COPYRIGHT AND ALL THINGS NICE
A commentary from one of the readers of this blog named ZANJO was fair enough: that there was rampant plagiarism in the old komiks industry.
I am with Zanjo on this one, for personally, this is also what I think – based upon what I saw in the old industry.
Many serials were lifted from either a best selling novel that the masses didn’t even realize existed; a Hollywood feature film that made a killing at the box office; drawings of well-known artists from western comics were sometimes copied verbatim, flaws and all.
All these above-mentioned aspects were in fact the absolute reason why critics of the old industry were too harsh and mean-spirited. They want the industry to clean up its act, and for once be more original rather than a mere copycat of the original western creations.
But, who's to be blamed for this? The publishers? The writers? The Illustrators? The readers?
It’s rather hard to pin point exactly who.
Because historically, the Philippines have always played safe in terms of economics rather than originality or creativity.
Berne Convention, or Bern Convention, or International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (copyright law)
The international copyright agreement adopted by an international conference in Bern (Berne) in 1886 and subsequently modified several times (Berlin, 1908; Rome, 1928; Brussels, 1948; Stockholm, 1967; and Paris, 1971). Signatories of the Convention constitute the Berne Copyright Union whose intention was to recognize and apply copyright laws to all authors, regardless of nationality and/or country, and thereby began a movement for some international accord. At Bern, Switzerland, in 1886, representatives of 10 countries adopted the Berne Convention (formally known as the International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works), which established the Berne Union.
Some nations acquiesced to this union, others did it whole-heartedly, but unfortunately, the Philippines flatly rejected it during its early years of its existence.
Lawmakers thought that there were more disadvantages than advantages joining this union. If the Philippines had joined the union, we would have been mandatorily adhering to the rules without ifs and buts.
And the price to pay was hefty!
Every song we play on the radio, TV, movies and stage presentations, we MUST PAY ROYALTY to the authors.
Every book, recorded song, other reading materials – we must pay royalty to the authors.
Every film or tv presentations we do, we must pay the authors, including playing music on juke boxes while you sip beer in a night club or restaurant.
This is the reason why the lawmakers of our land decided that we’re not that rich. We’d be more deprived of all these modern world inventions if we did.
Therefore, we remained free of obligations. For instance, we can play music, adapt foreign music and make it a tagalog one, quote poetry or prose from a foreign work, and the devil may care if the authors balk about it.
And the rest…as we all say… is history.
However, since we did not join the union, other nations can also play our music, copy this and that from our country, and we can’t do anything about it as well.
One example that comes to mind is: DAHIL SA IYO.
When Mike Velarde (not the El Shaddai guy but the COMPOSER), wrote the song DAHIL SA IYO and was recorded in the fifties, it became very popular in this archipelago. Its popularity overflowed like tsunami from the shores of our islands, and after Tony Bennett recorded it as BECAUSE OF YOU and became a hit, many other countries followed suit. It was recorded in France, Germany, England, Spain, etc, and the poor Mike Velarde didn’t even get a cent from all these shenanigans.
After Sylvia la Torre recorded Levi celerio’s lyrics of WARAY-WARAY, again, the song was translated to different languages and no one from RP received anything. Even Eartha Kitt had daringly recorded it in Tagalog! And this recording is still being played on the radio allover the world.
When Hollywood used to visit the Philippines to do all those smash hit war movies, most of the Filipino compositions used there were taken without permission. There were several of them used Filipino compositions, and one of them even unabashedly used AY, AY, KALISUD as the theme song of a John Wayne film! I could no longer remember exactly which one (BACK TO BATAAN, maybe), but it did happen.
But, let's face it. We raked in more advantages than disadvantages from this stand. If you listen to the songs recorded in the Philippines during the 50s and the 60s (try listening to TIA DELY'S program on DZRH) and you'll realize that during those years, we have recorded more tagalog songs based upon smash hit records from USA and UK, translated in tagalog. To name a few:
ANG KAWAWANG COWBOY by Fred Panopio (from Rhinestone Cowboy)
IKAW LANG ANG IBIGIN KO (from My Song of Love)
KINSE ANYOS SA MUNTINGLUPA (from Pretty Baby)
ROSANG TATTOO (from Rose Tattoo)
KAY SARAP-SARAP (from QUE SERA, SERA)
Meanwhile, it is so convenient to use recordings from other parts of the world in the Philippines. In the 70s, when the Philippines produced a glut of amazingly wonderful music (in fact the world produced really good music during this decade), when I was writing dramas for TV, I made sure that every episode I write, I specify recorded music that fits the theme of that episode to heighten the impact of a scene or story as a whole. I mean, can we afford to pay STREISAND, for instance, for her song LOVE COMES FROM THE MOST UNEXPECTED PLACES for an episode of ALINDOG? Even our own local recorded songs are free from any fee obligations. I had a feast using those wonderful, thought-provoking original ASIN MUSIC for my tv episodes in those days. I mean I feel bad that the composers didn’t get any remunerations from their work, but it's just the way it is and we can’t do anything about it. Besides, these musicians have no representatives, or publishers even, who would take care of all royalty matters. Say if you want to use AEGIS’ song for a film or tv drama, you can’t be chasing the band in Singapore or Tokyo or Hongkong to negotiate royalty matters. Besides, TV stations would rather not pay them in the first place.
The Bern Convention became a reality from the insistence of French author VICTOR HUGO (Les Miserables). The world moved on since then. However, we remained the same in the Philippines.
So, Zanjo… this is the sad reality of the status quo in the Philippines.
Therefore, as audience or reader, let’s just be discriminating. If a komiks serial is lifted from another Stephen King work, for instance, but claimed by the scriptwriter to be his… then, you know what to do: Don’t patronize his BALDERDASH.