Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pirates vs. Corporations: By Hook vs. By Crook

Prologue: Call of nature vs. Attendance roll call

It is currently Friday, 9:18 in the morning. Why am i not in my ICT class? The the door was locked before I was able to slide myself in. I arrived in UP around 8:30 AM. Why was I locked out? Because when it was time to go to class, I opt to respond first to the call of nature rather than hold it for a while until I get called in my ICT class. What's in this blog related to ICT? Nothing, because I am missing my ICT right now.

I can just imagine my classmates now, in ecstasy in getting their minds nourished by priceless ICT wisdom. While for me, I am here ranting because I have nothing better to do to enrich my ICT IQ aside from practicing my typing prowess.

Enough bitterness. Time to put my time to good use. Here's serious thinking (because I have nothing better to do for the next three hours):


The wisdom of western law deems unauthorized reproduction and distribution of multimedia and software as illegal. Since our country, like most third world countries, got a ready-to-cook legal framework from an country which boldly exports its user-friendly ideals, it is only natural to embrace the western legal philosophy that protecting intellectual property rights encourages inventors and artists to perform their work to the fullest. Everybody has heard the rhetoric that justifies abhorrence to multimedia and software piracy. Let this article be the first of two to advocate piracy (first of two because I intend to write two articles in my spare three hours; I just won't post the second right away because it will suffocate the blog page of my crazy ideas).

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Philippine laws should be relaxed to allow reproduction and distribution of copyrighted movies, music and software, i.e. allow piracy. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. To weigh the advantages vis-à-vis the disadvantages of piracy, two multiplicands should be measured: the number of people affected, and, the amount of utility piracy or non-piracy brings to these people.


Two groups of people are affected by allowing or disallowing piracy: the producers and the consumers. Since the contents of pirated media or software are specialized knowledge, the producers are few. Producers are usually large multi-million-dollar corporations and consumers are everyone else – from the few on top of the social pyramid who to the masses who comprise most of the population. Even if the copyrighted work involved many people in its creation, the population of the market of the copyrighted work is still far larger. For example, if the production of a movie involved a thousand people, the consumers of the movie far outnumber the creators. First, movies usually are marketed nationally; second, the mere hypothesis that at least one friend of each person in the production of the movie would go and watch the movie already offsets the producer-consumer ratio; third, the shelf life of the movie exceeds mere showing dates for the movie will also be marketed as rentable videos, cable television shows and free television shows. The same logic applies to software wherein software installed in a single computer will likely be used by at least five people during the software’s lifetime, repetitively.


The utility to producers in disallowing piracy are loss of labor, loss of creative output and eventually the death of the movie, music and software industries. These are overemphasized arguments thrown without analysis of the flipside.

First, labor will not be lost. Multi-million-dollar international corporations assume that they will lose money because they will lose costumers because people will choose pirated products over theirs. At the poverty rate of the Philippines, mere basic needs exhaust the budget of consumers. People have no resources to avail of expensive original movies, music or software. People buy pirated movies, music or software not because they are cheaper alternatives but because they have no money to buy originals. Take away piracy and people still will not have the money and hence will still not buy originals. The portion of the population who has a choice whether to buy originals or pirated versions is insignificant to topple multi-million-peso corporations for jobs to be lost.

Second, creative output will not be lost. Necessity is the mother of invention. Creativity is mind’s exercise of its playfulness. Inventors do not invent for the sake of money. Artists do not create for the sake of money. Historically, humans invent and create not for pecuniary goals but to satisfy the natural instinct to pursue growth and seek fulfillment. If inventors and artists are after money, they would not have chosen such careers in the first place. It is much more profitable to work in large industries than to be a lab rat or a penniless painter. Curiosity drives inventors, passion drives artists. They will not cease to exist if multi-million-dollar corporations close down. Human society has developed far before large corporations existed. As long as societies exist, inventors and artists will exist. Creative output will never cease to flow, where else would human creativity be channeled if not to society?

Third, the movie, music and software industries will not eventually die, they will just be decentralized. Actors, musicians and programmers will not be extinct, they will just be decentralized. The playing field will just be leveled. Currently, large corporations hold monopoly over the avenues for success in the movie, music and software industries. Small-scale and independent actors cannot get a decent market’s share of patrons because of the resources of large corporations. If piracy degrades large corporations into medium ones, there will be social justice to small and independent competitors who will be free from the overpowering influence of large corporations over consumers.

The product of the amount of people and utility of allowing piracy outweighs the classic justifications why flow of intellectual property should be strictly regulated.

Theoretical arguments aside, the case of pirates vs. corporations is not a battle of intellectual property, it is a battle of pecuniary property. Who lures more consumers and ergo who profits the most. Traditional pirates of the old seas ransack sailboats for profit. Intellectual pirates are accused of ransacking the rightful owners of the fruits of intellectual properties. Arguments do not exist in a vacuum; they should be placed in a perspective. In the case intellectual pirates, their victims are large multi-million dollar corporations. Intellectual pirates steal from these corporations and sell their loot at cheap prices to the masses. This is comparable to traditional pirates of the old seas stealing from large warships of kings and selling their loot to the masses. The masses benefit largely. Kings and corporations suffer little. Legal theories aside, the issues are who profits and how much do the consumers spend. Either large corporations profit or many entrepreneurs profit; either the masses spend much or masses spend little.

If large corporations profit, a small fraction of their profit goes to wages and the rest are spent on buying luxurious office chairs and salaries of executives. If many entrepreneurs profit, they will eventually spend their profit back to the market of the masses.

If the masses spend much on expensive multimedia or software, they will only be able to purchase few products. If the masses spend little, entertainment from multimedia and productivity from software will increase because masses will be able to purchase many products.

Pirates “hook” from large corporations and enable masses, through cheap prices, to avail of multimedia and software. Corporations “crook” masses of a large fraction of their wealth by imposing prices ten times production costs. Otto Octavious, Peter Parker's ex-idol, said that intelligence should be used to benefit mankind; intellectual creations should be aimed at benefiting the masses, not economically burdening them.

The next article will discuss the state of the country with piracy vs. the would-be state of the country without piracy. I'm still thinking of what I'm missing in class right now.

The dangers of going digital

The advent of the digital camera is slowly running the photo-film industry into the ground. It is indeed more practical, and definitely more economical than taking photos with film. The photo-taker is given more room for error since he is able to see immediately the photos he takes, and in an instant he is able to edit for himself the shots he wants to keep in his “roll”. Because of this practical feature, and because the technology is becoming more and more accessible, nearly everyone takes photos using digital cameras. The benefits seem to outweigh the consequences.

An added bonus is that a digital image lends itself to “tweaking” more readily than a film image would. Now, because of software like Photoshop, people with minimal graphics know-how are able to sculpt and smoothen undesirable body parts, clear spotty complexions, even correct photography booboos that went undetected in the photographer’s snap-happy session. But developing a propensity for digitally altering images can also yield much darker results.

In the days of film it was easier to call out a fake or a “doctored” photo. All you had to do to was to check the original film or negatives to discover if there were any irregularities attendant to the taking of the photo or to the developing of the film. Now, it is so much more difficult to tell whether or not a photo has been digitally altered. Because the source file is itself digital, only the photo-taker can truly know if what is reflected in the final product is what he actually captured. Alterations are done much more subtly, the results, more believable. It is next to impossible to tell which images have been altered, and which have not. And there lies the danger. Only highly-skilled experts could really tell which is which, leaving the average person susceptible to the graphic sorcery that others may wreak.

Early in 2007, we read about “Reutersgate” when photographer Adnan Hajj of Lebanon, a freelancer who occasionally worked with Reuters was called out for digitally doctoring his photos in order to up their selling price and ensure that his work would be seen. His work, depicting images taken during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, were harmless enough. He had digitally altered aerial bomb shots to make them more dramatic, and altered a photo of a jet deploying a flare to look like it was being plagued by several missiles when it was not.

