Monday, January 26, 2009

The License to Blog

I never expected my blog to have any audience. I have been writing since I was 8 years old and I pretty much actively pursued it when I was in college by becoming the editor-in-chief of our school's literary folio, but I pretty much kept most of my writing private (in a diary, parts of it written in alibata) and eventually stopped writing during tumultous years of my life. It took 8 years before I had the courage to write again and I did so through a blog on Friendster.

Eventually I found myself working for an internet company and my colleagues encouraged us to blog on Blogger. So almost three years ago I moved my blog here and I guess the rest is history, but if there's one thing that hasn't changed. I don't earn from my blog. It is, after all, an online journal and I just whatever I want to do with it. 

Last week I chanced upon Mike's plurk about NTC's plan to charge content providers for doing their thing. Here's the proposed memorandum:
NOW, THEREFORE, pursuant to RA7925, Executive Order (EO) No. 546 series of 1979, and in order to encourage and facilitate the development of contents and the provision thereof to the consumers, the National Telecommunications Commission (Commission) hereby promulgates the following guidelines:

A.      DEFINITIONS
1. The following terms as used in this Circular shall have the following definitions:
a. Content – refers to all types of contents delivered to/accessed by the users/subscribers such as music, ring tones, logos, video clips, etc.
b. Information – refers to all types of information delivered to/accessed by the users/subscribers, e.g. road traffic information, financial information, visa application information, etc.
c. Application – refers to all types of applications delivered to/accessed by the users/subscribers, e.g. mobile banking, electronic payments, point of sale service, etc.
d. Electronic Game – refers to games played online except gambling.
e. Contents Providers – are persons or entities offering and providing contents to the public for compensation through the networks, systems and/or facilities of authorized networks, systems and/or facilities providers.
f. Information Providers – are persons or entities offering and providing information to the public for compensation through the networks, systems and/or facilities of authorized networks, systems and/or facilities providers.
g. Applications Providers – are persons or entities offering and providing applications to the public for compensation through the networks, systems and/or facilities of authorized networks, systems and/or facilities providers.
h. Electronic Games Providers – are persons or entities offering and providing electronic games to the public for compensation through the networks, systems and/or facilities of authorized networks, systems and/or facilities providers.
i. Contents Developers – are persons or entities creating contents.
j. Information Sources – are persons or entities providing information to Information Providers.
k. Applications Developer – are persons or entities creating applications.
l. Electronic Games Developer – are persons or entities creating electronic games.

B REGISTRATION
1. Contents, Information, Applications and/or Electronic Games Providers, Contents Developers, Information Sources, Applications Developers, and Electronic Games Developers are required to have commercial presence in the country and shall secure Certificate of Registration (COR) from the Commission.

2. There shall be no nationality requirement for contents, information, applications and/or electronic games providers, contents, applications and/or electronic games developers and information sources.

3. The application for registration shall be filed and acted upon by the Commission not later than seven (7) working days from date of application.

4. The application shall include the following documents:
a. Valid registration from the Securities and Exchange Commission or from the Department of Trade and Industry and Articles of Incorporation;
b. Facilities lease agreement with duly enfranchised and certificated public telecommunications entity; and

5. The Certificate of Registration shall be valid for a maximum period of five (5) years. Applicants for registration may opt to apply for shorter period not shorter than one (1) year. Certificates of Registration shall be renewable.

D FEES AND CHARGES
1. The following fees and charges shall be imposed:

a. Filing Fee : PhP 300.00
b. Annual Registration Fee: 6,000.00
c. Surcharge for late : 50% of the annual registration fee if application
filing of application is filed within six (6) months from date of expiry
for renewal 100% if filed after six (6) months from date of expiry
E RATES
1. The rates shall be deregulated. The contents, information, applications and/or electronic games provider shall inform the Commission of the rates for each of the content, information, application or electronic game offered at least three (3) days prior to the offering of such content, information, application or electronic game. Contents, information, applications and/or electronic games providers seeking increases in rates shall inform the Commission of the details of such increases at least five (5) days prior to the implementation of the increase. The Commission in the exercise of its mandate to protect consumers may not allow the increase. If the Commission does not act on the information within five (5) days from receipt of the same, the contents, information, applications and/or electronic games provider can impose the new rates.


I am not a lawyer (my Dad is hehe), but the proposed memorandum is very much worrisome. I wonder what they mean by, "to encourage and facilitate the development of contents" since the segments they have identified pretty much grew on its own accord without government's help. When they say content/information, it's basically everything that's online (this I asked my Dad advise on), your blog, local websites, your company's website, your Friendster or Facebook profile, the games you play, e-commerce sites, the comments you'll post below this blog. 

