Thursday, February 2, 2012

Not Available in Your Country

I have been in a love affair with Android...with Android apps specifically. Each time I download an app, and each time it installs on my device, my heart flutters. Very recently, the Android-verse was awash with news of Google Currents. This app is similar to an RSS feed in many ways, but news/blog items are laid out in newspaper-fashion. So if your tablet has this app installed, this is as close as one could get today to a digital newspaper ala Harry Potter's the Daily Prophet. The prospect of experiencing a part of Harry Potter's magical world got me so excited that I found myself searching for the app on the Android Market within minutes upon hearing of its existence. To my dismay, search results kept on coming back negative. The app was nowhere to be found. Did I misread the news? Was it pulled from the market? Is a virus/worm/whatever preventing me from finding it? These were just some of the questions I repeatedly asked myself as I searched for the app.

Apparently, I could not find it despite my best efforts to locate the same because Google did not make it available for download in the Philippines. I was flabbergasted. This kind of treatment I completely did not expect from Google. Certainly not from Google--the same company that created the openware Android and fought SOPA/PIPA to keep the Internet free from officious regulation by the government. But alas, it was true. Upon further investigation, I discovered that Google Video and Google Music were also unavailable here. But why? Is it because the Philippines is known as a haven for pirates of content? The answer to that is a resounding yes! Google made the apps unavailable here not because Google changed its policies from open- to restrictive-access of its apps, but because of the arrangements it concluded with its apps' content producers. In order to protect their content from copyright infringement, Google had to limit access to some of its apps, especially to those that rely on content from third parties. Google Currents is unfortunately one of them.

There is nothing morally or legally reprehensible about protecting one's content. As the owner of the work, naturally, one has an interest in economically benefiting from it. One of the purposes of copyright law, after all, is to encourage the production of intellectual creations by promising protection over original works for a limited time, so that the author/composer/maker exclusively benefits from his creation until the expiration of his/her copyright, at which point his/her work transits to the public domain. Since apps like Google Currents, Google Video, and Google Music rely on third-party content to be marketable, it is understandable that Google acceded to arrangements designed to protect the rights of its content producers, even if it meant sacrificing wider access to some of its apps.

--Jan Nicklaus S. Bunag, Entry No. 7

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