To SOPA OR not to SOPA

These four intriguing letters seem to be the recent buzz in social media and the internet as a whole but to be honest, other than knowing that SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, I haven’t had that much knowledge why it’s getting the attention of more and more people. From my half-baked understanding SOPA is meant to put some sort of control over online content and exchanges and the proliferation of materials that some authorities think violate the intellectual property rights of people who claim ownership on things such as music, software, and books just to name a few. And based on this alone, as expected of me, I may be leaning on the side of those who support SOPA. So far, I’m yet to see someone on my Twitter timeline who has the same opinion as mine – other than the very people who want this implemented.

Today, Wikipedia.org joins the growing number of people who are against SOPA (and the complementary PIPA or Protect Intellectual Property Act bill) – in a couple of hours it will black out its whole website to protest SOPA. Recently, there have been strong calls for subscribers to pull out of GoDaddy.com (which incidentally is my domain host) after it declared its support to the controversial bills.

So where do I stand in this issue? Anyone who has been lurking/reading my blog posts probably knows the answer. I am anti-piracy. I try hard to be one even if it has costs me to miss on learning new software, catching up on new movies, and possessing a copy of the latest hit music. And yes, my advocacy and commitment to this has made people, especially my friends, scratch their heads in disbelief.

But perhaps people who are against SOPA and PIPA have a valid reason behind their outcry and so I think I will have to step back a bit and learn what these are before I declare a hundred percent support to whatever I believe in (or will believe in next). In the next few weeks I’ll try to absorb as much knowledge as possible and see if there’s a rational explanation why one will have the right to use (AND SHARE) something that is not his (or hers) or something that he did not pay for. Let’s see.

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Mood: 4/10 Honks! (I think I’m having fever. Good reason for grammatical errors.)


Practicality = Piracy?

Piracy

On my way to work yesterday, the discussion over the radio got me so immersed into it that I had to maintain the minimum focus required to drive safely. And how can I not, the condition was perfect: nice summer sun, tuned in to Magic 89.9 FM’s morning show with Mo, Mojo and Grace Lee, and they’re talking about my favorite topic—piracy.

I have a love-hate relationship with this radio show. But more often than not, I tune in to this station as I find this lively trio a great companion especially when driving alone and sleepy. Some people call or classify such show as talk radio because most the time there’s incessant blabbing about almost everything under the sun. And when I say everything, it really does mean almost everything. Thus, making the show as one of, if not the only, the most controversial morning shows.

The most dominant character among them is Mo who’s not only a fast talker but is likewise full of ideas that some of it are out of this world, downright offending and some are just not even fit to be discussed during a morning show wherein every mom, dad, uncle, aunt and other mature individuals may be listening and may be with kids at the same time. I’ve heard him discuss about premarital sex, religion, politics, lesbianism and other taboo stuffs, and of course, piracy.

So yesterday was no exemption. The moment I heard him mention the word piracy, I slowed down and listened – the group’s discussion and their exchanges with the callers were interesting albeit I find some of it just irritating. As usual.

Mo was once again defending and reiterating his stand that although he doesn’t directly promote piracy on his radio show, he sees a lot of advantage and benefit out of it other than the obvious difference in price between the licensed and the bootleg. One of the things he pointed out is about the movie industry. According to him, because of piracy which started several years ago, the original films have become available in the Philippines almost at the same time when it is released from its country of origin.

According to him, years ago it would take one film to reach the Philippines almost a couple of months after Hollywood, for example, releases it to cinemas in the US. And this is where piracy comes in handy. Most probably while the film is rolling somewhere in the US, some unscrupulous cinema insider or viewer is recording a copy of the film and immediately distributes it to their contacts inside or outside of the country. Now these contacts sell the film’s copy to people who are so eager to watch it. So when the time comes for the original film to be shown in theaters, the revenue flops. Of course, who wants to pay and watch a re-run?  Simple reasoning, yet rude and yet practical. And this, according to Mo, is when producers eventually learn and realize that they need to compete or lose their market share to illegal distributors. At this point of the argument, I caught myself nodding in conformity.

Another case that Mo presented or re-presented (as I heard about it a couple of times already) is about computer software piracy. He believes that it is the only way for poor nations, like ours, and its people to compete and put them at par with the rest of the world when it comes to computer literacy. Although, I agree with the need to compete, I don’t however agree with how it is achieved by piracy.

As much as I hated it, Mo’s point got me thinking. Quite frankly, I’ve been pondering lately if I’m cursed for knowing that piracy is stealing. Often times some people, like most of my friends, see it as plain practicality and the need to learn about one software is one good justification to get hold of its bootleg counterpart. I’m not saying that these people are bad. I might say though that they are misinformed or have chosen to keep a blind eye about it.

