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Aug 12th
Home Columns JGL Eye ON PLAGIARISM II: Absence of Copyright (©) Notice Does Not Bar Liability
ON PLAGIARISM II: Absence of Copyright (©) Notice Does Not Bar Liability PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - JGL Eye
Friday, 05 November 2010 10:12





Journal Group Link International)


C HICAGO (jGLi) –If a writer, like a journalist, reads an information from a source, like a book, magazine, newspaper or Internet, he or she cannot just copy and reproduce it in another publication or outlet without citing the original name of the author, publication and other information, like the date of publication and page number or the website address.


If the word, for instance, being borrowed is “purple” to describe something, the writer cannot just copy the word or idea and write and supplant it with similar word or synonym like “violet” without citing the source and not be accused of plagiarism.


Nor can a writer dock charges of plagiarism if he embellishes “purple” with additional words. Just check out such cases as Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119, 121 (2d Cir. 1930), Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 56 (2d Cir. 1936) and Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 56 (2d Cir. 1936).


“Any work created in the USA after 1 Mar 1989 is automatically protected by copyright, even if there is no copyright notice attached to the work. 17 USC §§ 102, 401, and 405,” according to a 2000 copyright essay, “Plagiarism in Colleges in USA,” last updated on 3 Feb 2007, written by Dr. Ronald B. Standler, a copyright lawyer. It can be accessed in this website:


It happened to me several years ago. One day while I was browsing the front page of San Francisco, California-based weekly Philippine News, I had to double take.




I told myself, hey, this story looked familiar. I reviewed the first two paragraphs. I told myself, hey, this is my story. Then, I went over the entire story. The only difference was that it carried a different byline – “By Neil Gonzales” not “By Joseph G. Lariosa”!


My copyright lawyer immediately fired off a letter to then publisher-editor Alex Esclamado, serving notice that he was filing a federal copyright lawsuit on my behalf against Philippine News.


A week later, I got a phone call from Mr. Esclamado, saying, “Joseph, please, on bended knees, don’t sue me,” a distraught Mr. Esclamado, my former boss in Philippine News, was pleading to me on the other line. “I already fired the reporter, Neil Gonzales, for reprinting your story and replacing your byline with his. Patawad (forgive me), Joseph.”


The sympathetic gene in me had prevailed over my hawkish lawyer, who told me that had I pushed forward with my lawsuit against Philippine News and Mr. Esclamado, I would have been awarded thousands of dollars in damages.


On another front, while I was covering either the “Joc-Joc” Bolante or the Michael Ray Aquino cases, I always noticed that reporters of Philippine Star would pick up information from my stories carried by GMANews TV website in the Philippines and my other outlets. But the Star would not attribute to GMANews TV or my other outlets as its sources of information.




O nly recently, I broke the exclusive story in GMANews TV website and my other outlets that Michael Ray Aquino’s habeas corpus was denied. A Philippine Star reporter wanted mightily to write a follow-up story about my story. But because he did not want to cite the GMANews TV or my other outlets as his source of his story, he quoted Philippine Justice Secretary Leila De Lima as saying that the judge, handling the appeal of the extradition of Michael Ray Aquino “had denied the appeal last Oct. 21.” When I spoke to the judge and the clerk of court about the Star report, they told me that the judge never issued a decision on Oct. 21. This is a plain and simple invented story.


This reminded of the New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines, who resigned in the wake of the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal in 2003. Mr. Blair, who also resigned, was accused of “frequent acts of journalistic fraud." He was charged with making up his stories and misleading the readers.




On one or two occasions, I wrote the editors of Philippine Star about the plagiarism being committed by their reporters. But I never got a reply. In some mainstream publications in the U.S., like the New York Times or Chicago Tribune, they have the so-called “ombudsman” or public editor, who investigates complaints of readers. None of the Philippine newspapers appear to have this kind of editorial position.


I remember the case of a well-known columnist of the Tribune, who was accused of having sexual liaison with one of its readers, a minor, who was befriended by the columnist. The ombudsman or public editor had conducted an investigation, which led to the firing of the columnist.


But the Philippine Star is not alone in violating copyright laws.

Most Filipino-American publications, like in the case of Philippine News that I cited earlier, are also freely “copy-and-pasting” or rewriting articles online and in hard copies from Philippine publications without getting expressed permissions from Philippine-based publishers.


Philippine-based publishers and Filipino-American publishers should forge an agreement to exchange news for as long as they cite each other’s sources.


If not, newspapers from the Philippines should pay area stringers in the U.S. for breaking stories and photos in the U.S. And Filipino-American publishers pay area stringers in the Philippines for breaking stories and photos in the Philippines to strengthen copyright laws. They pretty well know that stories and photos they want to have are not usually carried by such international news agencies like the Associated Press or Reuters. # # #


Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at:  (



Last Updated on Friday, 05 November 2010 10:44

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