But what of more dangerous images? When Bush’s “War Against Iraq” began, tens of hundreds of images or American and British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners were posted online, breeding fear and inciting even more hate from the Iraqis. They were used as effective recruitment tools by the Al Qaeda. But not all of those images were real. In the latter part of 2000 a video of a young Palestinian boy named Mohammed-al-Dura who died in his father’s lap while trying to avoid Israeli bullets was streamed and circulated within minutes all over the world. After that, 2 Israeli civilians were killed by enraged Palestinians who claimed they killed to avenge the boy’s death. Hours after, many pieces of evidence surfaced that indicated that the entire footage may have been staged, and that the boy may not have died till much later. Who knows how many other people have died because incensed Palestinians were trying to retaliate in his honor? It is not merely the access to this kind of software that we have to worry about, but the access to high-speed internet that allows these images to circle the globe in a heartbeat. In Hajj’s case, he was fired from Reuters, but what of others whose mischief led to the deaths of innocent people? This is another thing that our cybercrime law will have to address

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bear False Witness: Thou Shalt Not

Just a few weeks ago, an undergraduate student approached me and succinctly asked, “What do I need to remember every time I write my blog entries so I wouldn’t be sued for libel?”

A rather unusual thing to be asked nowadays, don’t you think?

In this day and age of modern technology being indiscreetly used by many, it is unusual to find people who are careful enough to avoid legal liability and who care enough not to hurt other people.

Blogs, in the last half-decade, have been a way of life for many. Proof is the word’s inclusion in the dictionaries. It ceased to become a fad at some point, and has become a presumed “property” of teens, yuppies, and social-intellectual adults. Gone are the days when we would all want to become the child prodigy Doogie, who ends his days encoding his journal entries.[1] (Doogie isn’t even connected to the net then, and yet, we adored him.)

And the downside: everyone writes about practically everything under the sun.
The upshot: everyone could read practically everything under the sun. And by “everything”, we use the ordinary sense of the word.

I am reminded of a friend who ranted in her blog about her professor, only to be approached by the same professor months later to let her know that he read her blog. And I’m not one to forget a “dispute among the gods” in the recent past (read: semester) while mere mortals had blow-by-blow accounts from every blog entry and comment posted from either camp.[2] And how about this case before a Milan court, where a 32-year-old Italian “documented”, without consent, the pornographic pictures of his girlfriend online?[3] Forget not the legendaries –- Brian Gorrell and Perez Hilton. No further explanation needed.

Many (okay, count me in) fail to remember that there are some responsibilities that go with the many benefits and conveniences of blogging. All writers, which include all those who blog, should be mindful of the concept of defamation (or cyberdefamation[4]).

And being asked by a conscientious undergrad was like my alarm clock ringing, cutting my 12-hour sleep. It's about time to wake up. One may not be that fortunate all the time to encounter a Charles Barkley who would brush aside defamatory remarks, thus, sparing one from liability.[5]

And so I answer the cautious undergrad, paraphrasing Daez vs. CA[6], make sure not to impute a discreditable act or condition to another, and publish such imputation, which maliciously defames another person’s identity. And as an added caution, malice is presumed in every defamatory imputation. The truth of the imputation is not a defense, except when done good motives and for justifiable ends, such as when there is a duty to conceal a crime.

Okay, let that be a note to self, too.

(for the week 27 July to 02 August 2008)
[1] Just an aside: Doogie’s first encoded journal entry: “Kissed my first girl… Life will never be the same again.”
[2] He who claims to not know, lies.
[4] Or the commission of defamation online. Under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, libel (or defamation) is defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to discredit or cause the dishonor or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.
[5] Barkley once said, “My initial response was to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized that I had no character.”
[6] G.R. No. 47971, 31 October 1990

Monday, July 28, 2008

ISPs – Tomorrow’s Oil Companies

It has been repeatedly argued that in this Information Age, those who wield information have the power. Think Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Bill Gates and Linus Torvalds*. However, in the future, where the age of majority is already 12, Oprahnism is a religion (like Confucianism), and we all have palmtops connected to internet2.0 24/7, everyone will have access to any type of information. So when that day comes, there will be no elite monopolizing the specialized knowledge of ICT and the intricacies thereof. Who will be the ones in power in the future?

Before we hypothesize, let us remember that the key to power is monopoly. Either monopoly in lands, religion or technology, one must have a scarce necessity to make others their slaves and wipe their as$#s. What could be the necessity in the future? Two factors have to be considered: First, we will all have access to virtually all flavors of information. This means no one can still monopolize the confusing world of ICT (it will not be confusing by that time). Second, since information is everywhere, we will all eat, breathe and defecate it. What then is to monopolize? The channels of information. The routes where information flows. By that time, those who are able to elbow their way in providing internet2.0 (or 3.0) service will be the ones to amass wealth. Note that today Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are private entities. Since it is unlikely that this enterprise will die in the future, it is highly likely that we will still depend on businessmen for internet and information access in the future.

So what’s the best thing to do? Start an ISP company that will rise and conquer the globe in 25 years’ time. I will start by setting-up a small DotA and Counter-Strike computer shop.

*Microsoft Word does not consider the names of computing legends Bill Gates, Charles Babbage Alan Turing, John Von Neumann, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan as spelling errors but “Linus Torvalds” (Bill Gates’ arch-nemesis) is a red-underlined typing error, as if it is a sinful error to write Torvalds’ name.

Gift Cards: Your Online BFF

One of the advantages of shopping online is that you get to see immediately that a product is in stock and they usually are because products available online can be sourced from anywhere where the store has a warehouse, branch or outlet.  This is one major convenience as opposed to visiting a physical store and then finding out the product is out of stock and then you go from store to store until you find one that has it in stock but doesn’t have it in the size or color you want.  On that note, online shops usually have more variations of the product than physical stores.  Moreover, availability and variety aside, shopping online is really convenient since you don’t have to dress up and drive to the mall just to make a purchase.  It saves you, among other things, time, gas and precious body fat (from all the walking).  But the big negative about online shopping is the risk of credit card fraud.  For those online fraud paranoids out there, I counter you with this (insert anime-like blade slashing sound)… gift cards.

The idea behind the  concept of the gift card was probably to save people from the trouble of having to think of the perfect (or close to it) gift and probably to take gift certificates to a cooler, hipper and multiple use level.  But other than its obvious use (as a gift, duh), gift cards can also be viewed as a sort of debit card for making safe online purchases.  Stores like, Apple and Vans sell their own gift cards.  Gift cards from major credit card companies like American Express and Visa are also available and can be purchased from grocery stores.  Those cards issued by the latter are better as they are accepted in any online store that accepts payment from these credit card companies.  They work like a regular credit/debit card except that under credit card name you may just have to put something like “gift card recipient”.  Gift cards are limited to a specific amount and are usually non-reloadable.  American Express Gift Cards are available in $25, $50, $100, $200 and $500 denominations.

Using a gift card is a safe way to pay online because the debit amount is limited and you don’t have to give away financial information.  One downside though is that when your purchases do not exactly add up to the card amount i.e. the purchase price is over or under by a few dollars.  In the latter instance, it will be difficult to use up the balance left.  However, there are certain stores which allow multiple modes of payment or accept multiple credit cards for one transaction/payment so you can use up the balance in one card and then use a second card for the remaining purchase price balance.  Another downside, gift cards can only be used in stores within the issuing country and they aren’t available in the Philippines yet.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Stretched to the Limit

Being a person born into a generation wherein shock value is the constant, I daren’t say that I am prudish. The internet, as we all know it to be, pushes the limits of what the “average” person (and by average, I mean jaded to the point where nothing surprises us anymore) can handle as to all sensory and emotional levels – bar none. Through the internet, we have all seen our fair share of the atrocious: from disgusting acts of bestiality and other forms of sexual perversions, to the gruesomeness of beheadings of both the infamous and the innocent. The internet is indeed a harbor for all sorts of curiosities. One curiosity in particular, has been stroked fairly well by the internet; and it has indeed served to un-inhibit the masses. You don’t have to admit it if you don’t want to, but it is a fact that most people, if not all, have gone online in order to gain an unguarded and an unlimited pass to porn.

