Being in the Internet Spotlight and Intellectual Property Rights

Josemaria Carlo F. Magsino

For quite a number of us, a significant chunk of the things we learn comes from the internet. The internet will likely have information that will satisfy an individual’s intellectual desires. A popular source of information are online video blogs or vlogs. These vlogs present information through a combination of video clips, supporting texts, and images. There has been an increasing preference for these vlogs since information is presented in a more entertaining, if not more palatable, manner than its text counterpart.

Vlog subjects range from cooking tutorials, product unboxing, do-it-yourself tutorials, home remedies, foreign language tutorials, fan fiction stories, movie commentaries, life hacks, game cheats, food review, travel, lifestyle and exercise, and a whole lot more. We find these vlogs on the usual video sharing platforms or on social networking sites which have video sharing capabilities.

Behind these vlogs are the so-called “content creators” — individuals who generate ideas regarding a topic, plan out how that idea can be expressed, and execute that plan. Most of these content creators make vlogging an occupation by monetizing their views through channel subscriptions and profit sharing with their different advertisers. Considering that vlogging has now become a particularly lucrative profession, those who intend to become content creators and those who already are may do well to familiarize themselves with the intellectual property rights and issues which tag along in their very interesting business.

A possible threat for these content creators would be the infringement of their work. Copyrightable material protected under Republic Act No. 8293, or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines (“IP Code”), refers to either original literary and artistic works and to some derivative works. Literary and artistic works, according to Sec. 172.1 of the IP Code, are intellectual creations in the literary and artistic domain that are protected from the moment of their creation. The same provision also lists down the works that are considered literary and artistic — which include audiovisual works, e.g. a content creator’s vlog. Note that under the law, no registration is needed for copyrightable material to be protected under the law.

Owning a copyright over a particular creation provides content creators with economic and moral rights. These rights give content creators the exclusive right to prevent a reproduction of his or her work and other forms of communicating the work. They also have the right to require proper attribution, restrain alterations, and prevent subsequent publication of their work. Any violation of these rights equips a content creator with grounds to enforce his or her rights in accordance with the IP Code and other relevant statutes. Under the law, violators may be imprisoned, fined, or sued for damages. However, content creators must also be aware that these rights may only be enforced within the specified term as provided by law.

Content creators should also consider the different licensing and technical intricacies regarding their use of a particular platform. For example, in the well-known video sharing platform YouTube, content creators may choose to provide third persons with the permission to use the former’s work. According to YouTube’s support page, content creators may mark their videos with a “CC BY” license. A CC BY license is a Creative Commons license which lets content creators retain their copyright over their work notwithstanding another’s use of such work. Hence, the IP Code may still apply in case of a borrowed work. Under the IP Code, these borrowed works may be considered as derivative works. They are translations of any copyrightable material under Sec. 172.1 of the IP Code which may also be protected. Sec. 172.2 of the IP Code however limits the protection in that such derivative work does not affect the force of any subsisting copyright upon the original work or any of its parts and it cannot be construed that the translation of an original material vests the owner of the derivative work with any copyright over the original material or give any extension of copyright on the derivative work. Also, it should be noted that a claim of fair use only applies insofar as non-commercial use of a work is concerned.

The rules, in effect, call for a cautious reliance on the licenses and a familiarization with the limitations inherent in using another’s work under the IP Code and the Creative Commons licenses, lest a content creator expose himself or herself to possible charges of infringement.

Undoubtedly, these safeguards will provide content creators with a greater incentive to create more vlogs which could help propagate a culture of information among digital citizens, if not the whole world.

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