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?