Three things 16 – 21 March 2012

Today is World Poetry Day, so…

1. …on the eve of the day, I finally went back (after a quiet absence) to the monthly poetry night the LIRA organization sets up at Conspiracy Garden Cafe. Hosted by Beverly Siy, the author of It’s a Mens World, the evening featured poet and Miriam College Filipino professor Rebecca Anonuevo and (coincidentally) another MC alumna, Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, a woman of many talents and editor of the new Metro Serye ‘zine, published by the UST Press.

I have not been to any of their poetry nights in a long time, and in the absence of the other regular poetry night I used to attend, this will do. (I understand LIRA’s gig predates the Happy Mondays series.) But their agenda is pretty clear–something I respect, but one to which, notwithstanding my own poetic lineage, I cannot yet subscribe. (As I believe that my great-grandfather stood for all Filipinos, even those who did not share his Tagalog language, I am convinced his poetic legacy does NOT belong to one person, group, or organization. It is however for other organizations to help maintain that legacy, and I am glad LIRA is helping.)

2. Speaking of Bebang, she was righteously indignant yesterday about a heretofore hushed-up issue: the way that certain groups take advantage of people’s lack of awareness of their moral rights as authors. One publishing company has launched a writing competition. But what got her ire was a single sentence rule, with emphases mine: “All entries shall become the property of the publisher.” So whether someone wins in the competition or not, by joining the competition, they lose all right to ownership and copyright of their work, including the possibility of revision (which is not impossible). One writer told me last night that usually competitions have more complex rules about copyright and ownership of contest entries, mainly because copyright law in this country operates on the presumption that an author has a moral right to the work in question and that their interests are paramount. What is even more disturbing, Siy points out, is that the competition is open to minors. (13 and up, says the rules for the competition.) Here, I suspect, the rules are more complex. Parental consent ought to be required in these cases, especially if it turns out that this is a legal assignment of ownership.

It is clear to me, and to those who are aware of these and other similar things, that there are people who are preying on other people who are unaware of their rights as creators. The use of these rights come with responsibilities, of course. One of these in particular is to use their creativity in the best way possible, for the good of their communities of accountability. (I am therefore not too fond of the solipsistic model of artistic creativity.) But it remains that when creative people make something, they must receive, in terms of natural justice, what is due them for their work. That is the underlying principle of copyright, and one which many forget.

3. And since it is World Poetry Day, there is an event going on at the Ayala Triangle Gardens this evening at 6:30 PM. An alternative for those preferring to hear about something sports-related is tonight’s Dialogues at Starbucks event at their High Street drive-through branch near MC Home Depot. The topic, which is turning out to be quite relevant in the light of the recent Challenge Cup bronze finish of the Philippine team, is about how football is becoming a tool to empower young persons in poor communities.

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