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Writing Career in the Philippines: Is it Enough to Feed a Family?

“While abroad writing is considered a full – time profession, in the Philippines talented writers should have part – time jobs just to survive or make writing only as their part – time.” says Alvin Buenaventura, Executive Director of Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society, Inc. (FILCOLS) in a round table discussion on writing, publishing, intellectual property, copyright specifically on film and TV industry entitled “Huntahan sa Diliman” last Feb. 6th at Videotheque Room, UP Film Institute, UP Diliman, Quezon City. Joined by local TV and print writers, budding directors, script writers, a book author and a blogger, it was a moment of sharing real – life incidences where writing and copyright – a writer’s human right are often exploited.
The famous “Anak” song copyright by Freddie Aguilar was bought by a certain publisher only to realize later that it was worth more than what the composer was paid for. It was translated to many languages, a film was made after it and to the point Freddie in an event, was sued when he sang his song because he no longer own the copyright of it. A leading food-chain in the country which is known for its birthday party package once refused to pay for every Happy Birthday song they play and decided to omit it from their package. Well, what is a birthday party without singing that Happy Birthday tune? So this company ended up paying theFilipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (FILSCAP) for it since it is every birthday celebrant’s wish. Same goes to every song being played in coffee shops, malls, restaurants etc. should have a sticker of FILSCAP anywhere visible in the store.
To explore the Philippines through coffee table books, one has to buy our neighboring countries’ coffee table books such as Singapore or Thailand since not much are being made because of either low interest or not enough to generate profit out of it. Jun Balde, an award-winning writer also shares his disappointment when he went to Thailand and some students approached him to ask his autograph in a photocopied version of his book! He refused of course.
Intellectual Property
“If there is someone who admitted responsible for that celebrated sex video scandals happened last year, he/she could have earned much out of it.” says Atty. Louie Calvario, head of Intellectual Property of the Philippines – a government agency under Department of Trade and Industry because it is still under the laws that govern copyright of an original work regardless of the content, quality and purpose. Idea is a product of human intellect while expression of ideas is through writing, composing a song, through painting etc. which requires originality. Idea, is not copyright protected but if it’s an expression of ideas, yes. So in the case of copying game show formats such as that of Willie Revillame’s controversial case filed by his previous TV station he worked for, in his personal opinion not officially representing his office it has no basis unless the technical details are too obvious that it is really a copycat. Copyrightable works refer to finished works NOT concepts.
Not much has been talked about blogger rights since blogging in the country is not fully established yet when it comes to legal matters but FILCOLS as a reproduction rights organization says to let them know for any copyright issues of bloggers. FILCOLS invites writers and bloggers to join them. The rants and raves of the attendees were noted and  Atty. Calvario says he will mention those relevant issues in his coming meeting with the National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA) people. So why do writers deserve to be properly paid? Same as what UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights Art. 23 (3) meant, because they have a body to feed and a family to care for.
Photo courtesy of Gabby Villarama and FILCOLS

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