I have yet to earn big bucks on my blog and paying PhP6,000 is definitely something that my blog cannot pay for (I've yet to get my first Adsense check mind you). It's a nightmare for me since I see all Philippine internet content disappear from the internet. That translates to a a huge industry disappearing. 

Now let's not be OA about it, baka naman they have a point here. I've been doing research about the internet and blogging since my grad school days. The internet was created actually for military use so they could communicate easily and faster and eventually it became a public domain which is definitely not patrolled (unless you live in select countries that have very much different cultures than ours). Blogging, on the other hand, started off as a web log for developers to journal whatever they do. The internet thrives because of creativity. It continues to evolve and whatever regulation is needed is brought on by the users themselves. Try entrenching yourself in just one community and you'd know what I mean.

They also say that you shouldn't leave your child unattended when he surfs the net because there's no telling what he may stumble on when he's online. Tending to a child's online activity is a parent's prerogative. But regulating whatever's placed online is who's prerogative (or responsibility) anyway? I am actually trying to find here the right they have to regulate essentially the internet since it's been a public domain for more than a decade already. I cannot find any.

Things to ponder on:
1. Democracy
2. Freedom of speech/censorship
3. The internet as a public domain
4. Commerce; and
5. Common sense

And let's do the math, 24 million internet users times PhP6,300 each is easy money diba.

So what do you think? 

11 comments:

  1. Ma basa nga ito .

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  2. I'm confused,...what exactly is it they are proposing there? You have to get a license to blog on the internet?

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  3. First world countries who have a much more wider and broader audience and user base do not regulate users from publishing content. Why should we ? Chances are that these countries may have already been through this kind of debate and scenario. I say the Philippines should learn from it.

    In addition, several online service with global audiences and worldwide usage like facebook, friendster, multiply, blogger, wordpress and several other platforms and websites offer their use of service for free. Why would we have to pay a third party (the philippine government via NTC) rights to use these free services ?

    I feel their intention of regulating it is going to kill the local IT industry, IT jobs and submerge the Philippines' web presence to the bottom of the net.

    In a decree ordered few years back, it is required of all government offices, departments, bureaue, local government units etc...to have a website to disemminate information and follow a five level internet presence to eventually reach the goal of e-commerce. Are they going to bill all of them too for their content required by government ?

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  4. @nikita: that's exactly what the government wants... actually when this happens, this could mean another income generating project by the government.. just imagine, P6000 for every blogger... and more than 2 million Filipino bloggers out there, most of the with more than one blog, now that's a lot of income!!!

    thanks for posting your thoughts ms. aileen!

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  5. I think we're making a mountain out of a molehill here. The law was clearly intended for the Telecom industry.

    They may have overlooked certain things in making this bill, but as it stands, the NTC is *not* a binding authority on internet law at the moment.

    I believe we simply need to ask for a clarification on the bill. There is no need to bring out the pitchforks because it was an honest oversight on their part. The law was clearly not intended to translate to the internet setting but merely to the Globe-Smart-Sun arena.

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  6. PhP 151.2 trillion.

    That's a lot of easy money. O_O

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  7. I don't see how the Philippine government could force its net citizens to pay a fee to blog. How exactly are they going to enforce it? For instance, this blog is hosted by Blogger. Blogger is owned by Google. Is the Philippine government going to demand the personal info of blog owners for proof they live in the Philippines so they can make sure they are paying a blogging fee? As if Google would hand over that info.

    Really, I can't see how such a law/rule could be enforced. It's like the old argument here in the US of the US Postal Service trying to charge people for every email they send online. Not only is it ridiculous, there isn't really a way they could with the way things are set up online.

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  8. Hi Aileen` get back into "Alibata", I run Baybayin.com.

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  9. wow.. thanks for the information Ms. Aileen... I honestly find this quite interesting. It would surely scare those at first glance... but I do wonder how they would be able to implement their charges. Nevertheless, it is something those who blog must look into...

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  10. Hi Ms. Aileen
    It's been a while since my last visit here...
    Thanks for sharing this info and I wonder if there is an update on how far those the government worked on this.
    In my opinion this will be an easy money for the government and for those corrupt officials.

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  11. This shows that NTC doesn't have any idea how internet and all its activities work.

    Anyway, I've been following your blog for sometime now. I was surprised when I saw your name on Ubuntu Love Day Manila event.

    I started a thread on Ubuntu forum inviting for a GK project: IT sa GKVillage... Baka po interesado ka... let me know your thoughts...

    Salamat po...

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