Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Who You Calling Spineless? -- The Collective Management of Copyright for Books in the Philippines

Written by Atty. Mark Robert Dy of IPOPHL

I just came from a forum by the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society (FILCOLS) where they presented a solution to illegal photocopying of copyright-protected works.

FILCOLS Executive Director Alvin Buenaventura says that copyright is a human right and is necessary to protect the way of life and dignity of the author.

Entitled 'Copyright: Empowering the Research University', the forum was actually a pitch to De La Salle University (DLSU) to convince them to become the first university in the Philippines to enter into a licensing agreement with FILCOLS, as the Philippines' recognized Reprographic Rights Organization (RRO). If the negotiations proceed as planned, DLSU would be effectively be the first institution in the country to declare its respect for the intellectual property of authors.

It all sounds so grand, but several questions must come to mind. What is an RRO? What is the deal all about? Why is it so important?

An RRO is an organization that acts as an agent for publishers and authors in order to manage their copyrights. Also known as a Collective Management Organization (CMO), these organizations are tasked to collect royalties from users of copyright-protected works and distribute the same to the authors of these works. This way, the user obtains the freedom to make copies of works without the fear of committing copyright infringement, while the authors receive income for the use of their work.

An example of a working CMO in the Philippines is the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (FILSCAP), which manages the copyright-protected works in the music business. FILSCAP has successfully collected income in behalf of artists and composers for several years and now FILCOLS is seeking to do the same for the publishing industry.

The basis for creating RROs or CMOs is found in our IP Code:

Section 183. Designation of Society. - The copyright owners or their heirs may designate a society of artists, writers or composers to enforce their economic rights and moral rights on their behalf.

So what does FILCOLS offer the university? The freedom to photocopy any material from any publication without fear of incurring liability for copyright infringement. In exchange, the university will pay a per-student fee to FILCOLS per semester, which will be passed on to the students as a minimal increase in their tuition fees (about P100 or $2 per semester). This money will then be used to pay for the administrative costs of FILCOLS and then the remaining amount shall be distributed to the authors being represented by the organization.

In addition, the FILCOLS license acts as an quasi-insurance against liability for copyright infringement because FILCOLS will absorb liability up to a certain amount, even for works they do not represent. This effectively shields the university from legal liability and reputation damage. Theoretically, this license will even cover orphaned works, over which FILCOLS will hold the royalties in trust for the benefit of the missing author, in case he or she turns up.

Mr. Paul Wee, CEO of the Singapore-based Copyright Licensing and Administration Society of Singapore (CLASS), says that they are entering into an agreement with FILCOLS to protect Filipino works being used in Singapore and Singaporean works being used in the Philippines.

This elegant solution to copyright management has been found to be effective in the UK, France, Norway, Singapore and many other countries. FILCOLS is a member of the International Federation of Reprographic Rights Organisations (IFRRO), which is a global network of CMOs for the publishing industry. To protect foreign works, FILCOLS has entered into agreements with RROs from the United States, Singapore, UK and other countries to protect the works of their authors here in the Philippines. In turn, these foreign RROs have agreed protect Filipino works used in their countries and hold any collected royalties in trust for them.

The licensing activities of FILCOLS is an effective first step in promoting respect for copyright in the academe. It bears noting, however, that this license is directed at university-sanctioned copying (e.g. the production of course packs or handout compilations) and does not limit legitimate fair use activities by students and faculty under our IP Code.

Ms. Karen Pitt, General Counsel of the Australia-based Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), says that the educational system in Australia takes copyright very seriously. You cannot be considered a serious institution unless you are copyright compliant.

In the international academic community, respect of intellectual property rights has become an essential condition to be considered among the very best. Quality education requires intellectual honesty, which in turn, demands respect for other people's copyright and hard work.

In this country, where photocopiers and "book-alike" services abound, a major attitudinal change has to yet to be put in place.

FILCOLS is attempting to destroy the myth that respecting copyright is too expensive for a third world country. By spreading out the cost among the entire student population, the personal expense we incur to support our authors and publishers becomes minuscule compared to what we spend on notebooks, pens or mobile phone credit.

Our authors need to feed their families too. We simply cannot choose to pay for electricity and food but not pay for our music, books, art and other intellectual creations. Ignoring the plight of our talented brothers and sisters is to sentence the creative and intellectual industries to a slow and painful death.

As intelligent and talented as we are, unless we are paid fairly for our hard work, we will never be anything more than slaves.

... and there's no dignity in that.

FILCOLS sought and was granted the permission to repost this entry.


Photos are FILCOLS' property.

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