Politicians either don’t get how the internet works, or want to reshape how it works to fit their own goals. Either way, it explains why we’ve seen SOPA, PIPA and ACTA in Europe and the United States in the past year. It seems this manner of thinking has spread, reaching Asia as well.
Meet Irwin Tieng. He’s a politician in the Philippines, and he doesn’t encourage piracy. He also doesn’t encourage ‘obscene’ sexual toys, but you can find out more about that on other sites. What you need to know is that Tieng gets things done. In one term he authored four bills which eventually became laws. He’s pro-life, helping the disabled, encouraging the cultivation of the entertainment industry, sustainable reforestation, and among other things, he’s a member of the committee on science and technology. He actually seems like a stand-up guy, as far as politicians go.
His latest proposal might get other people standing up in protest. He is aiming to introduce House Bill 6187: an online piracy act focusing on punishing downloaders, with a minimum of two years in prison, and a minimum fine of ₱50,000. SOPA particularly ignited the ire of the internet across the western world, causing sites to shut in one day protests, and prompting the RIAA to admit that these bills aren't that great. Here’s the twist in the tale. Tieng is the nephew of Wilson Tieng; CEO of Solar Entertainment. It is said to be a conflict of interest here, but explains why Tieng’s approach is so aggressive towards the act of piracy. The fine itself isn’t massive; ₱50,000 is roughly the same as 1100 USD, but two years in prison seems quite heavy-handed.
Repeat offenders, if you’re insane enough to spend two years in a cell, could get a fine of up to a million Philippine pesos. You really have to admire anyone who spends two years in a cell, gets out and thinks “Pirate movie night? Oh, yes”.
An associate of Tieng’s has argued that the decision is an effort to fulfil the commitments made to the World Intellectual Property Organization. The Philippines signed into this organization and does need to be seen to be doing something, for Asian nations are often seen as being lax with copyright. Again, the adage of "It's not what you say, but how you say it" rings true when you see the official statement on the bill. Here's an extract.
"the bill prohibits and declares it unlawful for any person to make in a manner not authorized by the copyright owner, copies of music recordings or films, in complete or substantially complete form, by any means, including but not limited to uploading, downloading or streaming.”
#6187 becomes more sinister from this piece of text. Could they block YouTube because you managed to listen to a song through it? Maybe, because it is a form of streaming. The equivalent of Netflix would have a mission trying to work in a country where streaming is forbidden. It seems like another law which we could hear more about in future.
Unfortunately, bills like these aren't exclusive to the European Union and United States. Russia also attempted to pass such a law through the Duma (state parliament), with Wikipedia promptly closing its Russian version for the day. This was a repeat of its action towards SOPA in January. Other sites, including the ever-popular Reddit.com, also engaged in opposition to SOPA when it was a threat. Like a phoenix, SOPA has managed to rise from the ashes, but hopefully will be shot down again if it becomes enough of a problem. Looking at all these backlinks, it's clear that the idea is spreading, for better or worse.
If you happen to have friends or family in The Philippines, you might like to let them know what is being pushed through the government. It’s always encouraging to hear something like that isn’t it? While it might be a week since the news broke but it doesn’t seem to have been picked up anywhere else. A shame really, considering how quickly the internet rallied together in unison against SOPA when there was the risk it might actually go through. Given the rapidly increasing traffic from Asian countries it's quite surprising less focus has been drawn to it.