Trekkie Monster, in Avenue Q (one of my most beloved artistic creations to date) said it all when he broke out into song declaring that “the internet is for porn”. Now, in a manner of speaking, his (Trekkie Monster’s) approach to porn has been a lot similar to mine; I saw it in a rather jolly sing-song manner that allowed me to make light of it because I didn’t take it too seriously. Outside of what is criminally punishable of course, I even thought, (and still think) that to some extent, even the participants of a porn movie do it for the sheer love of both the instant gratification and the instant celebrity. What made it “tolerable” in my book is that these people willingly did the deed/s and video-taped it knowing full well that it was highly possible (if not a given) that it might be streamed and released online.

The other day, I unwittingly came across this website whose purpose was to “facilitate the exchange of information between men who are looking for sex with women”. But it did not only that: a perusal of the forum thread showed that these men prided themselves on being “whore-mongers” and took extreme pleasure in going to Manila for the meat. It was actually a website dedicated to educating foreigners who wanted cheap sex on where to go and how to get it in Manila, Angeles, and other red-light hotspots. Here are some of the “choice” posts:

4 nights in Manila

1st : Visited LA Cafe. Lots of girls but not sure most of them are clean. Me being Indian was refused even eye contact by most of the girls. The ones that came and talked to me were girls of 25 years and above. Going price anywhere between 1000P-3000P depending on the age of the girl. However by 6:00 a.m. took a decent girl 1000P LT.

2nd : P. Burgos area. Started with Jools show at 10 p.m. Moved to Bandidos, Montana, Flamingo, Mogambo etc. Barfine = 2000P-2200P. Girls want 2500P- 3000P ST & 4000P-5000P LT. Lady drink 300P-350P. Expensive indeed. Of the lot Bandidos & Flamingo have better girls. Left for LA Cafe. Got a good girl for 1000P LT.

3rd : EDSA complex. Better value for money. 200P lady drink. 1500P bar fine. 2000P ST. 3500P LT. Good tidy girls in Casino, Pitstop, Firehouse and Cotton Club. Got a petite girl named Faith from Casino. GF, allows everything except anal. After 3 a.m. went to LA Cafe. Today most girls recognize me and are willing to talk to me. Was spoilt for choice but repeated girl from previous night.

4th : Repeated EDSA. Was faithful to Faith. After finishing with her LT got into LA Cafe but lesser girls now. Got an oldie for 1000P LT. High experience in BJ techniques.

Nightclub girls - EDSA
FL - LA Cafe
Recommend trying Adriatico street. Cafe Havana and other joints there. Also see Cafe Havana in Greenbelt shopping mall in Makati.

Overall Bangkok is cheaper and better though I am discriminated there too.


Freebies at LA Caff

Originally Posted by Gagoo
Ok, I was just wondering if it could be true that a girl just wanted to get laid in there and was willing to do it for free.

I went there a couple times and it seems like most of the girls have some sort of story to make it sound like they really had to do what they were doing. I know the Filipinas like to save face.

Mind you if you were a Bad Pritt lookalike you might have a chance? I'm not

Thinking back I did once get a Freebie in LA Cafe. I was been pestered by a slapper, one evening, who was accompanied by her pet dog!! The slapper was promising me all sorts of fun n' games but wanted her mate to accompany her as she was a noobie to LA Caff and needed breaking in. I said no way (her mate was a real skank) but then she countered by offering herself for P500 with her friend thrown in for free! I thought fuck it I cannot turn down a 3sum for P500 so went for it and hoisted them off to Sogo for a quickie. The slapper turned out to be a reasonably good poke whilst the skank contributed a snaggle toothed bj (lucky I'd opted for a cover) and a lot of strategic stroking but not much else. Not that I was that too bovvered.

If you don't believe me, I have pictures. But if your allergic to skanks, please do not view. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

Back slumming it in LA Cafe

Hi guys, Paid my first return visit to the LA Café yesterday after several months enforced absence in boring old Blighty. As expected the place is still the grungy old dump although the owners appear to have dipped into their deep pockets to install a couple of large LCD screens in the downstairs bar area. Just have to do something drastic about the rest of the shithole now. However guess we don’t go there for the sunny décor do we?

Quite a good selection of Pinay Pussy particularly for a dull Wednesday afternoon. Met a fairly attractive lass who told me an interesting tale which to my eyes yet again illustrates the danger of getting too involved with these lasses. This girl had become involved with a foreign guy who had set her up in a P20T+ condo with a healthy allowance and is coming over to marry her in a couple of months. All legit – she showed me text messages from the poor dupe declaring his undying love and checking on arrangements for the forthcoming nuptials. I asked her why she came to LA Café and her reply was in her own words ‘I’m bored and miss getting fucked’. I guess I had better be circumspect with details (she told me his name, nationality and wedding date) just in case the guy is a member of this forum. Doubt that though. One born every minute.

Needless to say, I gave her what she was looking for and a very nice time we had too. Got a shitload of pix as well but for obvious reasons cannot show any at this time. But it just goes to show the old adage is true ‘you can take the girl out of the bar …..’. GH

I know that prostitution is still rampant, and I even realize that extreme poverty is what pushes most prostitutes into this unsavory business. But coming across a website such as this just gives me a sour taste in the mouth. It is arrogant and cocky (no pun intended) and an absolute mockery of our people, and of our criminal justice system at that. For it to be so organized and so unashamedly condescending of third-world countries in general (only third-world countries had threads in them for obvious purposes) is just insulting. Yet they do it because they can.

Where is the line then? I thought about what it meant being personally offended by a site such as that and how it reflected my view of freedom of expression as regards the internet. Thinking about it now, I don’t think it did. Soliciting money for sex is reprehensible, but more than that, putting up a website detailing how to do it in particular countries is just downright wrong. It is criminally punishable. And I know it won’t be soon, but I do hope that those bastards behind that site will be punished.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I could not forget my first time.

I'm talking about the very first time I entered my appearance in court -- summer of 2005, in a Regional Trial Court in Calapan. I just finished my freshman year in UP Law (and was on the verge of quitting it), then a Child’s Rights student and volunteer. The Judge, after having known that my co-volunteer and I come from UP, encouraged us to appear for the Prosecution, even if the Rules of Court disqualifies us from doing so.[1]

A week before this first court appearance, I was told by my superiors that I would be assisting in a special case.

The case: a celebrated controversy of child pornography in one of the more popular tourist destinations in the country.
The accused: three foreign nationals, who have been residents of the locality for at least three years.
The private complainants: at least three female minors whose families have been working as househelpers for the accused.

Before leaving Manila and meeting the "clients", I was told by my superiors that these "clients" are not like the ones we usually have in PGH-CPU.[2] Not that the stories of abuse in PGH-CPU are, in any way, usual. What my superiors meant was, if I thought I have already been shocked enough by the stories I've heard, then I better hold my conclusions until I meet our "clients" for this special case.

And so a few days before the scheduled hearing, I met “Ria”[3], one of the minor private complainants in this special case. She initially appeared like any other 12-year-old girl. But the minute she opened her mouth, she stopped being like any other girl her age.

Hindi ko makalimutan ‘yung first time ko.

So she told me. She was then talking about the very first time that she was asked by a German national, who she calls “Papa”, to stand in front of a computer. Naked (read: not even lightly clad). She was too young then; and with the use of her two hands, she showed me how old she was at that time. And while I tried to hide my shock to myself, she narrated to me everything –- from the day it all started, until the day it finally reached the court.

Her knowledge, as reflected in her speech, is not that of a girl in her pre-teens. She knew and spoke about the things male foreigners would desire in young Filipinas and how their “sessions” (which she describes as “high tech”) would begin in front of a personal computer and a small camera attached to it. She also told me which keys needed to be pressed and which links needed to be clicked on to bring her to her “audiences”, what parts of the world her "audiences" would come and watch her from, how much and in what currencies they would pay her through her “Papa”, how their payments would reach her “Papa”, and even what sexual positions she would have to do to “please” them. She detailed that time she lost her virginity to her “Papa” to give in to the request of one of her “audiences” until everything became routinely to her and her friends. She even remembered how her days would end with her “Papa” commending her for a job well done.

