Monday, October 12, 2009

Intellectual Property Rights of An Artist

Ian Valladarez has earned a name for himself in the local art scene as an authority in wire sculpture. He also paints and does crafts for sale at Balay Negrense, a popular museum in Silay City, Negros Occidental where he is based.

He told me about his problem regarding another artist selling keychains with a design allegedly similar to his trademark designs sold at the museum gift shop. The artist is reportedly peddling similar keychains outside the museum premises at 25% of the museum price. So Ian asked: what is his remedy against this situation?

Sadly, many artists and people in the Philippines are not aware of Intellectual Property Rights. And if so, they freely copy other people's works and present them as their original work hoping nobody would find out. Or, if they're ever find out, a court litigation would be very expensive the offended party couldn't even start filing a complaint. Like so much ado over a copycat keychain.

But artists, of all people, should realize how important it is to come up with an original. No matter how masterful the strokes are, copying an Amorsolo or a Valladarez is still not something to be proud of.

What stops artists like Ian from asserting their copyright over their artistic work is the fact that most of these works of art, although their original creations, are not registered under the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines.

Section 172 of Republic Act No. 8293, known as the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines enumerate the literary and artistic works protected by the law as original works from the moment of their creation. Meaning, an original work needs no registration because it is already considered an original from the moment of its creation.

As the artist signs his work and dates it, he is signifying his ownership over that creation. Nobody else is allowed to alter, change or modify it but the creator himself. His copyright over the work is protected under Section 177 of the copyright law. A copy or economic right is simply the author's right to carry out, authorize or prevent other people from unauthorized use or sale of his intellectual property.

The only exception is the "fair use" of a copyrighted work under Section 185 which allows the fair use of the copyrighted work for news reporting, teaching, research, and similar purposes.

Section 216 provides for remedies of the private complainant against the copycat for the infringement or unauthorized copying or use of his work such as an injunction, damages, impounding, and destruction of the infringing works.

A violation of this law is criminal in nature which may subject the offender to imprisonment from one year to 9 years plus fine from P50,000.00 to P1,500,000.00 depending on the number of offenses committed.

A complainant may personally or through a representative file his Affidavit of Evidence under Section 218 stating:

(a.) That at the time specified therein, a copyright subsisted in the work or subject matter;

(b.) That he or the person named therein is the owner of the copyright; and

(c.) That the copy of the work or other subject matter annexed to the Affidavit is a true copy thereof.

The offender shall enjoy the presumption that he is the owner of the copyright subject matter of the controversy until proven otherwise.

Moral of the story: an artist must rise to the challenge of giving his best to give to the world an original creation. A copycat will never earn a name for himself as an artist; worse, he will lose it, as a con artist.

Computerization of the 2010 Philippine National Elections: Can Juan Dela Cruz Keep Up With the Times?

The 2010 Philippine presidential elections is going to be a whole new ball game. With the computerization of voting, many Filipino voters, majority of whom are in the grassroots level and could barely fill out a form, will be in a daze as to how this new election process is going to be carried out.

A COMELEC Officer friend of mine who refuses to be named tells me that they are now holding seminars and orientation of this new system. They expect a total rewriting of Sec.211 of the Election Code, which provides for Rules for the Appreciation of Ballots. This provision is addressed to the members of the board of election inspectors, who are people, not computers.

With the advent of machine counters, an entirely new jurisprudence is yet to be laid down by the High Court. Election controversies are bad enough using manual counting. How much more when no human eye can see how the computers do it, ignoring the well-established rules such as idem sonans (wrong spelling, correct sound is counted to the candidate whose name sounds like what was written) and neighborhood rule (voted candidate's name is written on another space or line but is near or adjacent to the space provided for his name to be written counted in his favor).

In an age-long electoral process where the number one barometer of a person's vote is his intent, a computer counter does not possess the human discretion or discernment Sec. 211 obviously prescribes.

During the Dark Ages of Philippine elections, candidates opt for a mass-friendly name for easy recall and spelling when Juan Dela Cruz writes his candidate's name.

In 2010 however, the voters will be required to use a specially provided pen. Any other ink or pencil marking is no longer allowed lest the computer will automatically nullify the ballot. The ballot will look like a National College Entrance Exam testing sheet. How many ordinary Filipinos have even taken such an exam?

It is going to be multiple choice. There will be no more need to write the candidate's name. The voter will just have to shade in his choice within the oval corresponding to the candidate's name. Any erasure will invalidate the whole ballot. Even the average Filipino makes mistakes filling out forms.

Even the sample ballots usually given out by candidates before or during election day will look different. They will just have to indicate to their illiterate voters the particular area where their names are located. The poor voter who can barely read who mistakenly shaded the rival candidate's oval will never have his intent known simply because he shaded the wrong area.

So I must conclude that the coming elections is no longer an opportunity for the masses to be heard. This is a game for the techno-savvy, for the educated. Vote-buying may finally be outmoded. Enter the hackers.
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