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    In "The Power of Words" (in Magis, ed. Queena Lee-Chua), Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, expresses the hope that Philippine literature will develop fully to become the third jewel of our destitute nation, whose two original jewels are our music and our faith. A full body of literature can bring forth a people of great works and a strong nation, while poverty in literature makes it much harder to overcome poverty in governance, capital, and technology. He says, " If we still remain a fragmented people, it is perhaps in part because the words (or Word that is to create us) have not been fully uttered or written."

    For Philippine literature to flourish, certain structures are needed to enable a critical mass of Filipinos to become full-time literary writers who can secure for themselves and their families a decent standard of living whether as freelancers or as writers attached to institutions or enterprises. Most veteran and new writers find it too difficult to sharpen constantly their skills or to reach the cutting-edge of their disciplines, while they are preoccupied with earning a living through other means. Many potential writers are discouraged by kith and kin who warn that writers rarely or barely earn enough.

    A sound copyright law and its effective enforcement are two structures that can contribute considerably to the growth and improvement of both literary and non-literary writings. Without adequate protection of copyright, writers cannot hope to obtain sufficient and fair remuneration from those who use and reproduce copies of their texts.

    If every writer received fair remuneration for each photocopy of his or her work from every individual or group that made or obtained a photocopy, there surely would be a great increase in the number of full-time writers who would be able to concentrate on their craft, as they would be able to support themselves and their loved ones primarily through practicing and honing such craft. In Australia, copyright-holders receive two (2) cents (approximately 84 Philippine cents) for every photocopied page. Imagine how rewarding it would be for our writers to receive even 10 cents for every photocopied page. Our literary field would bloom with a thousand flowers.

    Unfortunately, fair remuneration to our authors for the photocopying of their texts is elusive because the 1998 IPC or Intellectual Property Code (R.A. 8293) lacks specifics in its description of what constitutes "fair use" of copyrighted works. Section 185.1 of the IPC states: "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….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; (d) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."

    In section 187, the IPC states: "the private reproduction of a published work in a single copy, where the reproduction is made by a natural person exclusively for research and private study, shall be permitted, without the authorization of the owner of copyright" except when, in the case of a book, "an entire book, or a substantial part thereof" is what is reproduced. In other words, for research or private study, one is permitted to reproduce or photocopy only a non-substantial portion of a book.

    The IPC is silent on what specifically constitutes a substantial portion of a book. Is a whole chapter such? What if the book is a collection of articles, essays, or poems of one writer or several writers? Is a whole article, essay, or poem a substantial portion? What if it is a short poem that occupies only one page?

    I agree with those who maintain that a whole chapter is a substantial portion. In an anthology, a whole article, essay, or poem, no matter how short, is a substantial portion. But what if a user photocopies one page less than the entire chapter, article, essay, or poem? What if a user photocopies 50% of the chapter today and 50% tomorrow? These are only some of the difficulties in specifying "fair use" and then enforcing it.

    Perhaps we should consider the following: amend the copyright section of the IPC, specify further the concept of fair use, and legislate fair remuneration especially through a collective reprography licensing scheme that is similar to what is done in other countries. For this purpose, we urge all writers, publishers, and their associations to join the Philippine Reproduction Rights Organization (PRRO), a non-government entity that aims for the collective management of copyright to ensure fair remuneration for all its members. The NBDB organized the PRRO and conducted its election of officers. With the PRRO, the NBDB shall review the IPC and propose necessary amendments to it. On this issue, we welcome the views of all stakeholders.

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