Okay, so far we’ve had 3 notorious incidents of plagiarism (the previous two we’ve tackled in 2 posts: EATING YOUR OWN WORDS (Plagiarism) and By Your Own Hand or Not, who cares? (When Plagiarism isn’t Plagiarism according to the Supreme Court). These acts of plagiarism were attributed (pun intended) to society’s leaders no less: business leader and then Chairman of the Ateneo University Board of Trustees Manuel Pangilinan, Supreme Court Justice Mariano Del Castillo (also an Ateneo graduate), and now Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III (we have yet to find out
who among his staff is from Ateneo from where his speech writer/s graduated).
It doesn’t help anti-plagiarists (which we should all be) that the Supreme Court, in In The Matter Of The Charges Of Plagiarism, Etc., Against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo, cleared Justice Del Castillo of plagiarism. The SC compounds the problem by including intent (not universally required but often used as a defense) as an element of plagiarism when it stated that “plagiarism is essentially a form of fraud where intent to deceive is inherent” Neither is Congress helping by failing to as yet impeach Justice Del Castillo for plagiarism. It is not far-fetched to assume that these actions (or non-actions) have further left the impression on the public – used to buying pirated dvds - that it’s really not that big a deal to take from other people’s works without giving due credit.
Perhaps this is why we now have the 3rd infamous case of plagiarism.
The most recent allegations of plagiarism involve Sen. Tito Sotto, and to date, 5 blogs and 1 briefing paper. Details of the alleged liftings can be found in Raissa Robles’ blog posts “Did Sen. Sotto copy from 5 bloggers?” and “UPDATE: Senator Sotto lifted from 5 bloggers and 1 briefing paper
Not only were the lines taken without due credit, but the office of Sen. Sotto, through his Chief of Staff, Atty. Hector A. Villacorta, defends their acts as follows:
“Blog site is public domain, you should be open to be quoted from all over the world. What law did we violate only her sensitivity was. Because there is no crime, we used information from public domain they're making issue of the way it was quoted."
"The rule of copyright gives government a chance to use some of materials. There's principle in law if there's a crime there should be a law punishing it. Was she commercially injured? Wala naman eh. No crime, no law violated."
"Blogs are public domain. Anybody can use it [sic]. Government is exempted from the copyright rule. As a general principle, you cannot withhold information from government,"
"Bloggers, beware what you put out on the web. You should not cry if used by the web,".
These are reckless statements. We daresay that the office of the Senator and his lawyer-Chief of Staff will fail the challenge of finding legal bases to back their claims that 1) "Blogs are public domain”, 2) “Government is exempted from the copyright rule”, 3) that they did not violate any law, 4) that only the author’s sensitivity was violated, and 5) that plagiarism requires commercial injury to the author.
Surrounded by laws and law-making being part of their daily functions, one would think they would be the first to know what’s legal or not. How can a legislator and his staff - of all people - forget that the Philippines is signatory to different international conventions on intellectual property including: the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, (September 9, 1886), and the WIPO Copyright Treaty, (December 20, 1996)?
Blogs are protected by copyright laws
Even a high school student would know that blog articles are copyrighted work and should be duly credited when copied. Section 172.1, Chapter II (Copyright Original Works), Part IV (The Law on Copyright), of the Intellectual Property Code states:
172.1. Literary and artistic works, hereinafter referred to as "works", are original intellectual creations in the literary and artistic domain protected from the moment of their creation and shall include in particular
(a) Books, pamphlets, articles and other writings;
(o) Other literary, scholarly, scientific and artistic works.
while Chapter III (Derivative Works) Section 173.1 states that the following are protected by copyright:
(a) Dramatizations, translations, adaptations, abridgments, arrangements, and other alterations of literary or artistic works; and
(b) Collections of literary, scholarly or artistic works, and compilations of data and other materials which are original by reason of the selection or coordination or arrangement of their contents. (Sec. 2, [P] and [Q], P.D. No. 49)
Thus, a blog is a literary work clearly covered by copyright. The law makes no description where the writings/works are made – be they on tissue paper or stone or web log.
Atty. Villacorta finally admits laziness in explaining why they chose to copy a blog post which quoted a book instead of reading the book itself and citing it -
“… Researchers tried clicking the book but ayaw mag download. Kaya ang pinakamaganda, refer to blog dahil baka accurate naman,” Villacorta said.”
