Practice of law, NOT a business but why so EXPENSIVE law books?

Recently, news came out that a book-a-liker seller has been arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). According to reports, after a month of investigation, NBI decided to arrest an alleged violator of copyright laws for allegedly selling and distributing photocopies of law books without their authors' permission.

This issue turned out to be very divisive in the community of law students. Many law students have sympathized with the seller and have expressed their support since, as it was argued, he was trying to help students in the province who cannot buy very expensive books. On the other hand, other groups of law students have argued that the law was violated and so punishment must be imposed.

Not surprisingly, authors of law books like Sta. Maria, Rabuya, Riguera and Cruz have issued statements denouncing the alleged violation of their rights and of the law.

Because of this debate, many law students have started to ask the question: "Why are law books so expensive?" In fact, it is almost impossible for an ordinary Filipino to buy seven (7) to nine (9) law books in a semester, considering that other expenses, such as school fees, have yet to be paid. This is why some, if not many, law students resort to book-a-likes. Book-a-likes are photocopies of law books that look almost exactly the same as the original one. It has been a common stanza in legal ethics jurisprudence that the practice of law is not a business, but a profession. In Cayetano v. Monsod, the Supreme Court defined practice of law, saying that practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. "To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill." Therefore, the writing and selling of law books by lawyers is a practice of law.

The question now is this. Is it time for the Supreme Court to regulate prices of books, considering that book writing is a practice of law and that practice of law is a noble profession? After all, lawyering is not a business; it is a profession in which duty to public service, not money, is the primary consideration.

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