Tuesday, September 24, 2013

BDAP Appeal to Congress: Please include in the DepEd budget copyright license fees

Message by Mr. Lirio P. Sandoval
President, Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP)
At the opening of the 34th Manila International Book Fair, Sept. 11, 2013
SMX, Mall of Asia, Pasay City, Philippines

BDAP president Lirio P. Sandoval.

About 30 years ago, I still clearly remember that BDAP was meeting with Senator Edgardo Angara lobbying for the passage of the Book Publishing Industry Development bill which he authored in the Senate. Eventually it passed and was made into law and we really thank him for that. Republic Act 8047 created the National Book Development Board (NBDB) to look after the needs of the industry. He has been a staunch supporter of the Philippine Book Industry.

Now, we have his son Senator Sonny Angara as one of our guest of honors. We did not invite him to lobby for another bill in Congress but simply to hear his thoughts on how the Philippine Book Industry could develop further.

This changing of the guard is but an indication of how the book industry has also changed. Our main advocacies in the past have either been resolved or become inconsequential.  Perhaps only a few remain.

Book Industry Data Bank and Road Map
Among the few remaining ones, I can only think of one that will be helpful for us in the book industry, whether you are a publisher or a bookseller. This is to have a data bank of all books published and exported or imported into the country, including those being bought through the Internet. We in the private sector cannot do this alone.

I said it is important because I believe that for us to really plan ahead, this information will be very important. At the moment, BDAP is in the midst of commissioning a study on the Philippine Book Industry Road Map for the next 15 years or so. It has become necessary for us to do it, as the digital age has already dawned on us. While printed books could eventually be consigned to a small portion of bookstores, we have to satisfy the needs of our readers for the digital copies.

And there are more opportunities for publishers, authors, and writers to fully exploit the Digital Age. The cost of publishing have gone down, as there is no need to print copies, authors can just send their manuscripts through the Internet. Editors can now do their job online. And very important, publishers can now promote and sell through the Internet thus the worldwide market is now an option to us. I have always believed that Filipinos are among the most creative ones in the world.

Sen. Sonny Angara (seated 3rd from left) and Cong. Leni Robredo (seated 4th from left) with the Philippine book industry stalwarts.

Philippines: a nation of pirates no more
One of the most important developments that is happening now is the growing respect for copyright. For a long time, the Philippines has been branded by the international community as a nation of pirates. Now, the Philippines is slowly gaining respect with the successful organization of the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society (FILCOLS). It is now an active member of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations or IFRRO.

DepEd: No budget for copyright fees
I would like to take this opportunity to relate to you one of our experiences with the Department of Education. As they were starting to produce learning materials for the K-12 program, they used some Filipino authored works. And they requested the publishers and authors to give the license for FREE. Of course, they balked at this idea and BDAP and FILCOLS relayed their sentiments. DepEd replied that they do NOT HAVE BUDGET FOR COPYRIGHTS but only for the printing of the learning materials. 

This is both sad and strange. The DepEd have budget for paper and ink but nothing for the content. How can our country’s Education department not see that it is content, the creative works of authors, which gives primary value to learning materials? In any case, we managed to convince Secretary Armin Luistro to pay copyright fees, even as a token. He agreed to pay PHP 427,000.00 only as his discretionary funds can allow this. Upon computation, this will amount to an average of PHP 3,000.00 per publisher and which they have to share also with their authors. The number of pupils in Grades 1 and 7 who will use these learning materials is four million students or only PHP 0.10 per pupil. KAWAWA NAMAN ANG MGA PUBLISHERS AND AUTHORS.

Respect copyright
In any case, I still see this as a light at the end of the tunnel. We hope that as you and your colleagues, dear Senator Sonny Angara and Congresswoman Leni Robredo, discuss DepEd's budget, please include something to pay the copyrights of the works they use for the learning materials of the other Grade levels.

Before we can compete with the world market, let us show to them that we also respect copyright.

Barangay Reading Centers
One other law that Senator Edgardo Angara authored was the creation of Barangay Reading Centers. The intention was noble but no funds were allocated. I understand from the NBDB, that the earliest local government unit to comply with it was Naga City under the leadership of then Mayor Jesse Robredo. The funds came from their Internal Revenue Allotment. Perhaps, our present Congress can do something about it.

ASEAN Community
Before I turn this message into a gripe or wish list session, I would like to ask our fellow stakeholders to also adapt to the changing environment. I am an optimist at heart and today we are given a golden opportunity to compete throughout the world or at least within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region especially with the forthcoming integration of the ASEAN community in 2015. The government cannot do everything for us. We have to do our part to help our industry grow further.

Before I end, I would like to congratulate PrimeTrade Asia for again successfully organizing the 34th MIBF. Magandang tanghali po sa inyong lahat!

Photos by AJB.