Freedom On Creative Works

The alleged PDAF scam flourishing in the tri media has really gave me a verge of resentment and dismay of hopelessness and despair that sometimes has thought me to leave the country, renounce my citizenship, and start a new life abroad. It may be tongue-tied to say but there are really times that I regretted to be a natural born Filipino citizen. But, hopelessness is in deed a great challenge for us to hold on with this catastrophic predicament. That, one day our leaders will be awaken with their greediness of power, public money and influence at the expense of Filipino people putting public interest over and above self serving interests.
One day, while I was driving my car on my way to office, I heard a song modified by Jograd de la Torre, a veteran Filipino comedian who, although not visible nowadays but achieved instant fame again, intentionally changed the lyrics of the song price tag popularized by Jessie J. as a mean to address his grievances against corrupt politicians involve in the scam. I was so amazed with the song. With this, I then wondered if Mr. de la Torre can be held liable for copyright infringements as he used the song without any consent from the composer or even from the performers. The song went viral over the web and is even used as a bed on various commercial AM stations in Metro Manila particularly on Mike Enriquez and Arnold Clavio’s morning daily program over DZBB`s battlecry “Bantay Kaban ng Bayan”.
Musical works like lyrics, songs, song arrangements, jingles are copyrighted not just in our country but also in other countries. Songs in general are copyright materials and should be considered as intellectual properties of the people who composed them. Under Section 185 of the Philippine Intellectual Property Code, it provides for the fair use and application of the copyright law of copyrighted materials which is very similar to the code that other countries use, like in the United States.
There are moral rights to be respected and complied in our Intellectual Property Code and song composers are mindful that when they compose songs, even if it is considered as a freedom of speech, they have to be morally aware that songs are not to damage the reputation of another person. As a moral right, they can speak their minds but they have the social obligation to be role models to the listeners and to abide by the law.
Pursuant to the Berne Convention agreement, the Philippine Copyright law expressly gives copyright ownership to the copyright holders automatically for their creations. Songs composed by artists are copyrighted as soon as it is contained in a CD or in a format which can be accessed and heard by listeners. Let’s face the fact that for some song composers and artists, this is their bread and butter. Following their passion in music and composing songs are how they live life and put food on the table to feed their families. If they have copyrighted registration for their songs, they will be able to transfer them to third parties and have them played over the radio and televisions. It is but natural that if their songs are used without their permission or there is copyright infringement, they can sue for statutory damages, attorney’s fees and court costs. Also, there are other laws that protect copyrights like the Optical Media Act.
Their songs identify who they are as artists and if used for business, it can establish a brand or recognition. An unknown artist with a well-played song heard nationwide can make the artist a household name overnight and most artists bank on the possibility that they can be recognized through their songs. And with some stroke of luck, some artists and song composers can find fortune by making music.
Since the dawn of mankind, music has been used in all sorts of communication and expression. Now, music is as much important as the products advertised on television or endorsed by celebrities. It has become an important marketing instrument that makes a brand. The songs used are remembered by consumers listening to the radio or watching TV. Product-recall is achieved easily if the songs used are catchy and easy to memorize. This is why some of the most successful companies and artists invest heavily on songs as these compositions are what make consumers recall the products and eventually buy them because of familiarity.

Now what if these songs are used by random people online for personal use or social awareness by simply changing the lyrics of the songs? Would this be considered copyright infringement? Is this illegal and can people be penalized for doing this?

If we are going to understand the provisions in the Intellectual Property Code specifically the use of musical compositions, and be very stern about its application, the answer is to the question is, yes. Using copyrighted songs and changing the lyrics without the copyright holder’s permission is against the law. Self-made videos edited to familiar hit songs and uploaded online, free for public viewing and listening, is something we commonly (and normally) see on our facebook walls and other social media sites. Yes, it is illegal… but who really cares? Is it really being monitored strictly by the concerned government agencies? Is the regulation being implemented accordingly?

Let’s face the reality and consider the circumstances in this new era of ever-evolving technology when hand-held gadgets can do almost everything but ironically, newer versions are still being invented every 2 years. The Philippines surprisingly, even with half of its population is in poverty level, somehow and someway, have access to the social media 24/7. Anybody can use or make anything and upload it online anytime, anywhere. This is a reality which most of us are oblivious about with respect to how fast information can be passed around and spread worldwide. Like a virus… yes. And whatever we post online, at the end of the day, it’s really up to us if we want to post a “good virus” or a “bad virus”. If it’s a good, innocuous one, then no harm done. Some people may like it and some might not. But what about the bad ones?