When asked what she feels about her “Papa” and his friends being sent to jail, she nonchalantly said that she does not know why they’re behind bars when all they did was to help her keep her family alive. Virginity is not something everyone cares about, she said. Money, on the other hand, is something that her family needs.

And then, it was my turn to be asked, “Sabi ni Attorney, pornography raw ang kasalanan nila Papa. Makukulong ba sila nang matagal dahil do'n?”

I just answered a simple “yes”, though I knew it was not exactly correct to say that. Yes, they are guilty of pornography. They would more likely stay long in jail, but technically not because of it.

Then, and to date, there’s no law penalizing child pornography in the country. According to a solon, only one bill is pending before Congress, and such pertains only to pornography in general.[4] Such remains to be the fact despite the finding of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that the child pornography industry in the Philippines is much more widespread and systematic than originally thought.[5]

While no one contests the advantages of digital technology, UNICEF sees it as the main attraction to pornographers, as it encourages the “safer” form of prostitution. “Internet technology makes it difficult for officials to monitor and investigate the criminal practice. It is increasingly clear that un-chaperoned Internet use by children leaves them vulnerable to child pornographers through e-mail, chat rooms, web sites, web cameras and Internet cafes. Digital cameras and mobile phones equipped with cameras are also reported as being used to produce and disseminate child pornography.” [6]

To paraphrase Meredith Grey, no benefit comes without a price. And modern technology is no exception. While it brings forth advancement to modern society, it has been costing us something, due to the absence of the efficient means of regulating it.

Let me correct that. Not only has it been costing us something. It's been costing us a great deal. At stake is our society’s moral, which to me, was, and never will be, a good trade-off.

I have had no word with my "clients" in that special case since that summer. I was just told by one of the supervising lawyers that one of the minor private complainants, one of Ria’s friends, escaped the safehouse months after we left. The supervising lawyers could only surmise why she decided to escape and where she exactly went.

And then, Ria’s words came to me. Virtues are not really something everyone cares about. Money, on the other hand, is what their families need.

(for the week 20 - 26 Jul 2008)
[1] SECTION 1. Conditions for Student Practice. - A law student who has successfully completed 3rd year of the regular four-year prescribed law curriculum and is enrolled in a recognized law school's clinical legal education program approved by the Supreme Court, may appear without compensation in any civil, criminal or administrative case before any trial court, tribunal, board or officer, to represent indigent clients accepted by the legal clinic of the law school.
[2] The Philippine General Hospital-Child Protection Unit
[3] Not her real name. (concealed for reasons of confidentiality, even if the attorney-client privilege did not apply then)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's Not Wrong To Admit That You're Wrong

I take it back.

In my previous post, I have mentioned that the onslaught of new technologies spawns new types of crimes. However, if one really digs deeper, crimes that may be committed are not entirely new. People are just provided with a new mode of committing them-technology.

Perhaps such misconception is shared by the drafters of the Cybercrime Bill, listing the acts considered as ‘cybercrimes’: Illegal Access, Illegal Interception, Data Interference, System Interference, Misuse of Devices, Computer Forgery, Computer Fraud, Unsolicited Commercial Communications and so on (SB Draft Chapter II, Section 4). All these are not to be found in the Revised Penal Code. But then, in the same act, it can be shown that those who thought up of the bill, also realizes, in the latter part, that indeed, Cybercrimes are not new crimes. They are old crimes recognized by the Revised Penal Code, as well as special laws in force. Child pornography through the Internet, which is penalized under this Act, is proof of such contention.

I believe that in crafting laws for cybercrime, such misconception must be done away with. There may be serious repercussions that will denigrate the very essence of law and its objective- to deliver justice where it is due.

Take for example, the cybercrime of data interference. Supposing a person, (let’s name him Marlon) intentionally altered computer data, without having the right to do so. He did this to kill his nemesis, Joey, his rival to Jodie’s (his fictional dream girl's) heart. He had all of Joey's records mixed up so the database would show an erroneous medication prescription. The said databank was used by the nurse or hospital worker as basis for the type of medicine that they will give Joey. Upon receiving the said medicine, Joey takes it, and dies in the process. Such is a classic case of murder, not bloody though, but squeaky clean, through the flick of the fingertips on the keyboard. (Example taken from Susan Brenner's article, Cybercrime Investigation and Prosecution: The Role of Penal and Procedural Law)

On the other hand, Mikey, the pimp, puts his favorite pre-teener, Sarah on a website, having sex with a graying old man and a horse. (What could be more sexually explicit than that?)

Under the said draft in the penalties section (Chapter III), Marlon, for having committed the crime of data interference, shall be punished with imprisonment of prision correccional or a fine of at least one hundred thousand pesos (PhP100,000.00) but not exceeding six hundred thousand pesos (PhP600,000.00) or both fine and imprisonment. Whereas, Mikey will be punished for violation of Section 5 which would cost him imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of at least two hundred thousand pesos (PhP200,000.00) but not exceeding eight hundred thousand pesos (PhP800,000.00) or both fine and imprisonment.

Although they are both heinous ( in my opinion) child pornography incurs a higher penalty under this act. Under the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for murder with no aggravating or mitigating circumstances proven by the prosecution would be reclusion perpetua (People vs. Valledor; G.R. No. 129291 ), which is a far cry from prision correccional or the fine imposed in the SB draft.

To be more clear on it, let's take one more example. Suppose Anna commits data interference to deliver a threat on the life of her ex-girlfriend, Leticia, just for the fun of it. She will be punished the same way as Marlon did for the same crime: data interference, although, as it is as clear as day, you will see that Marlon's committing data interference to murder Joey deserves a higher punishment than Anna's performance of said cybercrime to threaten Leticia.

I was wrong earlier in saying that new technologies create new crimes. I come out and say it because it is true. Hopefully, such realization may also be taken note of in the continuous fashioning of the Cybercrime laws so that law may serve its ultimate purpose, to give justice for all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Protecting Businesses and Consumers Alike

Government must be at the forefront of utilizing information and technology to lessen transaction costs and bring in more business and income to the country and the Filipinos. ( See E-Commerce Act, Sec. 27c)

UP Diliman has made successful programs in line with this goal. When I was an undergraduate in the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, I had to undergo the ordeal of enlisting subjects for several days. My enrollment, which, under number circumstances, would have taken just about thirty minutes maximum, stretches for several days due to the long lines, unavailability of subjects and professors, oh and did I mention long times?

But the upperclassmen told me that I had it easy. The time that they enrolled, they literally had some people line up during the wee hours of the morning just so they are able to get the class that they wanted with a specific professor. They said it was due to the lack of organization in the enlistment system and the manpower. UP simply had too little funds to get the manpower that they need to cope with the demand.

But then, with Internet and computers for that matter, being more accessible and affordable, and CRS Online, I now literally just breezed through the enlistment system. The list was all ready when I got to school, I just have to have them checked, pay the tuition and I am well on my way home. No more waiting in long lines, just for that couple of seconds that the person in charge of enlistment scratches your name on the paper containing the list of students of your desired class.

Well, that was what I thought. I got to the line where tuition would be paid and was surprised to see it teeming with people. It took me more time than I thought it would. Everything seemed so perfect. But then, I brushed it aside, no big deal. It took just a couple of minutes, anyway, it was so much better than it was while we were in undergraduate school, right?

Looking back, I know there was something wrong with that attitude. If there was still room for improvement, it would not be enough to just stick it out with the situation thinking that the now was better to how it was before.

Prior to going to law school, I was contemplating on taking up my studies abroad. I looked up some of the universities in the US (see as an example), and I was amazed as to how they got everything set up. From the enlistment, down to the payment of tuition, books and fees, students just go online to do everything. In a matter of minutes, armed with a computer, their student ID number, credit/debit card number, they are registered and enrolled, from the comfort of their own home. No more going to school a couple of days before the ‘real classes’ start just to do all these, which saves the schools and the students, concurrently, time and money. For those who pay their tuition through student loans from various banks, they just give their loan reference numbers and the school corresponds with a representative from the said bank. Receipts, loan forms, and application forms take the form of electronic documents, their printed out forms valid when presented on occasion that the student is asked by the school to do so.

Why is it that this is not possible here?

