Cybercrime: US laws seek to protect ideas, Philippine laws seek to protect people


Comparable to Filipinos’ battle versus Republic Act 10175 (a.k.a. the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012), their government’s assault on their cherished right of freedom of speech, is America’s own successfully-waged war versus their government’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill which sought to implement measures that would have enabled the US Government to control Americans’ access to “foreign” Web sites.

SOPA also known as H.R. 3261, is a bill that was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of 12 initial co-sponsors. The bill expands the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Now before the House Judiciary Committee, it builds on the similar PRO-IP Act of 2008 and the corresponding Senate bill, the Protect IP Act.

If passed, the law would have allowed the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who requests the court orders, the actions could have included barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as PayPal from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The law would have made unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a felony. The proposed law also gave immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

In keeping with tradition, much of the manner with which Filipinos are mounting online campaigns against their RA 10175 is modeled after how American activists battled the passing of their SOPA. On January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia, Reddit, and an estimated 7,000 other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout, to raise awareness. In excess of 160 million people viewed Wikipedia’s banner. Other protests against SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) included petition drives, with Google stating it collected over 7 million signatures, boycotts of companies and organizations that support the legislation, and an opposition rally held in New York City. There were also hacktivist attacks. Access to websites of several pro-SOPA organizations and companies such as RIAA,, and others was impeded or blocked with denial of service attacks which started on January 19. Self-proclaimed members of Anonymous claimed responsibility and stated the attacks were a protest of both SOPA and the United States Department of Justice’s shutdown of Megaupload on that same day.

The activism versus RA 10175 has been successful at creating sufficient buzz all over the Web to attract the attention of the foreign media. In a 2nd October 2012 Forbes article, contributor Paul Tassi wrote…

The government of the Philippines has passed the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which on the surface, as usual, sounds perfectly well-intentioned. But when you read the actual contents of what’s been deemed “cybercrime,” SOPA’s proposed censorship sounds downright lax by comparison.

It remains to be seen, however, if the gains made over cyberspace against RA 10175 prove to be relevant to the tens of milions of voters in the Philippines who routinely vote politicians such as Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III (a former showbiz personality) and “Senator” Antonio Trillanes IV (who served prison time for alleged grievous and life-threatening acts of rebellion, and who is currently linked to alleged acts that may have compromised Philippine national security) to represent them in Congress. There is a key difference between the American and Filipino experience when it comes to attempts by their respective governments to regulate the exchange of information over the Internet. The American SOPA proposal was focused on the trade in illicitly-acquired intellectual property and, as such, sought to protect ideas. In contrast, the Philippines’ recently-passed Cybercrime Prevention Act aims to protect people, specifically their famously fragile egos.

Recalling what the venerable Eleanor Roosevelt was said to have said…

Small minds discuss people;
Mediocre minds discuss events; while,
Great minds discuss ideas.

That difference says something about the nature of what Filipinos feel they are entitled to. An interesting irony here is in how Senator Tito Sotto, a man many Filipinos are demonising over the role he played in the slipping of the provision on libel into RA 10175 on the last minute before it was passed, is also being accused of committing plagiarism when he supposedly lifted some words from the work of several bloggers and used them in an anti-Reproductive Health (RH) Bill speech (another popular subject of online activism in the Philippines). Presumably, Sotto was elected not for his brains but for his being a showbiz celebrity. So one wonders then whether the majority of Filipinos truly get what all the fist pumping or, as the case may be, blacking out of avatars surrounding RA 10175 and Sotto’s alleged plagiarism is really all about.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, Filipinos are banal plagiarists. Most ordinary Filipinos won’t be able to grasp intellectual property theft and copyright infringement. To the ordinary citizen of a nation not exactly known for originality, innovation, or bold creativity, copyright infringement does not compute. Ownership of original work quite simply does not make sense to an unoriginal people.

So perhaps to make what seems to be the Filipino people’s impending victory over underhanded attempts of their government to protect people’s egos over the Net more meaningful, there should be a follow-through to implement measures to ensure that producers of intellectual property in the Philippines are protected — not via the same draconian measures as what the US Government attempted in proposing the SOPA, but by encouraging Filipino users of the Net to be better online citizens and refrain from stealing copyrighted material. In this way, we come across less the online hypocrites and more the mature and respectful users of the wondrous technology we are privileged to have at our fingertips today — both in terms of our regard for people and for ideas.

[NB: Parts of this article were lifted off the article “Stop Online Piracy Act” and used in accordance with that site’s Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License consistent with the same license applied by Get Real Post to its content.]

13 Replies to “Cybercrime: US laws seek to protect ideas, Philippine laws seek to protect people”

  1. The United Nations recently declared internet access a human right. This being so, why is the Philippines not complying? The constitution states that: the Philippines “adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land…” Ours is a rule of law and not of men. Perhaps the “men” did not do their homework.

    1. Technically the Philippine government is not blocking access to the internet. R.A. 10175 does not block access to the internet, therefore the internet access human right bit isn’t infringed upon.
      What the Philippine government has done is criminalized accessing of certain sites, as well as made stating certain opinions criminal offenses.

    2. @Thomas Jefferson, our Constitution is always supreme compared to international law, such as those advocated by the UN, because we protect our national interest before other nations, either individual nations or as a collective group of nations. Nevertheless, although that statement position by the UN is non-binding among member-states, we as a Filipino people should help realize that statement as a goal for us to become true “democratic” society, free of tyranny and corruption…

  2. A large majority of voters aren’t educated enough to make credible/wise decisions. This majority isn’t made up of learned people.
    I’d be insulting them if I called them stupid, but when it comes to voting for people that have what it truly takes to prioritize the people, these people aren’t smart. They’ll go with the popular person that and the highest bidder. Votes are up for grabs most of the time, they’re auctioned of even (though not that publicly).

  3. the philippines seek to protect the status quo.
    sir tim berners-lee, inventor of the internet, recently said that unscrupulous governments are blocking opposition/unfavourable websites especially during elections.Mmmm, so that is clearly the LP/aquino plan.

  4. People should boycott all products endorsed by people who support the draconian aspects of the cybercrime law e.g. sharon cuneta, who clearly doesnt understand internet principles, except to use it for self promotion/money.
    Hit these hypocrites where it hurts – in their bank accounts

    1. I love how Sharon endorses a brand then switches to the direct competitor of that brand for what I assume is they offered more money. There is a word for people like that. Is that libel?

    2. I think that’s a convoluted view of the issue. Why call for a boycott of people who, like you, are just expressing their preferences? It’s just not right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.