Hey, readers. David from Flipside here. It’s been a while since we posted anything at all on this blog, but something happened a week ago which I felt I needed to address.
First, a chronology of events:
Last Thursday, March 5th, Paolo Chikiamco alerted me to the fact that Manilarama Music—which from what I gather is a local events organizer, focusing on indie bands and musicians—had put together a gig at Selda-Dos Music Bar and Studio with the theme ‘Alternative Alamat’. (Alternative Alamat is also the title of a book Paolo edited.) The gig took place on Thursday, February 26th. To promote the gig, Manilarama used the cover of the Alternative Alamat anthology in a poster—
Compare to the original book cover (presented here with a far more tolerable resolution)—
It would appear that all the folks at Manilarama did was to slap on a bunch of band names and some logos and then called it a day — they didn’t even remove the ‘EDITED BY PAOLO CHIKIAMCO’ at the bottom. But sloppy work wasn’t the problem. What bothered Paolo was that no one informed him that Manilarama would be repurposing the book cover as a poster, and that no one credited Mervin Malonzo (of Tabi Po fame), the person who designed said cover. Somehow, though, Paolo heard about the gig and saw the poster on Facebook. He shared the poster on his own timeline, where his friends and colleagues, including Mervin and myself, could see the lapse of judgment on Manilarama’s part. (I use that term with no sarcasm—I’ll explain later.)
A few people were quite pissed off at this infringement of rights, and quite understandably so. Paolo contacted Manilarama (not entirely sure, but I think it was either an email or a private message on Facebook) and asked them to—at the very least—credit Mervin. Mervin comically commented on the original post on Manilarama’s page, to the effect of “Ako ang nag-design ng book cover na ito. Walang nag-credit sa akin, kaya ako na lang ang magke-credit sa sarili ko.” I wasn’t directly involved in the book (I wasn’t even a Flipside employee yet when it was published), but as the current head of Flipside’s trade publishing arm, I thought I’d jump into the fray, anyway. (Because, hey, three voices are better than two, yeah?) I sent Manilarama a private message, requesting that they “update the post linked above to state explicitly that [they] used the cover of Paolo’s book to make the poster, and to give due credit to Mervin.” To this day, it appears that they haven’t even opened my message, so I guess I can’t really say I contributed much to rectifying the situation. I periodically monitored Manilarama’s page, but there would be no changes until the next day.
On Friday, March 6th, I checked Manilarama’s page again, and found that the caption to the poster (which previously only listed the gig’s details) had been edited—
On my end, I thought that was enough. But as Paolo pointed out, “‘thanking’ us for the art makes things *worse* not better,” and so he contacted them again to explain what, in fact, should be done. And so, another revision to the post was made, and thankfully, Paolo took a screenshot of said post—
So I thought about it again—and Paolo was right. Merely “thanking” him and Mervin for the cover implies that Manilarama sought and received Paolo and Mervin’s permission to use the cover prior to using it for their poster, which is simply inaccurate. Making things right would require admitting (not only to Paolo and Mervin, but also to their audience) that what they did was wrong. And to their credit, that, they did. Unfortunately, as of Monday, March 9, Manilarama had taken down any and all posts related to Alternative Alamat.
A side note: Some of Paolo’s friends wanted more retribution than that, but as Paolo pointed out, the way that the whole thing was carried out was “too slipshod, grade-school-plagiarist.” I tend to agree—I detect no malice behind the act (again, they didn’t even bother taking Paolo’s name off the cover!), so my conclusion is that they simply didn’t know any better.
Honestly, the idea of using reimagined folklore as a theme for a music gig is kind of awesome. If the whole thing were pulled off properly (and I’d heard about it early enough), I probably would’ve gone. This whole fiasco, it seems, is borne of the widespread notion that anything and everything on the Internet is free game. This could not be farther from the truth. Paolo, Mervin, Eliza Victoria, Dean and Nikki Alfar, and everyone else in the local writing community do this not for the money (it’s no secret we don’t exactly get rich off these books), but for the love of it. They take pride in the work they produce (and I take pride in helping to facilitate its production), and it would sting if someone were to appropriate said work for their own needs without bothering to ask permission. I would launch into a diatribe regarding intellectual property rights, but I find that I am unable to launch into diatribes in general. Ergo, I shall attempt a summary: I personally believe art and knowledge should be shared with all (I’m a fan of the idea behind Creative Commons), but I also believe that a person’s moral rights to their work—or the right of attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work—should be irrevocable.
That is, as opposed to what the 2015 Palancas require of applicants. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist taking that dig!)