Currently, you can only pay the school on a cash-only basis. No checks, please. So during tuition time, you bring your 18k which is the average fee for students taking the normal load for the semester, which is a bit of a hassle and scary to say the least. Riding the jeep in Philcoa, which is notorious for pickpockets and such is not an easy feat, you know.

Paying online would be the best way to go. But then, the use of debit cards has yet to become popular here. Furthermore, people still have a distrustful attitude towards paying online, thinking that it would not be safe. That is why if such a method is adopted, pains must be taken to ensure the security of these transactions.

There is so much furor about making transactions safe for the end-users. But are there enough safeguards as well for the businesses themselves?

This brings to mind the conversation I had with a former classmate, as to why UP was not accepting checks anymore (they used to a couple of years back). We surmised that it was probably because of the fact that a lot of students have been paying checks that later on ‘bounced’, and the school just does not want to deal with such happening, who would right?

The school was accepting cash only, to ensure that all enrolled students would have paid. I believe if we adopt online transactions, it will have the same effect. When someone pays online, with a debit card, for example, in real-time, one will know if there were sufficient funds to make the payment.

Consumers must be protected by the laws in their transactions online (See RA 7394: The Consumer Act of the Philippines, with reference to the E-Commerce Act, Section: Penalties). But at the same time, there must also be more laws to protect the businesses themselves from fraud, for example, in online transactions.

Yes, government must lead in maximizing the use of technology. UP has taken steps to such an end, and in time, it would be good to see else it would do in the future.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Private International Law and the Internet

Contracts over the internet occur more often than an internet user thinks. Availing of e-mail services, subscribing to online magazines, bidding online and downloading software all create contractual relations. In every contract, there is offer and acceptance; the contract is entered into where the offer was made. The internet enables a company to make a continual offer to enter into a contract to the entire world. The acceptor of the offer may be from any country in the world. Hence, the probability that conflicts of law may arise is dramatically increased by the internet. An e-mail service provided by a company in the United States may be availed of by a Filipino working as a caregiver in Canada. If, for example, the Filipino sues in Canada his US-based e-mail service provider because he assails that a provision in the “Terms of Service” he agreed to over the internet has a provision contrary to public policy, numerous issues with foreign elements in the case arise. First, the status, condition and legal capacity of the Filipino is governed by Philippine laws. Second, the Canadian court, according to Canadian laws, may not have jurisdiction over the case. Third, US public policy may differ from Philippine public policy.

A Treaty to Govern Internet Contracts

The internet is an avenue for international commerce; and where there is commerce, contracts arise. Since the world is getting “smaller” due to the internet, perhaps it would be prudent and wise for countries to enter into a treaty providing for guidelines on how to resolve problems and complications that arise due to international contracts easily entered into over the internet. Three justifications support this proposal: First, efficiency – it would be better if all the jurisdictions in the world are given guidance on what to do instead of them all being in the dark and deciding without solid bases for their ratios. Second, consistency – one of the pillars of all judicial systems is that they do not decide arbitrarily, hence courts follow precedence of doctrines; if intricate issues such as conflict of laws spread due to the internet, courts may not decide issues similarly, hence inequality and injustice would emerge in the bigger picture. Third, justice – the lack of official rules which mandate structure on how to resolve issues arising from contracts over the internet will deprive aggrieved parties the ability to know which avenues are the proper avenues to pursue justice.

Scarcity of actual disputes arising from internet contracts is not an excuse not to pursue the proposed act of prevention of problems. The world is growing more dependent on the internet; in time, there must be a formal structure to regulate internet relations; the best way to start this is to have an international agreement to regulate international civil relations – and contracts, above all else, are the civil relation most proliferating over the internet.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Running Away from Reason

As expected, the Beijing Olympics has again brought the world of sports to the forefront of media coverage. The other day, I was mildly surprised to come across an article called “Innovation of Olympic Proportions”, which talked about technological breakthroughs leading to the creation of sporting equipment that are going to change the face of sports forever.

Indeed, the continued development of technology has led to some much-needed developments in the way athletes train and get better at their respective sporting fields. Because of technology, not only are athletes able to view past performances in order to see what mistakes they are unconsciously making, but they are even able to stream these videos to corresponding computer software which are able to do highly sophisticated computations. These computations prove vital to reaching a marked improvement in an athlete’s sporting record. After all, physics is very much intertwined with sports.

But the article I am referring to really blew me away, in that they really did purport to change the way we see and do certain sports. Nike’s Flywire, the most modern pair of track shoes to date, use only “the barest exoskeleton of wispy, high-tech filaments affixed to an ultrathin fabric scrim”. The shoe design revolutionizes not only the way sport shoes are designed, but also the way sport shoes are produced. It disposes of the traditional analog-stitching procedure, letting a designer’s imagination “flow through a computer chip” and creates a shoe prototype in a matter of seconds. Not to be outdone, Adidas’ newest track shoe – the Lone Star, boosts its wearer in a different way: it lists to port. (the article explains that most middle-distance races are won in the turns, and track runners never, ever turn to the right. So Lussier's 50 biomechanical engineers, industrial designers and electromechanical experts set about making asymmetrical spikes which would redirect the line of force that loads on the outside of his right foot and send it inward, toward the big toe. In other words, the right shoe would accelerate to the left.) Speedo’s LZR Racer swimsuits circumvent sporting rules (prohibiting suits that create buoyancy and suits that “lift” a swimmer”) by creating a fabric that molds and streamlines a swimmer into a “more ideal hydrodynamic shape”, allowing its wearers to be faster than their competitors, even though they may be of equal power.

All these new developments, while being truly impressive, seem to defeat the purpose of the Olympics, and the purpose of sports as well. With the creation of these high-tech innovations, athletes better funded are given an undue advantage over their competitors, turning the sport and its higher objectives into a mockery. What about getting better for the sake of getting better? When Olympics came into existence, the premium put on actual physical ability was so high that its participants were forbidden to wear clothing to ensure that there would be no unfair benefits utilized by any of the competitors. Now, it seems, in the fields of running and swimming in particular, it is a competition of who has access to the better technology. The stakes at this level are so high, that athletes are leaving their sponsors in order to don these swimsuits. They can’t afford not to. The article says that 41 world records in swimming had been set since the LZR Racer was introduced: and 37 of those swimmer were wearing it. Naysayers call the use of these enhancements “technological doping”. And we cannot help but admit that this is just the beginning. If this continues, in the long run, it is the loftier goals of the world of sports that will suffer. The danger of us becoming too reliant on technology to do the work us is incredibly appealing. If these developments continue to be unregulated, I can only imagine the backlash that will be waiting for us. Perhaps this is one of the few cases where we need to go back to the basics in order to truly appreciate the experience.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Public International Law and the Internet

Internationally accepted customs become part of Public International Law. If there is to be an ICT aspect of PIL, how can these customs be defined? Customs of the states which use the internet or customs of the states which provide most internet services? It should be noted that most internet services such as Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Friendster, Google, and Youtube all come from the United States. Are the customs of these companies in the United States the customs to follow? There may be no choice since internet users have no option but to adhere to the policies of these companies; even availing their services requires one to enter into a contract of adhesion. How can customs be formulated?

Even if it is possible to pinpoint international internet customs, there will still be social injustice because these customs will be heavily influenced by the customs of the United States for it provides most of the widely-used internet services.

To be frank, it seems the United States owns the internet industry, and the world will have no choice but to adhere to its customs.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Baby Steps for E-Justice
(How About an Electronic Filing System in UP Diliman?)

Having worked in the University Student Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for months now, I have been a witness as to how its office is stuffed with too many paper documents consisting of pleadings manually filed by the parties and other files (i.e., Transcript of Stenographic Notes). Also, while the SDT is probably the most understaffed office in UP[1], and while it receives minimal appropriation from the University, it performs all the functions done in regular courts and quasi-judicial bodies –- from the manual mailing or personal service of preliminary inquiry notices to the mailing of copies of orders/decisions/resolutions after conduct of full-blown trials –- not to mention its other functions (i.e., issuance of clearances to students).

