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The Learning curve

Giving writers their due

An ubiquitous nook in school campuses is the photocopying center usually found in libraries—a must for students and teachers. We have witnessed—nay, even experienced—how easily and efficiently entire books are copied, so faithfully from cover to cover that the reproductions could pass for originals. But in recent years, we have seen stern reminders posted there that only a limited number of pages may be reproduced from any book.

Unknown to many is the existence of an organization responsible for this needed vigilance and protection of the rights of authors: the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society Inc. or Filcols. It supports the publishing industry by ensuring just remuneration for authors, their heirs, and publishers for works which are “reused through large-scale photocopying and digital copying for noncommercial, internal, and institutional use.”

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Filcols was incorporated in January 2008 by forward-looking individuals who wanted to address the rampant photocopying in schools and universities: the late Lirio P. Sandoval, then president of the Book Development Association of the Philippines; Dr. Dennis T. Gonzalez, former chair of the National Book Development Board; Adrian Cristobal Jr., then director general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (Ipophil); and National Artist Virgilio S. Almario, chair emeritus of the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas. Almario is the founding chair of Filcols.

It was also a source of embarrassment for the Philippines to be constantly included in the Special 301 Watch List of countries that have failed to respect the intellectual property of its trading partner, mainly the United States. Perhaps less visible, as the reproductions are not sold as consumer goods in themselves, though as rampant, is the illegal copying of intellectual property.  The establishment of a collective management organization for the publishing industry was one of the major recommendations of the US trade representative.  Thus, after 20 years, when the Philippines was removed from this shameful watch list under the tenure of Ipophil director general Ricardo Blancaflor, Filcols had every reason to celebrate.

How does Filcols function?  It has a voluntary licensing scheme like the Copyright Clearance Center in the United States that provides users with legal access to copy portions of books, journals, magazines, newspapers, etc. It operates from its mandate or authorization from member-authors, their heirs, and publishers.

When I invited my women writer friends like Ceres P. Doyo to join Filcols a year or so ago, it was to show support for the fledgling organization and its executive director Alvin Buenaventura and for its advocacy to protect authors’ rights. All it took was for us to complete the membership form as no membership fees are required.  We admired Filcols’ efforts and was heartened by the news that folklore scholar Dr. Damiana Eugenio was herself pleasantly surprised to be presented at her sickbed with a most unexpected generous check for the use of excerpts of her books. We were all so relieved that in the last years of her life, she at least received such monetary compensation. Thus, it was also a surprise when, early last December, Ceres and I received a message that Filcols had checks for us for the use of articles we had written and which had been used by schools.  For us, a bigger thrill was to know that what we had written were read beyond our shores.

This membership is what I would like to share with other writers and publishers because Filcols draws its mandate from its membership base.  Armed with this, it represents member-authors, their heirs, and publishers as it negotiates with schools, universities, businesses, and organizations and enters into freely negotiated contracts with them.

Buenaventura enjoins all writers, photographers, illustrators, and visual artists to be part of Filcols ([email protected]). “You deserve to receive just reward for your creative works,” he says. (More on Filcols’ work in future columns.)

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Adrian Cristobal Jr., Book Development Association of the Philippines, copyright, Dennis T. Gonzalez, digital copying, Filcols, Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society, intellectual property rights, Lirio P. Sandoval, National Book Development Board, Neni Sta. Romana Curz, photocopying, The Learning Curve, Virgilio S. Almario
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