intellectual property

Intellectual Property in the Internet Age

It’s really fascinating for someone like me that there is an ongoing debate on intellectual property, on the Internet age. Seems people from all spectrum of life is confused and think that everything on the Internet is “free”.

I believe this confusion stems from the very nature of the Internet and the hacker ethos that permeate from it. The hacker ethos is that all information should be “free”. What this means, is free access to information, “no secrets” mantra.

Fast forward to several years and something profound happened to copyright. It is called, copyleft and creative commons. It is a way to interface this hacker ethos, almost communal understanding of knowledge with concepts like property. It is also the profound difference between the Open Source movement and the Free Software movement. Both is “a matter of liberty, not price”

For example, Open Source is at its heart a methodology for software development. In simplistic terms, it can be viewed as “I own this source code intellectual property, but you are free to use read it, modify the code, add to the code so long as you cite me.”

In content terms, creative commons is the answer to “the problem” of wanton reuse of material. It merely says, Yes, I own this content— a photo, this blog post, music, an audio recording or whatnot but I give you the right to use it, to view it, to listen to it, to share it so long as you give me attribution. The last part is essential. There has to be attribution. There has to be I pass it along to you.

In the Philippine copyright context, is a brilliant piece of copyright legislation. Anything a Filipino does— this blog post for example is automatically copyrighted. A photographer automatically gets copyright for his photos. So as a content provider, I have to be explicit: this work is published under creative commons, you are free to share so long as you attribute back.

Now what happens to posts that I do share on Twitter for example? Are these photos in the “public domain” so anyone can simply grab and share?

Any user who signs up on twitter signs an agreement that basically tells twitter that they have a royalty free access to publish/distribute content. You are basically saying as price to use twitter as a service, you allow them to publish your content, but you keep ownership: “You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

Retweeting is organic. In fact, quite useful. To prevent retweeting, you simply turn your profile private. So your content is only allowed to be view by certain people, and even those people cant’ retweet your content.

Now, what happens with a public post? Retweeting is fine and is covered under the agreement that you allow twitter to distribute, but what if your content gets republished elsewhere?

Under the Twitter terms, you retain ownership. Under Philippine copyright terms, you own content you create or publish. The easiest and least messy way is to ask the content owner for permission. Most people will agree to being republished. Quite recently, this blog was asked by GMA7 to republish some content, and we agreed readily, with the caveat of attribution. In many cases, so long as there is attribution, it is fine.

I know a lot of photographers for example whose photos are “stolen”. Images republished without attribution nor permission. Again, creative commons allow you to share with attribution because the owner has already provided you with permission to share because he or she licensed the work as creative commons. Sans creative commons, you have can not, and best to ask for permission. Most media entities cite tweets and photos: “This photo was taken from user blah blah blah”. In many cases those media entities would ask the person if they could use the content. It is better to ask, after all.

Here’s the rule of thumb: if you need to republish something away from sites like twitter, best to ask for permission. Never forget to attribute. And if someone asks you to take something down because they own that photo? Best to do it.

Famed writer Yuson dropped from GMA News Online

Following a thorough investigation by an ethics committee into charges of plagiarism against famed writer Alfred “Krip” Yuson, his contract as editor at large for GMA News Online, which reportedly expired mid-April, has not been renewed. In a statement, GMA Network management explained that, “The decision not to renew the services of Mr. Yuson is consistent with the policy of GMA that personnel do not plagiarize or copy other people’s work.”

The issue of plagiarism was first raised by blogger Jaemark Tordecilla of Fire Quinito, who noted strong similarities between an article by Yuson published in Rogue magazine, and an earlier piece written by GMA News Online sportswriter Rey Joble. Yuson, in a response to Tordecilla, admitted that he had lifted portions from Joble’s article, but said that he had been under deadline pressure. He also said that he thought he had co-authorial rights, given that he had edited Joble’s work before it was published by GMA News.

The controversy drew a flurry of outraged reactions from the blogosphere, including Ina Stuart Santiago, James Cordova of Asian Correspondent, and Interlineal, a content partner of After Yuson, in his weekly column for The Philippine Star, said that “it is hardly of any consequence that the usual lynch mob that marauds through social media is having such a fun time indulging in vituperation”, Tordecilla had strong words for the multi-awarded wordsmith. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) slammed Yuson as well, saying, “An apology would have sufficed; making excuses is just too much.”

Yuson is a significant figure in Philippine letters. The author or editor of several books, he is a member of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature Hall of Fame, probably the most prestigious literary distinction in the country. He has also won many other prizes locally and internationally.

As of this writing, Rogue has yet to issue a statement on the matter. Ateneo de Manila University, where Yuson is listed as a member of the Department of English, has similarly made no comment.

The university has been involved in previous plagiarism disputes that erupted around business tycoon Manuel “Manny” V. Pangilinan, a former member of the Ateneo board of trustees, and Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, a graduate of Ateneo Law School.

Editor’s note (May 2, 2011; 7:45 PM): This article was first published in slightly different form. It has since been revised to better comply with the editorial standards of The Pro Pinoy Project. Our apologies.

Krip Yuson caught plagiarizing

While perusing the current Rogue sports issue, Jaemark Tordecilla of the sports blog Fire Quinito discovered that noted writer and academician Alfred “Krip” Yuson had plagiarized entire sections from an article by GMA News Online sports writer Rey Joble. According to Tordecilla:

“…it’s especially galling when someone as talented and accomplished as Yuson steals from Joble and tries to pass off all that work as his own. I have no idea why Yuson was arrogant enough to think that he could pull off this kind of shit; did he really believe that no one was going to know?”

Yuson sent an e-mail to Tordecilla in response, admitting that he had, in fact, lifted portions of Joble’s article:

“Indeed, it was a terrible failure of judgment on my part, and I initially shuddered at the prospect of losing my friendship with Rey for having done him in, in a way.”