It is in this context that I once casually proposed to one of my officemates, over lunch, that UP should consider launching the Electronic Filing System (EFS) to do away with the paper court documents and to minimize office costs due to mailing and personal service of notices and reproduction of court documents.

The EFS is one of the latest developments in the E-Justice trend and is now being fully implemented in Singapore. It underwent 7 years of planning in Singapore, commencing in 1990, until its full implementation in 2005. It was “specifically designed to fully exploit the electronic super highway to minimize not just the physical movement of people and paper court documents from the law firms to the Courts, but also to leverage the benefits of electronic storage within the Courts (i.e., faster document filing and retrieval, eradication of the misplacement of case files, concurrent access to view the same case filed by different parties).”[2]

The System has four components: the Electronic Filing Service, the Electronic Exacting Service, the Electronic Service of Documents Facility, and the Electronic Information Service. The Singaporean government describes it as a revolutionary, integrated, and national network, which allows more proactive supervision of cases so that the life span of cases can be shortened and the number of outstanding cases produced. At present, over 84% of documents are filed in court electronically by more than 400 law firms via the web-based system, more than 2.5 million court documents have been electronically filed to-date, and 2,000 documents are processed electronically daily.[3]

Needless to say, the benefits to having the EFS are many. And even if confronted with the questions on feasibility and practicability by my officemate, I opined that there is not much change to be done to give way to the adoption of the EFS. The UP Dilnet[4] is launched, pioneered, and run by the best minds of the University (or of the country, for that matter) and given the already-successful Singaporean model, nothing is really impossible. Sure, the birth pains will be inevitable. But if Singapore was able to incrementally do it over the years, so can we.

The University is no alien to being the pilot-testing grounds to many proposals. And the foreseeable success of the EFS in the University is sure to open doors to its nationwide feasibility and success, just like what they are currently enjoying in Singapore.

(for the week 13 - 19 Jul 2008)
[1] SDT has two full-time employees, 1 graduate assistant and 1 student assistant. The members of the Tribunal are composed of three full-time UP Diliman Professors (two of whom are completing their doctorate degrees in the University), 1 parent juror (who also works for the University) and a student juror.
[4] UP Dilnet is an abbreviation for UP Diliman Network

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Case of the Unscrupulous Bank Employee

The hesitance to transact online is largely based on the fear of online fraud.  However, this type of risk isn’t unique to online transactions alone.  Just recently, I heard (from a reliable insider source, of course) of a credit card fraud perpetuated by a bank employee.  The employee was working as a customer service representative for the bank’s credit card department.  As such, he had access to the cardholder’s account and personal information and the authority to make changes to it, ideally, only when asked by the client.  If you have a credit card and have called their customer service hotline at least once, you would know that all they would need from you to verify that you really are the cardholder is your birthday, billing address, last credit balance, last three digits at the back of the card, etc.  In short, information that can easily be known to or accessed by people coming in and out of your home or office.  Information plus unscrupulous employee plus insufficient security measures equals fraud waiting to happen.  The employee called the bank’s customer service line, pretended to be the cardholder, verified the account successfully through information he has acquired as such employee, asked to have the billing address changed, ordered the processing of a supplementary card in his name (or most likely his bogus identity), then asked that his credit limit be increased (although, allegedly, he increased the cardholder’s credit limit himself as he had the authority to do so, purportedly to about a million pesos).  The supplementary card was delivered to the new billing address and the shopping began.  The employee knew the internal workings of the bank and made sure that he called for authorization before making a huge purchase to prevent the bank from holding the transaction and calling the principal cardholder first before authorizing it.  It was probably about a month later after the cardholder received his billing statement when the fraud was discovered.  The employee was long gone, the credit limit stretched to the hilt and the bank was left to pacify a very angry client and bear a considerable loss.

Fraud happens in any form – virtually or physically, internally or externally. The fact that information is available through public channels does not make it more susceptible to crime.  Any stored information is open for misuse or abuse.  Online insecurity is probably just an overblown fear.  It is a fear that equally exists in the physical world.   Businesses and institutions are constantly developing ways to improve the security of their database and online division.  Visa, for example, has launched an online security program called Verified by Visa (as I discovered to my inconvenience because apparently you can’t purchase online tickets from Philippine Airlines anymore unless your bank is enrolled in the program.  Unfortunately, the only bank in the Philippines enrolled is HSBC).  Verified by Visa gives you a PIN or password other than that provided by your bank (which is usually just the last three digits at the back of the credit card) to be used when purchasing online.  The program also provides a list of Visa accredited online shops and offers a sort of fraud watch program where cardholders can report internet fraud.  In fact, as in the case above, companies may have concentrated their eye on disproving and fighting online insecurity so much that they may have overlooked security measures for their operations and human resources department.  In the case of the bank, the employee was given too much authority without proper checks by his supervisor or the system itself.  The verification system was likewise flawed.  It would have been appropriate to require the customer service representative to call the client to authenticate the source of the request.   When the security measure lies on such personal information, it should not be so easy to modify that information.

Ironically, had the client utilized the online banking feature available to him and checked his account regularly (*cough* paranoid *cough*), he could have detected the fraud earlier.  Financial loss on the part of the bank could have been reduced.  The bank could have conducted a surreptitious investigation before the culprit’s scheduled escape.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Learning the E-sy Way

There is a new and exciting delivery mode which utilizes technology to increase the effectiveness and accessibility of learning these days. This mode provides the learner with information that can be accessed at his or her own time, place and pace. This is called e-Learning.

Wikipedia defines electronic learning (or e-Learning or eLearning) as “a type of education where the medium of instruction is computer technology. No in-person interaction may take place in some instances…In most Universities, e-learning is used to define a specific mode to attend a course or programmes of study where the students rarely, if ever, attend face-to-face or for on-campus access to educational facilities, because they study on-line.”

The Philippines society has adopted this alternative as manifested by the number of online English tutorial centers which cater mostly to Japanese and Koreans. These centers which proliferate like mushrooms in the country promise to have conversation classes online and to send written material by email among others. There are also a number of private online English tutorials which offer the same services at lower rates.

A number of institutions have also opened their doors to this alternative learning method. The University of the Philippines has its 13-yr old Open University which aims ‘to provide education opportunities to individuals aspiring for higher education and improved qualifications but who are unable to take advantage of traditional modes of education.” De La Salle University also has course offerings delivered via this method.

Government has also adopted this as exemplified by the eLearning center for workers in Ermita, Manila and the Mindanao eLearning Space to name a few.

The benefits of eLearning are endless. These include minimal cost incurred. Students need not go to campuses to attend classes. Teachers in the UP Open University can pursue their Masters while working in institutions outside the metro. Koreans need not go to Philippines to meet their online English tutors.

Aside from that, less infrastructure would also equate to less cost due to minimal human interaction. Any place with a working computer will suffice to avail of it.

Furthermore, modules and activities are given which can be accomplished at one’s own pace. My mother finished her Masters through the UP Open University amid her full-time work in the province and pregnancy. It did not matter if she was in her job nor if she was on her way to the oby-gyne while completing the assignments for the given week.

Indeed, e-Learning can be said to bridge the digital divide in the Philippines and in the world. Whether remotely located elsewhere during the entire e-Learning experience or not as long as one has access to computers, one can learn.

However, disadvantages can also be cited which include the possibility that learners may not be able to full comprehend instructions online. Consultations or request for clarifications of instructions and requirements may become less availed of. Interpersonal relationships with co-e-Learners may not be maximized since they rarely meet or sometimes never even meet. Add to these the fact that computers may not be as efficient.

But the disadvantages cannot overshadow the advantages of e-learning. Especially in difficult times, the government and the country in general should realize the potential of e-learning such that it becomes imperative that its use should be maximized.

Embracing (and Indulging in) the Internet

This is my first blog entry. And as much as I proclaimed that I would never blog for reasons which oftentimes offend my blogger friends, here I am making my first blog entry. Indeed, the technology era has invaded our lives making more and more recalcitrant people, like me, realize that it is not just a fad or technical eureka but a utility or way of life. The proliferation of prepaid Internet cards, DSL plans, online games, virtual private networks, online content services, online banking, and online marketing strategies to name a few attests to this.

