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» » » » » » » Plagiarism in the Philippines: Kopya Sotto Style!

JR Lopez Gonzales 10:09 PM 0

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” – US Senator Robert Kennedy, 1966.

“Iilan ang magiging dakila sa pagbali ng kasaysayan, subalit bawat isa sa atin ay maaaring kumilos, gaano man kaliit, para ibahin ang takbo ng mga pangyayari. Kapag pinagsama-sama ang ating munting pagkilos, makalilikha tayo ng totalidad na magmamarka sa kabuuan ng kasaysayan ng henerasyong ito.” – Senator Tito Sotto, September 5, 2012

Showing his opposition to the reproductive health bill, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III spoke last August 13 but lifted from two American bloggers (the other one’s a food blogger), where one of whom accused him of twisting the blogger’s words to suit his anti-RH bill arguments. In his second speech on September 5, Sotto translated a speech delivered by the American senator Robert F. Kennedy, again to further the anti-RH cause.

But it seems that the former comedian did not learn his lesson from the first social media whipping he got and yet repeated the transgression for the second time. It clearly showed that he and his staff saw nothing wrong with, to the anguish of the netizens. There’s no wonder why 4 US copyright holders have spoken out saying that the Filipino senator had infringed on their intellectual property rights and plagiarized. This includes the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights: RFK’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy.

Now, at least 30 faculty members of various Manila-based universities filed ethics complaint against Sotto for plagiarism. But in a speech to defend himself, Sen. Sotto argued that “plagiarism is not a crime in the country”, and that “the copyright infringement was not applicable to his case”. 

Before Sotto’s misdeed, other notable plagiarism issues are that of Justice Del Castillo in jurisprudence, Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan’s keynote speech at the Ateneo in 2010.

Taking the preliminaries into consideration, Plagiarism is “stealing other people's words and ideas; and claiming them as his own”. It is a form of “intellectual dishonesty” where the deserved credit is not indicated. “Whether you translate or not, whether you interpret or not, it makes no difference. You have to attribute," in the words of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Well, can the good senator’s misdoing a crime? Let’s look at Republic Act No. 8293, known as the “Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines” passed by the 10th Congress, one of whose members was the senator from Wanbol University.

The Moral Rights of an author is highlighted in Chapter 10 of the law. On the other hand, Section 193 talks of the Scope of Moral Rights, which includes the right “to require that the authorship of the works be attributed to him, in particular, the right that his name, as far as practicable, be indicated in a prominent way on the copies, and in connection with the public use of his work.”
Our law provides that the name of the author should be prominently mentioned when his or her work is used publicly. In other words, even if I made a blanket statement that everything I said in a particular work was taken from the work of others (like what Senator Sotto did), that does not satisfy the requirement of the law. Section 198 further states that “the rights of an author under this chapter (Chapter 10) shall last during the lifetime of the author and for fifty (50) years after his death and shall not be assignable or subject to license”. Mentioning the name of the author from which one took words or ideas from, is needed.

If a person adds or alters a word here or there, or even if all the words were different from those of the original author, one would still be committing plagiarism if the idea is the same. That is the main difference between copyright and plagiarism. Copyright protects the expression of an idea or the exact words of the original author. The prohibition against plagiarism protects the idea itself, no matter how it is expressed. Ergo, using different words or even a different language but expressing the same ideas is plagiarism.

Is this brouhaha just due to a person's pretensions on intellectual matters? Or a fruit of laziness maybe? Whatever it is, this senator is making a joke out of himself and because of that, he's getting all the “tough hits”.

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