As I end my driving until I got out of Intel’s parking lot, my mind was occupied with so many questions just from the 20 minutes I spent listening to the radio.

So am I not being practical then?

Am I stupid to believe that I shouldn’t be buying any of these bootleg stuffs? Or am I now alone in this belief or advocacy?

Will my next employer reject me because I did not learn as much software as I can because I don’t have the guts to buy a pirated copy?

Am I going to be left behind then in the end? Do I have to steal to learn?

Is it a good thing that while I teach my boy about good manners and right conduct, he’s watching a pirated educational DVD?

Do I need to seek professional advice to get over with my firm stand against it?

Maybe I’ll think all about it. Although I’m still hoping that in the end my answers will still be a big NO unless they change the law against it. And hopefully whatever the reasons are why most people continue to patronize pirated products, I still hope (or is wish?) that soon enough the fight against piracy will win because I really believe that behind those cheap illegal goods that some of us enjoy others are suffering just because of it.

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Photo credit: vikrameb

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Mood: 3/10 Honks!

Are you the Man of Steal?

(Blog originally intended for my alma mater’s blog site.)

I was thinking of a better title for this blog and I remember a high school classmate whom we tagged as “Man of Steal.” Not that he’s a professional thief, but it’s just that he had this annoying habit of not returning things he borrowed or worse, keeping small petty stuff that our classmates possessed and valued—such as David Pomeranz cassette tapes (yes tapes!), books, etc.

I’m quite sure we’ve had our share of petty thievery way, way back in the past. We’ve sneaked into our nanay‘s wallet to fund our Masskara escapades. We’ve kept extra resistors from the lab to support our home-made audio amplifiers and boosters. We’ve raided the stock room to pick extra welding rods for our bike’s frame. And we’ve, intentionally or unintentionally, grabbed one lumpia or burger from Claire without shedding a single centavo.

Those who are guilty, please raise your hands. Wait, I can’t type one-handed.

Mr. Genito’s reminder prior to our last OJT still stays fresh in my mind, ”INDI pagkuhaon maski bato sa inyo ulobrahan (DO NOT take even a single rock from within your company).” I will always remember that briefing every time I’d see gravel in the parking lot and would ask myself, ”Maski ini? (Even this?)”, ”Oo, maski ina! (Yes, even that!)”, my good side will respond immediately.

As the technology around us gets more advanced than it was before—and becomes affordable to almost everyone—another form of stealing gets so rampant and so common that one wouldn’t know that he has actually participated in it. Even those with the best of intentions, regardless of social status, religion, or profession are victims. Even friends.

This is film piracy. Once again I’m guilty as charged. But that was more than eight years ago. I remember the last bootleg copy I bought was Tom Hank’s Cast Away which I got from one of the malls in Alabang. That day, I also grabbed some beer, pulutan, and then went home so eager to watch it with my wife. Sadly, I almost crushed our VCD player in disgust when in the middle of the movie it started pixelating and ruined our night altogether. And that was it, I had enough.

I guess it was one of my wake-up calls to end the illicit practice once and for all. And as if trying to justify my life-changing decision, I read the papers, watched the news and attended company-supported training sessions related to this. It was then when I became more aware of things such as Intellectual Property and Copyright laws.

Of course, everyone knew how costly (some may find it even ridiculous and stupid) it is to stop buying pirated products nowadays. It’s the reason my Core 2 Duo still has the genuine Windows ‘98 OS in it and until now the dual core processor is concentrating its power on the free solitaire game—dasig gid eh (very quick), if you will ask.

Since then, my wife and I also started saving to buy the CDs and DVDs that we like. If the budget isn’t available we’d content ourselves to listening to our favorite music over the radio and watching movies on the cable channels or in the cinemas.

Although feeling good about doing the right thing, I’ve kept mum about it. Pushing this anti-piracy advocacy in front of most people I know would either get me booted out of my circle of friends or get raised eyebrows at the very least. (I even discovered that one high position expat got a whole shelf of “Quiapo” DVDs in his home. It’s disappointing and frustrating.)

Until now I still wonder if there will come a time when the government and other concerned organization will eradicate or significantly lessen this illegal trade that’s been killing almost the whole industry—even food, toys, books, textiles and other consumer products in the market are affected. Wishful thinking? If and when that time comes, I’ll be one proud man.

And by the way, if after reading this one might wonder if I’m the OMB chairman, Edu Manzano, I wish but I’m definitely not. I’m just one concerned individual hoping to influence at least one. Yes, at least one who might influence another.

So are you the Man of Steal or not?