Alexander Villafania, in his 2004 article published in the Philippine Star, “Looking back at 10 years of Internet in RP”, provides an interesting backdrop for the emergence of Internet in the Philippines. He cites that the Internet was seen as “nothing more than a fad that would pass into oblivion” which was also my mindset being not as technical savvy as my friends. The telephone was seen as a sufficient communication medium along with the pager. But it was eventually the telephone which paved the way for internet to exist in the country.

He claims that the PHNet is the first Philippine organization to connect to the World Wide Web using the PABX network. He also claims that if there is one who deserves to be called a progenitor of Internet connectivity in the Philippines, it is Mozcom President William Torres dubbed as “grandfather of Internet” in the country. William Torres along with other Philippine internet visionaries saw the potential of Internet. At first it was the domain of the technical geeks and those in the academe in communicating with educational institutions since it was seen as cheaper than the phone and fax but later on the commercial aspect would eventually catch up. Gradually, online businesses proliferated and Cybercities in Makati, The Fort, Eastwood, Alabang to name a few were established with a lot more in development. Call centers flourished with PLDT and Globe providing the larger bandwidths necessary for the industry. Mobile applications are tapped realizing the extent of mobile phone usage. And evidently, the Internet has invaded the country.

And rightfully so, it has invaded me. Before, I used to pride myself in having my borrower’s card filled out to the last entry. But now, I just google the topic and voila! All the references are available to me. Before I used to write to relatives abroad but now, I just send an offline message and schedule our time for chatting. Before I used to worry that my thesis or papers would get lost. Now I can safely secure a soft copy through my email account. Before I used to book manually for flights. Now, it is a matter of going to websites and booking online. Now, I have a lot of email addresses under my name. I use the Internet to download music and movies. And now, I comply with blog instead of paper requirement in class.

But just as these moments are emphasized, the ugly issues and controversies also need stressing. The downside bears emphasis. My aunt never ceases to warn me of frauds and net scams. Just a week ago, I had my DSL connection repaired. I myself have yet to believe that doing research in the Internet is better than poring over books and references in the library as I was trained to utilize only 10-20% materials obtained through the Internet in my undergraduate papers. I have yet to create my own Friendster and Blogspot accounts. And I have yet to make my first purchase online.

Undeniably, the Internet has become an important tool for society at large and will be integrated much deeper into our lives. With everything it has brought to the Philippines, I can only surmise the endless possibilities it will bring years hence.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Twitter[1] Twister[2]

Just about the same time Summer OLA[3] duty began, the news about James Karl Buck’s apprehension by the Egyptian authorities came out in CNN.[4] It would have surfaced the web just like any newsworthy, but not extraordinary, story of a UC Berkeley graduate student who was arrested by Egyptian police officers while photographing an anti-government protest for his thesis, were it not for the Twitter angle to it. It interested me more than any other news that day; I closely followed it just like the OLA cases I have then been handling.

What interested me is how Buck made it out of detention and how the news reached CNN online in a matter of minutes – he sent a tweet (a text-based post in less than 140 words) to his friends and network through his Twitter account, typing the message “Arrested”. Through his friends, the UC Berkeley administrators got the news and sent him a lawyer, who eventually got him out of jail. As soon as he was released, he tweeted “Free” to his friends and network.
After having gone back to California, he found out that his friend and translator Mohammed Maree was also, and was still, held in detention by the Egyptian government. Again, through his Twitter account, he called and solicited support for his friend’s release. Just this Wednesday, after Maree was set free, CNN again got word through Buck’s tweet -- "Mohammed is free! Mohammed is free!"

But even before Buck and Maree’s story, Twitter has already been a hit in US, Canada, India, and UK.

My friend, who is currently based in Palo Alto, told me about Twitter a year ago, as the accounting firm she has been working for has employed the services of Twitter for its employees. All the employees were required to be part of the firm's network to get alerts and urgent announcements through tweets from their superiors. She even told me that she and her other officemates were members of other Twitter account networks and they would send their own tweets to react to the messages that they would get from their bosses.
She thought tweeting would interest me a lot because I enjoy getting updates from friends by reading their blogs, and receiving emails and SMS from them. And because lately, I haven’t had much time to be updated because of my tight work and class schedules, she thought that getting a Twitter account would work best for me.

Wikipeda traces Twitter’s origins from a San Fran start-up company, which was later incorporated as a separate entity (Twitter, Inc) with Jack Dorsey (the same man behind its initial success) as its CEO.
At present, Cisco Systems and Dell have accounts with Twitter. Even the Los Angeles Fire Department got one. It has been also helpful to CNN and BBC. Even Barack Obama used it for his campaign.

With the release of Maree, the Twitter Saga may have already ended; but this does not, in any way, lead to the denouement of the Twitter hype.
To me, Maree’s release just ended the twister for Buck and Maree. As for Twitter, Inc, this shall just mean more bucks and money.

(for the week 06 to 12 Jul 2008)


[1] “a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates (otherwise known as tweets) which are text-based posts, ranging up to 140 characters long” (source: www.wikipedia,org)
[2] “a localized… windstorm” (source:
[3] OLA stands for Office of Legal Aid, the legal clinic of UP Law
[4] Summer OLA duty officially started on 11 April 2008 (Manila time), while James Buck was apprehended on 10 April 2008 (East Coast time)

Yea and Nay


It was with a sense of rightness and relief that I read the news the other day saying that Microsoft is helping train Philippine law enforcers how to better deal with cybercrimes. Particularly, the company is working with the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (Interpol) and the International Police (Interpol) to educate Philippine law enforcers on how to deal with computer-assisted crimes against children and women.

At present, members of the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, and the National Defense College of the Philippines are among those receiving the specialized training in the hopes that they will be better-equipped to conduct high-tech investigations relating to crimes such as pornography and pedophilia which are further facilitated by the use of internet technology.

It is only right that Microsoft and other similar companies address issues such as this as a part of their corporate responsibility ethos, since they are the ones who profit the most from the creation of technological products. It must be accepted that for every great piece of technology provided to the public, an even greater threat to unsuspecting end-users (usually women and children) is created to counter it or to abuse it. Apart from the fact that it is morally their (the companies’) responsibility to help police the unpalatable effects of their creation, they are the ones with the resources to do the same.

It was submitted that the creation of a comprehensive cybercrime law would in fact shore up investigations relating to these crimes, since the current law that we employ to catch online predators is the Anti-Trafficking Persons Act (RA 9208) is ineffective to combat crimes done in the cyberworld.

While it is true that the largest number of offensive content now comes from North America and Western Europe, it will only be a matter of time until Asia catches up, and we have to be ready for that time. It is not enough that law enforcers are taught how to better keep up with these predators. To me, the only way we can be ready is if we are able to educate the masses (who stand to be the most vulnerable to these kinds of crimes) by giving them access to the technology, teaching them how to better themselves through it, and arming them with the information necessary to protect them from the same.


In order to address the problem, our government is creating a coordinating body to work side by side as a complement to private-sector initiated efforts such Microsoft’s. They hope to do this by the creation of National Computer Emergency Response Team which will operate as an umbrella organization for similar smaller coordinate bodies within the government, military, and private sector – the ultimate goal is to come up with uniform policies and enforce coordination among the aforementioned sectors. Furthermore, the government’s goal is to tap the private sector to provide expertise in the creation of safeguarding measures.

Indeed, this steps on the part of the government are necessary, to say the least. What I find so offensive is the P1 billion price tag that is being projected to address this issue. P1 billion – just to create a coordinate body that will police internet crime in a country where 90% of the citizenry don’t have access to basic needs, let alone personal computers. That money would better be spent on providing local government units with the necessary infrastructure and mechanism to teach the citizens exactly what they should be guarded against. Instead of merely tapping private sector groups to merely help in policy-development, we should ask them to provide much-needed equipment and software, as well as training, to LGUs. Seeing that the steps on the part of the government comprises mostly of policy development, I really don’t understand how it could be that expensive. In the long run, I project that the government will again pass the burden of paying that P 1 billion price tag to the taxpayers who will be none the wiser. That, to me, is the real cybercrime.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Life For Sale

Blogging and the Internet: Commodifying One’s Life?

