Monday, September 24, 2012

Using BLOG articles

I started blogging last summer when a friend encouraged me to attend the first Baguio Bloggers conference in the town. After about a dozen posts in the web, I observed that ‘blogging’ did not only become a trend for this generation’s youth, but also to numerous professionals including lawyers, doctors and other experts who wanted to share information to the world wide web. It became the new tool to inform, to influence, even to entertain. Among lawyer-bloggers are Atty. Harry Roque with his law and legal opinion blog, Atty. Fred Pamaos’ “AttyatWorkand Atty. Manuel J. Laserna Jr.’s ‘Philippine Laws and Cases’. For most of them, ‘blogs’, or the social media in general, are the new vehicle to share ideas and communicate, aside from serving as a personal journal to things that are close to their hearts.

Just recently, Philippine netizens reacted over Senator  Sotto’s “plagiarism” of the work of an American Blogger named Sarah Pope. It was first denied by both Sotto and his chief of staff, Atty. Henry Villacorta. The Senator maintained that he did not plagiarize anything saying in the news that;

Itong blogger na sinasabi nila, eh pareho kami ng pinagkunan eh. Ang pinagkunan namin si Natasha Campbell-McBride. And in my speeches, even in my first speech and my second speech, I’ve always said, every now and then sinisingit ko, hindi po ako nagdudunong-dunungan ha. Hindi po galing sa akin ito.” (This blogger they’re mentioning, we got it from the same source. Our source is Natasha Campbell-McBride. And I’ve always said, I’m not pretending to be wise. This does not come from me.)

“Bakit ko naman iko-quote ang blogger? Blogger lang iyon. Ang kino-quote ko si Natasha Campbell-McBride.” (Why should I quote a blogger? She’s just a blogger. I’m quoting Natasha Campbell-McBride.)

In a surprising twist after, his chief of staff finally admitted that parts of the Senator’s speech against the RH bill indeed were copied from a blog by the foreign author who calls herself the “Healthy Home Economist”, to the dismay of the blogger. "Let me say that after asking my staff, indeed your blog was used but only in quoting also from the same book of Dr. Campbell-Mcbride." Atty. Villacorta maintained.

Sarah Pope responded to Villacorta in her blog's comments section saying, "I don't like the fact that my blog was used without my permission against the education of the women of the Philippines and their reproductive rights.” The blogger further explained that the issue in question is plagiarism.

“My blog was quoted, not Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. I put her work in my own words and you copied my words." Sarah Pope concluded.

As most bloggers were not amused by this ‘Sotto fiasco’, social media like facebook, twitter and blogs were bombarded with internet memes which made fun of the Senator and the plagiarism issue. Senator Sotto, in his defense, maintained that he did not plagiarize anything because Sarah Pope’s work was not copyrighted.

So are blog articles protected by copyright?

We think so.

A (literary, artistic, or scientific) work is protected by copyright at the moment of its creation. The Berne Convention, which the Philippines is a signatory of, also provides the principle of automatic protection. This principle emphasizes that a work is protected by copyright at the moment of its creation hence protection needs no formality. It means that one may not register a work in order to be copyrighted unlike patents or inventions.

Hence, as work is copyrighted the moment it is created, the author of such work is vested with rights which include, among others, “attribution rights”. This means that no one, not even a Senator, can just take a work or a piece of it and  use it for its own without asking permission or acknowledging the author (Fair Use of Copyrighted/Protected Materials).

So, was there a violation of copyright in this incident?

We also think so.

In determining copyright violation, Sec 185 and Sec 184 of the Intellectual Property Code must be considered;

(Sec 185 defines what "Fair Use" is, and Sec 184 creates the instances when no infringement can be claimed when using these "Fair Use" materials)

"184.1. Notwithstanding the provisions of Chapter V, the following acts shall not constitute infringement of copyright:


(b) The making of quotations from a published work if they are compatible with fair use...... : PROVIDED, That the source and the name of the author, if appearing on the work, are mentioned".

The provisions of Sec.185 and the passage found in Sec. 184 guarantees “attribution rights” to the original author. Failing to attribute can still make one liable for copyright violation under Sec. 184, even if it complies with all the requisites of Fair use under Sec. 185.

