Barely Legal: Villacorta makes a joke of Sotto and himself

Barely Legal is a new column in GeloLopez’s blog where Gelo tries to make sense of the discombobulated legalese. TGeloLopez is not a lawyer of any sort, but he tries to make sense from the passages of the law.

Sarah Pope’s blog is copyrighted.
Senator Tito Sotto, by extension through his Chief-of-Staff Atty Villacorta, admitted that some passages of his turno en contra speech are taken from Sarah Pope’s blog.
Senator Sotto and Atty. Villacorta consistently failed to apologize for their acts.

“Villacorta claimed […] that governments are exempted from copyright rules…” (taken from ABS-CBN News)

It is funny how Atty Villacorta digs the hole deeper by simply opening his mouth. First and foremost, I am appalled by the fact that Villacorta says that since men were made as copies of the image of God, men are all plagiarist by the strictest sense of the word. Apparently, Villacorta failed to refresh himself with his Creation because Genesis 1:26 says that God himself created men in his own image. Therefore, God has the copyright and further, he has the right to reproduce his copyright.

Basic isn’t it? So we can safely assume that the mere fact Villacorta fails at his IPC basics, he will fail on a rather complicated subject: Government and Copyright.

The Intellectual Property Code only exempt works of Government from Copyright and not government itself (Sec 176). Sec 171.11 defines what qualifies as a work of the Government of the Philippines:

171.11. A “work of the Government of the Philippines” is a work created by an officer or employee of the Philippine Government or any of its subdivisions and instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations as part of his regularly prescribed official duties.

This act of copying word per word the above passage, I think, does not constitute a copyright infringement mainly because the Intellectual Property Code is a work of the Government through the legislative department. Therefore, Villacorta is wrong when he draws the analogy that every senator is a plagiarist since copying previous un-enacted bills is a rampant practice. Everyone is free to copy any works of government without the liability of copyright infringement.

Further, Government, or any of its officer and employee, exempted from copyright, as claimed by Villacorta, does not make sense at all. What is the use of protecting copyrights when there is a particular entity– a powerful entity in this case– could easily violate the protection at any time. Following this analogy, government can also be exempted from violating other property rights, which is a gruesome image if we think about it. That is horrible!

I do not care if Villacorta and Sotto’s motto in life is “Hold Your Ground”, but if they have been magnanimous enough to apologize, these issues won’t be a hullabaloo. They are making these issues bigger by their own accord– and the more they talk, the more of a joke they make themselves to the public.