Barely Legal: Sotto’s Plagiarism and Fair Use

Barely Legal is a new column in this blog where the Demented Little Boy tries to make sense of the discombobulated legalese. The Demented Little Boy is not a lawyer of any sort, but tries to make sense from these passages of the law.

FACT: Sarah Pope’s blog is copyrighted.

The only way Senator Sotto and Atty. Villacorta could possibly redeem themselves is if they can argue that the act of copying several lines from Sarah Pope’s blog, which Atty. Villacorta admitted, qualifies for fair use as provided by the Intellectual Property Code.

Section 185 of the Intellectual Property Code states that:

Sec. 185. Fair Use of a Copyrighted Work. –
185.1. The fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching including multiple copies for classroom use, scholarship, research, and similar purposes is not an infringement of copyright. Decompilation, which is understood here to be the reproduction of the code and translation of the forms of the computer program to achieve the inter-operability of an independently created computer program with other programs may also constitute fair use. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is fair use, the factors to be considered shall include:
(a) The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit education purposes;
(b) The nature of the copyrighted work;
(c) The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(d) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
185.2 The fact that a work is unpublished shall not by itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Although they could possibly argue their way qualifying the act for fair use, they seem to fail at another level. On a provision just before the above, the following is stated:

Sec 184. Limitations on Copyright
184.1. Notwithstanding the provisions of Chapter V, the following acts shall not constitute infringement of copyright:
(b) The making of quotations from a published work if they are compatible with fair use and only to the extent justified for the purpose, including quotations from newspaper articles and periodicals in the form of press summaries: Provided, That the source and the name of the author, if appearing on the work, are mentioned (emphasis mine);

So at whatever way they would try to justify Sotto’s intellectual dishonesty, it is clear that they have violated at least one of the provisions of the Philippine Copyright Law. It may be true though that the Senator cannot be held liable for anything he says on a privilege speech; but, how immune is the Senator against an ethics complaint against him?

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2 thoughts on “Barely Legal: Sotto’s Plagiarism and Fair Use

  1. This issue on plagiarism against Senator Tito Sotto has gone beyond control He should have chosen his words well when he commented about Pope as a mere blogger. A blogger is a writer and by all mean her ideas are intellectual properties which should protected. It is ironical that a lawmaker like Sotto becomes a lawbreaker in this issue.
    In a capsule, I could only say that it is a sad and shameful experience. Indeed, if Sotto has no original ideas, then he should at least quote and give due respect to the writer, blogger or not.

    • Thank you Victoria, sharing the same sentiments. I totally agree with you when you said that a writer should be respected, whether the writer is a blogger or not. The mere fact that a person is a writer entitles him to have his written sentiments be respected.

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