Revolutionizing the Service of Summons
Under Rule 14 of the Rules of Court, service of summons is to be in writing and served personally to the defendant. And by “personally” the rule means it should be served physically. There must be an actual paper notice sent to the defendant.
Just recently, I came across an interesting manner of how notice is being served in the U.S.
The case was an infringement case involving WebPinoyTambayan.com. The complainant was ABS-CBN. ABS-CBN filed a case against the website owner in the U.S. The said website was apparently illegally uploading and streaming videos and other copyrighted materials owned by ABS-CBN.
How does it work?
1. A digital copy of the notice (the official court document) in HTML is uploaded to a server at servingnotice.com.
2. The webhost of the offender/defendant is then contacted and a redirect is placed on the subject website.
3. So every time someone visits WebPinoyTambayan.com, the user will be redirected to that particular page on servingnotice.com containing the notice.
4. The notice contains instructions for defendant to respond as well as a PDF copy of the complaint filed against him.
The idea of course is to apprise the website owner of the existence of the case against him and his website. So if in case he did not receive an actual paper notice, once he visits his own website, he’ll be able to see the notice due to the redirect. He cannot now feign ignorance of the case pending against him because he has been fully and duly apprised. This also serves as notice to the whole world about the possible copyright violations of such websites which ultimately serves as a deterrent because it will likewise warn would-be offenders.
Personally, I think this is a significant legal innovation which is adaptive to the changing times. I do not see the entire court system to go paperless in the immediate future but we will get there (maybe not in our lifetime, but we’ll get there).
At this time, this method of serving notice (e-service of notice) may be more appropriate for cases involving copyright infringement of digital materials which are uploaded to a particular website or webpage as in the foregoing case. I don’t see this being used in any other case except if in the near future there will be created an official website which shall be the official repository of such notices or summonses (I might try to put up one for the Philippines). This system works best, as it stands now, if the offender has his own website and that website is being utilized to perpetrate copyright violations. Again, this makes sense because the offender is logically presumed to be always monitoring his own website.
In any other case other than copyright cases involving websites, this may not work as of the moment because not everyone is online. Plus it may be trickier. I am actually envisioning a scenario where a defendant’s Facebook page will redirect to a summons page. Of course there may be some ethical considerations here. Or how about sending the summons to an email address? But then again we still have no legal concept of what an “official email address” is, unlike a physical address which is clearly defined under our laws.
This innovation may take time to be realized here in the Philippines but I’m looking forward to it. Just imagine the environmental implication such innovation will bring.
AUTHOR: Howard Chan is the owner of UberDigests. When he has free time (cough, cough), he takes that time to learn more about SEO, web design, and other stuff about coding. He finished Political Science but is no way a political scientist nor is he a politician. He is currently laboring as a law student in one of the law schools in the Cordilleras. Feel free to check his Filipinolosophy blog.