And we thought we already heard it all. Day by day, we hear stories of people, that which before, we could never even conceive of, each story more appalling than the next.

I heard these types of stories from the Internet, from which I was amazed. I read of one Australian man, who, post divorce, offered to sell his life, including his friends, so he could start anew. There was also another who made himself an object of a virtual game, wherein he put out a live video of himself on a site so people could view him real-time, and people can just log on his website and start shooting him. He claims it is part of his study of finding out how trigger-happy people nowadays are. He got more than a million hits in his site, maybe there is something in his theory, after all.

When we find out about stories such as those, we shake our heads and tsk-tsked among ourselves on the ludicrousness of their ‘antics’. Life does not seem to hold so much value these days, to sell is more important, so it seems.

We scoff and gasp in those stories, but do not even bat an eyelash when it comes to bloggers putting out intimate details of their lives in the internet. It is the same with the situations above, is it not? In a way you are selling yourself, your life, albeit in a less direct way. Why would anyone do so?, you wonder. There is so much importance in privacy and ensuring that, but there are those who blab their sins in public, for all the web community to read about and devour.

A friend told me that the Internet has provided a lot of opportunities to make money. Blogging can be a huge money-making venture, you just have to play it right. You just need to set up a blog (there are a lot of websites offering free web space if you are just starting up, she recommended as a host for that), a pay pal account, adsense account in Google for advertisements and just write to your heart’s content. Use a simple yet attractive design in your blog, preferably with a large font so people do not complain, oh and leave the convoluted, artsy fartsy language that you love to use. The simpler and more direct style of writing that you employ, the better. Furthermore, make it interesting, create an ‘identity’ for yourself, people like to read about those who have eventful lives, don’t you agree? Now how do you make money in that? Well, she said, you earn money based on the traffic you get on your site. Such is the rationale of the importance of making your stories and articles readable and enjoyable.

I looked at the more popular bloggers’ sites for inspiration and to obtain a clearer understanding on what my friend was pertaining to. I saw them posting pictures of themselves and their friends, and gushing/complaining about their oh-so-exciting lives. There are some who devoted their site in providing informative articles in their respective industries, but most of the blogs I have found (that are among the most popular) are the gossipy type of blogs, online versions of reality TV shows that have become such a hit such as MTV’s Laguna Beach or Big Brother. And then, these sites are laden with advertisements with all their logos neatly arranged out front as you enter their homepages.

And these sites make money, lots of it. And what was the object of sale? Mainly, their lives. Writing talent and computer design are tools in doing so, but the main thing being sold was the identity of the blogger.

There is something a bit sordid about this idea, being the private person that I am. But then there is no law specifically prohibiting you to “sell your life”. On top of that, recent studies have shown that the Internet has garnered more following as an entertainment source than other types of media such as the television and the radio, especially among the youth. More kids are logging on the Internet due to proliferation of networking sites such as Friendster and Myspace, (now I think it is Facebook that is becoming popular). Blogs are also included as being a pastime for these youth.

And what do these blogs contain? Basically, almost everything you can imagine, since there are no regulatory measures as stringent as employed in the television media and the radio. And these are all available to whoever has Internet access, in a scary free-for all fashion.

Yes, business is business. Industry is encouraged, blogging is profitable and the blogger is free to be creative in ensuring that not only his or her ideas get disseminated to facilitate a fruitful exchange in information and be compensated for that. But then, as per any freedom, there must also be limitations. Though there is no specific study directly relating blogging to the changes in the lifestyles and attitudes of their readers, especially the youth being the main audience, one cannot dispute their influence to that sector of the society.

“ No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech…” ( Art III, Sec 4, Philippine Constitution) This is correlative to the value that man put on the free trade of ideas for the realization of the common good. But then, in blogging, yes, some people write articles to provide for a healthy exchange of knowledge and information to provide for a development of ideas towards useful innovations-the common good. But then, there are those who blog for profit, and they put out stories, one can even say, sell stories of sex, drugs, and scandals to gain a following to their sites, and they do, some in a massive scale. There must be some measures also undertaken to regulate these sites, as there are in the television and the print media.

But in that proposal, other problems arise. What is your test then whereby police power may be exercised in possibly shutting down these type of blogs? In these cases, the Court goes with the Clear and Present Danger rule. Should the same be applied to these blogs? What are the standards, if met, would show a definite clear and present danger? Furthermore, with more and more people discovering blogging everyday, using different hosts and sites, regulating seems to be an almost impossible task.

These days, one’s life can be sold. And you thought you heard it all. It makes you wonder what’s next.

Anti-copyright software

Peer-to-peer file sharing services and machine emulators escape legal liability of copyright infringement under the justification that their software are not designed to be used to infringe copyrights. The Limewire file sharing software even has a provision in its End-User License Agreement (EULA) that the user of the software agrees not to use Limewire for copyright infringement. The Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) banners in its website that the MAME project is primarily for scientific and academic purposes to preserve the architectural mechanism of old arcade machines. A probable hypothesis is that most users of Limewire and MAME use these software to download and use without license copyrighted material. However, due to justifications for use of these software, protectors of intellectual property are unable to ban them. Whenever software is stated in this article, it refers to software which may be utilized to infringe copyrights.

A balance is currently being formulated in cyberspace: preservation of copyrights and freedom to progress computing technologies. In theory, file sharing per se does not violate the law, it actually enhances interconnectivity; arcade machine emulation alone is not illegal, as long as no copyrighted game is run in an emulator. The issue arises: can undertakings justified by theories but in reality fully abused to infringe intellectual property rights be legally allowed?

On one hand, legislation cannot be crafted in a manner which arises from fear of abuse as long as the policy behind it is valid. Knives should not be banned because of the fear that they might be used for criminal means instead of culinary purposes.

On the other hand, legislation cannot be blind to the blatant fact that these software are abused by virtually everybody to infringe copyrights. Guns are banned because although having a gun does not necessarily mean intent to kill, the sheer power of a gun to harm individuals makes it a good policy to ban guns altogether.

However, these software are not as simple as knives and guns. Unlike a weak knife and like a powerful gun, the ease and potential of software to do harm are enormous; hence the justification to outright outlaw software widely used for copyright infringement. But like a useful knife and a unlike a useless gun which purpose is only to harm, software can be utilized to greatly benefit technological progress; hence the justification not to outlaw them due to fear of abuse. Which policy is better?

The heart of the issue must be uncovered. There must be distinction between the different aspects of the undertakings in question and not treat them as a whole. The question should not be whether entities should be prohibited from making potentially copyright infringing software. The root of potential infringements should be identified.

Software development which incidentally may produce tools to infringe copyrights cannot be prohibited by the dangers of using them may bring; these are pursuits of knowledge which cannot be outlawed. It is not the act of producing software which should be prevented, only the use of the software for illegal purposes. Copyright infringement through use of powerful software is not due to the creation of these software, it is free distribution which put these software in the wrong hands.

The root of the abuse of these software to infringe copyright lies in their free distribution, not their creation. What should be changed is the free access to the full features of these software. It is unwise to distribute powerful tools which may cause harm freely. Distributing knives and guns to everyone on the street would surely exponent the use of these tools for the wrong reasons. The same applies to software with the ability to infringe copyrights.

The prudent policy therefore is to regulate distribution of these software. The justifications of why these software should exist is not defeated by formulating parameters in the distribution of these software. Only those who would further the justification of the existence of these software should be allowed to obtain and use them. Casual users should not be able to download Limewire and MAME if they are not affiliates or authorized by institutions which are justified to use Limewire file sharing or MAME emulation. Similar to guns, existence of these software should not be outlawed, but distribution should be regulated to individuals who need them. This way, technology is utilized to benefit humanity without opening avenues for abusers to inflict more harm than good.

Advances in technology should never be impeded. Like any other tool, software can be used for either good or bad. The object of legislation is to prohibit the happening of “bad” acts while upholding “good” ones. The proper way to deal with great power is not to prohibit it; it is to instill responsibility in its use. As Ben Parker said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”