Guard and Protect Your CopyrightJanette Toral
I started using the Internet in 1996. Aside from surfing, one thing I really enjoyed a lot is writing and sharing it to others through my self-initiated mailing list such DigitalFilipino which currently has more than 2500 members.
Managing a discussion list, such as PH-Outsource, can be quite tricky and pressuring especially if you have a lot of subscribers. Through it, I realized and accepted the fact that not too many people are aware of copyright rules and how they work. I often encounter postings of some subscribers which include full articles from online publications. Since the discussion list is moderated, I don’t approve such postings as they violate copyright laws.
Should you want to post an article in a discussion group, type a one-or-two paragraph introduction and a website link to the full story. Better if you can explain as well why the article is being posted and its relevance.
A lot of people think that republishing articles in online or print form and posting full articles in a mailing list is not a violation of copyright laws. They think that posting or republishing articles as long as the author/writer’s name, website link, and publisher acknowledged are allowable.
Sometimes I feel like blaming the educational institutions for commissioning students to do research papers without educating them about copyright. Until now, I meet adults who reason out that they started doing such practices way back in school.
Let me explain further. In the real world, if I published an article in either a magazine or newspaper, depending on the arrangement with the publisher, copyright can be owned solely by the author or co-owned with the publisher. That is why one should clear this up before submitting and have your articles republished.
There is the concept of “fair use” in the copyright law. Quoting from an article and mentioning the author’s name and where it was published is an example of fair use. But republishing an entire article, even if the author’s name, source and entity of publication is mentioned, is a clear violation of copyright, without first getting the approval of the owners. This is a copyright rule in the real world and is also applicable in the virtual world.
Please note that all existing laws of the country is strengthened by the E-Commerce Law where it now recognizes functional equivalence in electronic form.
In my belief, there are a lot of people who are guilty of copyright violation and/or plagiarism — I am not an exception to that. I think we will only know how important copyright protection is once your own copyright is violated.
In my case, last May 2000, a newspaper abused the copyright of my content at Digitalfilipino.com. Even though we have fair use provisions in the Copyright Law, I felt extremely ripped off and I believe the offense goes beyond fair use. After finding out that the writer is a fresh college graduate, I ended up talking to the editor — a friend of mine — to ask him to inform the writer of my pain and disappointment and give the writer some lessons on copyright.
I also encountered a situation where website owners published my articles in DigitalFilipino.com, in full, in their website or discussion board, without asking any consent. I ended up asking the site owner or bulletin board moderator to add the quote, “republished with permission” to save them the embarrassment.
In another time, I found two websites who copied paragraph excerpts of my reports and articles. Note that these are highly notable companies and international funding organizations. I wrote to them and asked to add, at the minimum, three words – “According to DigitalFilipino.com”.
Protecting your work
There are many ways that copyright authors can protect their work. However, creators must take the effort to educate their market segment about this issue. Being combative is not an option as it won’t get you anywhere. Unless you have lawyers, you are ready to fund, to fight for your copyright.
Monitor your work by running a search query in two to three types of search engine.
Use Google Alerts for automated monitoring. I use Google Alerts and created a tag for all article titles and keywords, report titles and keywords, my name and its misspelled counterpart, and have me notified for any appearance. From there, I check to see if they followed fair use guidelines and attributed us properly. Some refer to us, as Digital-Filipino or Digital Filipino, instead of DigitalFilipino.com.
Another website tool that you can use is Technorati as the monitoring is down to the blog content level.
Let people know how vigilant you are in terms of your copyright. You’ll be surprised as to how some will write to you directly, alerting you of possible copyright violation.
Copyright violations happen every second, not only with printed work but also with music and video, among others. Of these violations, the publisher and the author’s rights are completely ignored altogether. Even though some people may claim that the Internet is already pervasive, such does not justify why one should commit copyright violations. The Philippine Copyright Law was created to protect the rights of the creators of original works — and this stands regardless of the existence of compensation. Most of the abusers even make more money than the original creators themselves. The rampancy of copyright violation hampers the acceptance of the Internet by companies which produces unique products especially for export.
Although one may argue that if a website owner violates the copyright of another website which is owned and maintained by an individual from another part of the world, they can’t sue unless they have the resources to hire lawyers who will protect their rights. That may be true, but website owners must learn, understand, and respect copyright in order to foster peaceful co-existence and growth in original creative works whether they come in form writing, software, music, movies, animation, product design, among others.