Technology made our world a smaller place to live in, where everybody is updated on anything. Anything posted online is “tried” by the social media. It’s not about morals, values or the bible anymore. It’s not about what’s right or wrong. People now can say whatever they want to say and the whole fiasco is a trial by social media—the netizens that weigh on the opinions and make the judgment. Even if it’s is illegal, if the people like what they see in the social media, nothing can stop them from sharing it worldwide.

Copyright infringement is rampant not just in the Philippines but worldwide. However, in other countries, they are very aggressive in addressing this issue by regulating what goes around on the internet and by actually arresting people who violated the law. Here, yes there are constant bust operations seizing pirated CDs in Quiapo and the well-debated Cybercrime law, but that’s about it in the Philippine setting. It was a hot topic when it came out but there isn’t any actual regulation going on.

A non-profit organization based in California is gaining recognition, popularity and support from netizens around the world for establishing Creative Commons. It’s goal is to expand the range of creative works and make it available legally for public use and sharing. One of their initiatives is the Creative Commons licenses which are copyrighted licenses for the public, free of charge. It tweeks the laws and rights involved by allowing creators and copyrighted owners to reserve specific rights which they do not want others to use with respect to their creative works. On the other hand, it also allows them to waive some rights and permit others to use for the public’s benefit.

It is still based on copyright laws but does not work in replacement of it. In short, it makes the license “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved” and allows re-purpose of standard licenses where the copyright owners don’t seek for commercial compensation. It profits both the copyright owners and licensees. It is now accepted by many as a means for creators and licensors to control how they choose to share their creative works to the public. Wikipedia, being one of the biggest search engines used worldwide and Flickr, a photo-sharing tool, both use this flexible, low-cost copyright agreement.

The use of Creative Commons is a breakthrough in this age of social media. Before, everything was free until the application of Intellectual Property Law. With the use of Creative Common licenses, permission-based culture can now be changed and allow public sharing like the way it was before, without violating the rights of the owners and creators.

Let’s go back to the previous question on the validity of changing the lyrics of a familiar song for personal use and uploading it online for public viewing. Creative Common licenses can now allow this without making the imitator held legally liable for copyright infringement.

Narrowing it down to the culture of Filipinos, in election campaigns and social media criticisms, hit songs are rampantly used and lyrics are change to entice listeners. This way they are recalled easily because of the catchy tune. Some politicians, campaign managers and marketing agencies found this as a very effective tool in making listeners tune in. Also, using hit songs and changing the lyrics to criticize public officials and air grievances towards the government is now a common way to catch the public’s attention. It delivers the message and at the same time, entertains the listeners.
Through Creative Commons licenses, it is all possible provided the work or alternation complies to the four major condition modules, namely: Attribution which requires credit or attribution to the original author; Share Alike, allowing copied works under the same or a similar license; Non-Commercial which prohibits the work to be used for commercial purposes; and No Derivative Works, allowing only the original work, without derivatives.
A perfect example of this is the parody Jograd de la Torre made entitled Kawatan which is based from the famous international hit song, Price Tag by Jessie J. The video also shows Jograd de la Torre singing to the tune of Price tag but using Tagalog language and condemning the rampant corruption in the senate and congress. It was uploaded last February on popular social media site Youtube, in the wake of the alleged widespread corruption by the biggest criminal syndicate—the government—in the history of our country. The video was viewed 260,000 times and is being played on stations nationwide.
The song, right off the bat, is an instant hit and a lot of netizens commended the video, suggesting it should be made as a national anthem until the corruption scandal is resolved. People can easily sing along with it because of the familiar beat and catchy tune. Sharing the people’s sentiments, it is clear that Jograd de la Torre did not intend to copy the song Price Tag to make a new song and earn from it. He simply intended to air his personal opinion to the public at the same time, entertain the listeners. He knows that the best way to do it is to upload a video which anybody can access. As expected, it worked. People are listening and it makes them more socially aware of the issues around them.
I personally felt more upset and somehow shocked that a corruption scandal like this is possible and can exist in our government which ironically carried the tag line, Daang Matuwid. It made me despise our government officials. It just goes to show that money can really make the world go round. It is the root of all evil that even the few good men serving our country can be influenced by this, all for the sake of power and wealth.
Jograd de la Torre’s video is just one of the many parodies made left and right to establish public awareness. These are made not to bully anybody nor to profit from the revenue but to encourage our people to speak and force the government to do something to make it right.
In line with the copyright law, does this mean that using Price Tag for Jograd de la Torre’s parody is a copyright infringement, pursuant to the Intellectual Property Law? Is he and many other Filipinos sharing their sentiments through parodies using well-known songs, in violation of that law? No, they are not because of the Creative Commons licenses. People can now freely use almost all songs in sharing their sentiments on anything or using them as cover songs for their creative works.


One thought on “Freedom On Creative Works

  1. Pingback: Students’ Take: Contacts viz RA 10173 | Berne Guerrero

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