In Habana vs Robles (310 scra 511, 1999), the Supreme Court said that it is not merely copying but 'copying which results to injurious effects', further pointing out that 'there can be injury even if "economic harm" is not proven'. The court said that, "Petitioners’ work as authors is the product of their long and assiduous research and for another to represent it as her own is injury enough." Clearly, Atty. Villacorta and Senator Sotto can not assert that there was no “harm” done.

Since Sen. Sotto refused to attribute the materials he appropriated for his Turno en Contra, he cannot clearly hide under Fair Use because attribution is still one of the requirements in that principle. Similarly, non-commercial use of copyrighted work does not automatically remove any chance for copyright violation.

For what it's worth, simple acknowledgement would have sufficed considering that, after all, the literary pieces were used while in the exercise of legislative privileges.

(sources: Star Publications, ABS-CBN, Filipinolosophy, Philippine laws and cases )

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another teacher's day

My student headed immediately to her seat with that stiff and noticeable heaviness. I gave her an 80 and I sensed that I have to do the ‘drill’ again. “Class..”, I waited for them to tone down, “…if you think that you deserved more than what I’ve given, please talk to me…”. This is just one of the ‘teacher’s drill’ that I try to avoid as much as possible; giving grades comes next to grading their papers. “If we have to adjust them because your scholarship depends on it…perhaps you can talk to me so we can come up with a way to adjust it…although, you have to invest extra hours on it”. I was consciously searching for a loophole in teaching ethics to justify what I just said, to no avail. “I’m so kind..”, I whispered to myself -  I wish that I was my instructor in college. I encountered heartless teachers; teachers who will fail you because you were unlucky enough to be 'targeted' in their 'dart-grading system', or because your haircut simply irritates them, and I came to the conclusion that indeed, I am still ‘nice’.

What happened with being contented with 75? I recalled that I even failed my Statistics subject, dropped two other subjects because the teachers are "mean" (plus my college-rock-and roll-habits and absences), and 80 is a depressing grade? Back in our days, we celebrate 75 like how we celebrate birthdays. So what is it today? I decided to finish giving the rest of my class their good/bad news before I resume my ‘lecture’.

“Grades are just numbers”, I continued, trying to recall random lines in drunken debates I had with college friends. “You know,  I can give you 98 or even 99, but can you justify it?” For three seconds, I let them absorb what I said. Their puzzled looks hinted me to continue, “Let us say you apply for work and they are impressed with your grades. They call you for an interview, a demo of some sort. Can you do it with the standards of a student who gets 99 as a grade? Most heads finally nodded to my relief; I don’t know if I can continue with the lecture anymore. It is time for another ‘life-story’ telling (which may be inspiring to some, and annoying to...many). I can show you my transcript tomorrow and you’ll laugh at it. It is not really a good sight to see…But, I am surprisingly here as your teacher…why? Not because of the grades, but experience, and not merely experience, but the skills you gain from it. Before we graduate, most of us are tutoring already. It means that when we graduate, may edge na kami. We get excited in job hunting and before we know it, madami na pala kaming napagdaanan. I realized that I am already 25 years old.

“Sino ba kasi mga working students dito? I’ll give plus…direct to the grade”. Their eyes finally gleamed and six proudly raised their hands. “I want certifications before I give it, and don’t ever think of faking one because I’ll call your boss.” Who am I to talk that way anyway? With all my past mistakes, I realized that it is all by duty as a mentor to encourage righteousness even if I am far from being righteous.

We have yet to dismiss our class after ten minutes but I decided to call it a day. I rushed to the faculty room avoiding eyes to hide my suspicious ‘early arrival’. I turned my laptop on, pulled my drawer and grabbed the thick yellow papers I failed to grade a week ago. Being a teacher really demands most hours of your life, especially the grading part. Two hours to prepare lessons, Five hours to draw X-marks and ‘check’ marks, another hour to advice students – I let out the usual sigh. Add your graduate school requirements and it usually and mysteriously forces one to go 'sleeping' or go 'facebooking' instead. I was heading out of the school when I realized that irony. "Kamusta ka naman buhay-teacher hehe" , I reflected as I walked away from the building.