe, which then stifles local media anyway since this is now a globalized civilization and any sort of xenophobia, even something that looks as “minor” as this, can have long-term ramifications.
It’s like the Intellectual Property Code are being the hands that holds the waist of the victim (which is us) in place, while the Cybercrime Prevention Act is the government inserting itself forcibly into us, and we’re supposed to like it. We have to make ourselves heard even more about these issues and keep ourselves from being ass-fucked by these two bills and have them concentrate on the one bill that actually matters — the Freedom of Information Bill.
Let’s get our heads together in the spirit of democracy, decency, and integrity of the country, which we had been deprived of for so damn long. They got the Reproductive Health Bill passed somehow, which is progress, so let’s not go two or more steps back after that one step forward.
The Intellectual Property Code just needs President Aquino’s signature to become effective. Here’s to hoping that he sees things in the same way that he did with the RH Bill and have some sense with this one.
When Push Comes to Shove
If the worst case scenario does come true and both these bills get implemented and enforced like how kids would lick the freeze out of ice cream, then it may be time to either wave goodbye and embrace being deprived of good content, whatever it may be and wherever it may be from, or spend money on a VPN service and get a chance at being able to download stuff without a significantly big chance of getting caught.
That’s my personal solution to that problem anyway, and I’d pay money to have a way to download safely if things do really get bad since I really value the content that I get online. I do try to do the ethical thing and purchase them if I do find them good for me, but I don’t know about everyone else. I guess all I can say to other people is that they shouldn’t be asshats and ruin it for everyone else. It may not be to your liking, but that’s my personal stand on the issue, and at least I’m being honest about it.
I just want to make sure about my purchases, you know. There’s YouTube though, which makes things much easier.
Leave Your Feedback
Do you think that anything I said here is a crock of shit? Do you agree with my points or are appalled by my lack of understanding? Maybe you just hate me for my swag? Are my points too shallow and not pressing enough for you?
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I admit that this piece has been hastily written and published with no proofreading just so that I can post something, but I had to start somewhere. It would be great if I get some feedback and perhaps improve on this thing. I could always use some constructive criticism, so please throw them in here. Thanks.