Public Domain has specific meaning when it comes to copyright
It seems that the Senator’s lawyer-Chief of Staff mistakes public domain with out-in-public. Works in the public domain do not have private ownership while works out-in-public are not necessarily without private ownership. For one to declare that a work is in public domain, one must have already researched that the work no longer has private ownership, like a work whose copyright has lapsed (like Shakespeare’s works). For one to declare outright that just because an author’s work is contained in a blog it has become part of the public domain, is ignorance - excusable coming from a pre-schooler, but from a Senator and his lawyer-Chief of Staff?
Of course, Atty. Villacorta’s excuses still don’t explain the un-credited lifting from a briefing paper. Perhaps he has already decided that a briefing paper - because it can also be found on the internet like a blog - is also in the public domain?
No copyright in any government work
Atty Villacorta shows his lack of knowledge of copyright law when he justifies their acts of appropriating other people’s works because he claims it is common practice in Congress to copy bills -
"Kopyahan po to talaga, eh. Pag natapos ang isang Congress, lahat ng bill na hindi naipasa, kopyahan. Bakit mo iisipin ulit eh nandyan na? A bill not acted upon dies with a Congress. The new Congress senators will find out what can still be revived. Kopyahan po, pero hindi masamang kopyahan,” he said.”
Works of the government are specifically listed as one of the Works Not Protected under Chapter IV. Works Not Protected, Part IV of of the IP Code) -
WORKS NOT PROTECTED
SEC. 175. Unprotected Subject Matter
Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 172 and 173, no protection shall extend, under this law, to any idea, procedure, system method or operation, concept, principle, discovery or mere data as such, even if they are expressed, explained, illustrated or embodied in a work; news of the day and other miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information; or any official text of a legislative, administrative or legal nature, as well as any official translation thereof. (n)
Sec. 176. Works of the Government. –
176.1. No copyright shall subsist in any work of the Government of the Philippines. However, prior approval of the government agency or office wherein the work is created shall be necessary for exploitation of such work for profit. Such agency or office may, among other things, impose as a condition the payment of royalties. No prior approval or conditions shall be required for the use of any purpose of statutes, rules and regulations, and speeches, lectures, sermons, addresses, and dissertations, pronounced, read or rendered in courts of justice, before administrative agencies, in deliberative assemblies and in meetings of public character. (Sec. 9, First Par., P. D. No. 49) [emphases supplied]
In any case, it is not convincing for the plagiarist to say that he acted in good faith in lifting a portion from someone else’s work because the plagiarist also makes it appear that the lifted portion is his creation (since he failed to give due credit). In the cases of Justice Del Castillo and Senator Sotto - the 1st case involving Manny Pangilinan was satisfactorily ended with his admission, apology and resignation as university board of trustee chairman - it’s very difficult to swallow each good faith excuse for each of the several portions they lifted from several sources. One stolen line may be excusable - although the academic and journalism worlds might find that already one too many - but lifting several lines from several sources and failing to give credit to any one?
Atty. Villacorta’s excuses imply that their acts of plagiarism only affected the blog writer. That is incorrect. In plagiarism, theft may have been committed against the author, but fraud is committed on the plagiarist’s reader/listener/viewer because the plagiarist misrepresents to his reader/listener/viewer that the work is his.
The Senator and his lawyer–Chief of Staff make light of their actions. These actions constitute theft and fraud that’s why there are international conventions and local laws prohibiting and punishing intellectual property violations.
Since conception can also be defined as an idea or the act of forming an idea, Senator Sotto is not helping his cause against contraceptives (“contra conception”) by being a contraceptive or contra conception himself.
 A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, October 12, 2010.
 Robles , R. (2012, August 16). Did sen. sotto copy from 5 bloggers?. Retrieved from http://raissarobles.com/2012/08/16/did-sen-sotto-copy-from-4-bloggers/
 Robles, R. (2012, August 17). Update: Senator sotto lifted from 5 bloggers and 1 briefing paper . Retrieved from http://raissarobles.com/2012/08/17/update-senator-sotto-lifted-from-5-bloggers-and-1-briefing-paper/
 Cruz, R. (2012, August 17). Sotto immune from plagiarism raps, top aide says. Retrieved from http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/-depth/08/17/12/sotto-immune-plagiarism-raps-top-aide-says
 Republic Act No. 8293, An Act Prescribing The Intellectual Property Code And Establishing The Intellectual Property Office, Providing For Its Powers And Functions, And For Other Purposes, June 6, 1997.
 Castaneda, J. (2012, August 22). Sotto, staff didn't read mcbride book. Retrieved from http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/-depth/08/22/12/sotto-staff-didnt-read-mcbride-book