PGTW: The Palanca Awards: changing the rules

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 12 March 2015, Thursday

The Palanca Awards: changing the rules

The writers’ beehive is buzzing with news about the revised rules for the 2015 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the oldest and most prestigious recognition program for creative writers today.

The Foundation, as the contest sponsor, has every right to change its rules as it sees fit, and they have done so the past several years.  After all, no one is being forced to join the contest.

However, it is disturbing that some of the new rules seem to confer advantages to the sponsor that may be considered unfair to the author, one of which is the waiver of the author’s moral rights over their work.

Republic Act No. 10372 (2012), The Intellectual Property Code (IPC), which amends some provisions of the Code’s earlier incarnation, RA No. 8293, provides in Sec. 198, “Term of Moral Rights” that the right of an author…shall last during the lifetime of the author and in perpetuity after his death…the moral rights shall not be assignable or subject to license.”

In RA 8293’s Sec. 193, among the ‘moral rights’ is the requirement “that the authorship of the works be attributed to [the author]” and that the author’s name “as far as practicable, be indicated in a prominent way on the copies, and in connection with the public use of his work.”

The author also has moral rights to alter their work, withhold it from publication, object to any sort of modification or “other derogatory action” in relation to their work, and “to restrain the use of his name” in connection with a work not their own or a “distorted version” of it.

Under 2015 Palanca Awards Rule No. 21 (posted on their website), these moral rights would be handed over to the Foundation, so that in theory they may alter the author’s work, publish it without attribution, and perform other related acts:

“21. … In the case of a winning Work or Works, the Contestant further grants and assigns to the Sponsor the concurrent and non-exclusive right to exercise the full copyright and all other intellectual property rights over such Work(s), as well as all intellectual property rights over the Contestant’s previous Palanca Award prize – winning work(s) if any, (collectively, the “Work(s)”), and waives all moral rights over all his or her Palanca Award prize-winning Work(s) in favor of the Sponsor.”

Not only will the Foundation have the moral rights to the work – this when the IPC states that moral rights are perpetual and “shall not be assignable” – they will also claim “all intellectual property rights” over the author’s previous Palanca Award-winning works in what looks like a bid to retroactively assert a type of control they did not seek in previous years.

Granted, the phrase “concurrent and non-exclusive” means the author still holds the same rights as well. But let’s say the author refuses to allow a publisher to include their work in an anthology; the publisher could then approach the Foundation for the same thing.

Some writers point out that it’s the waiver of moral rights that is a new rule this year, while the assignment of worldwide rights and copyright over all past winning works was already included in the 2014 rules, something that slipped under the writers’ radar then.

It’s unlikely that the Foundation has any intention to hand authors a raw deal, but it looks like there was some over-eager tweaking of the rules.

I have won a Palanca Award and deeply appreciate the honor and prestige it bestows (at least in the public eye – we writers know the truth, that we’re only as good as our last work), but the new rules are worrisome and could make some writers reconsider entering this year’s contest.

There’s nothing to stop people from joining under these circumstances; it’s an individual decision to make. Many write pieces specifically for this contest, hoping for a shot at literary glory. It’s up to the writer to weigh their chances of winning or placing, and the pros and cons of abiding by these rules should their entry receive an award.

Only read the fine print first. Caveat emptor.

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