Meeting the Heirs
Last April 11, 2012, FILCOLS’ Executive Officer for Membership and Documentation Beverly W. Siy met up with the heirs of respected writers of the country.
Wanted: A Middle Man for the Authors
Siy met up with Selma Cortes, one of the children of NVM Gonzales at the Gonzales Residence in University of the Philippines Campus, Diliman, Quezon City. Cortes wanted to know more about copyright infringement because some parts of the book UP Diliman, Home and Campus, one of the books written and edited by her mother, Narita M. Gonzales, found its way to Google Books database. Cortes asked UP Press, the publisher of the book, if it had an agreement with Google Books. UP Press replied in the negative. It had just started digitizing some of its publications and UP Press told Cortes that they only turn a UP Press book into an e-book if its topic is of international concern.
Cortes said that the introduction of the book and one whole article of her mother can be found in the Google Books.
Cortes also wanted to know if she or her family may turn into e-book form some works that were written by her mother and were published by a publisher that already closed down. “Does my mother (in her 90s) have the right to do that?” she asked.
Cortes also aired some problems that they, as the heirs of NVM Gonzales, encounter. Her father told her long ago that if someone wants to use or publish his work in the future, she (or the family) should ask for a fee worth P5000. That way, they (the heirs) wouldn’t worry anymore if the publisher prints one hundred or one thousand copies of the book.
Cortes encountered a publisher who asked if it can include her father’s work in a textbook for a fee worth P2000. When Cortes mentioned that it wasn’t her who gave the said amount but the author when he was still around, the publisher said, “We find it expensive. So, never mind. We won’t include it anymore.”
Cortes said that during this kind of moment, she feels sad and insulted.
“We are like beggars,” was her exact statement.
Cortes is also a writer and she shared an experience that included one of her works. It happened in the school where she teaches. One of the teachers included her work in a module. The teacher did not pay her anything, didn’t even ask for permission from her. The module was sold to the students.
Cortes consulted some lawyers from the UP College of Law. According to them, the teacher was not violating any kind of law since it was for educational purposes and the module was not sold commercially.
Cortes felt helpless. She let it pass because she believes that if she asked for a fee from the teacher who used her work, she will be branded as “mukhang pera.” She then reminded Siy of a certain Filipino mind set: writers lose their faces if they are deemed as “mukhang pera.”
She said that the fee being asked by the author or the family of the author doesn’t go to waste any way. She showed to Siy some parts of their ceiling that needed immediate repair. She also mentioned that Gonzales family established the NVM, Inc. which organized the NVM Gonzales Award. Its aim is to help discover the talents in writing of the Filipino youth. The last awarding was held in 2006. In the US where some of the Gonzales children are living, the NVM, Inc. continues to give writing workshops to the children of the Filipinos based there.
She mentioned that there must be an organization that will act as a middle man for the authors. That way, the authors will receive a just compensation for the use of their work because it’s not them doing the negotiations with a publisher. It will also be easier for authors to be more formal and ask for just compensation from their friends who want to use their works. Some friends (who became publishers) use their connection and friendship to avail of a lower fee from the authors, Cortes observed.
This organization may also work as an “investigator” for the authors. Cortes said that most of them don’t have time and resources to check the text books that are carrying their parents’ works. They want to know if the publisher of the text book (that includes Gonzaleses’ works) got a permit from them or from their parents. Siy added that it will be a very exhausting task because there are lots of text books being published and being used in private schools. Some of these publishers don’t sell their books in the National Book Store anymore, so the “investigator” must go directly to the schools and check the students’ text books.
Cortes also wants to have copies of the contract signed by her parents with their publishers. A few years ago, a fire destroyed their home. They lost most of their parents’ documents. She said, this kind of organization may want to help the authors or the heirs of the authors by securing copies of contracts from the publishers.
Cortes also noted that contemporary textbooks do not show the author’s name anymore in the table of contents. She wished that there’s law that requires the publisher to put the name of the author of a certain text in the table of contents to identify the origin of a work.
FILCOLS will earn more?
Beverly Siy went to UP Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas on the same day. She met FILCOLS member Elyrah Salanga-Torralba, an author and a professor from the said department. She is one of the children of the late columnist and multi-awarded writer Alfrredo Navarro Salanga. As a representative of her mother, Salanga-Torralba filled out the FILCOLS membership form that day. She got her mother’s permission to sign the form a few days ago.
During the meet up, she mentioned that some editors include her father’s poetry in their books without the family’s permission and worse, without their knowledge. One of these editors, unfortunately, was even a family friend. This editor told her that she should even feel proud that her father’s work was included in the collection. Salanga-Torralba said that her family especially her mother feels upset with this kind of attitude. They really wished that permission be asked from them before her father’s work is used or included in any publication.
She also relayed that one writer discouraged her from joining FILCOLS. According to her, this writer believes that the organization will earn more than the FILCOLS author-members. Siy explained that FILCOLS work and tasks are numerous and some are quite costly. One of them involves massive copyright awareness campaign done in all parts of the country. FILCOLS talk to the users of copyrighted materials so they will have more respect for the copyright owners and their heirs. Even those who are non-members of FILCOLS benefit from this campaign.
Of checks and royalties
Beverly Siy proceeded to Cubao to meet with Corazon Kabigting, the heir of Filipino literature star couple Genoveva “Aling Bebang” Edroza Matute and Epifanio Matute. Kabigting is the niece of Aling Bebang. A retired school teacher and administrator in her 60s, Kabigting is single and lives with her relatives in the house where the Matutes used to live. She took care of the couple until their last days. She is happy to be the heir of the Matutes.
According to her, she receives royalties and payments from publishers. Some of them pay in a regular basis, some of them do not. She said most of these publishers pay P1500 for the use of one work by the Matutes. It pains her when she is being asked to claim the payment because some of the publishers’ offices are so far away and it cost her a lot to commute. She is also scared that she might meet an accident during her commute. The amount P1500 is certainly not enough to cover for medical expenses if it happens, she observed. She also said that some publishers pay in check and the banks of the publishers are located far from the publishers’ offices. Sometimes she needed to allot another day to commute to the bank for the encashment of the check. It costs her more money because she had to go back home from the publishers’ offices and then commute again another day to go to the bank.
Siy mentioned some of the challenges that the Gonzales family are facing. Kabigting shared that she also doesn’t have time, resources and even the energy to check the text books that might have used Matutes’ works. “Matanda na ‘ko, sino pa ang mag-aasikaso?” she asked. She said that she is very thankful that some publishers still pay royalties.
She showed Siy her small collection of Matutes’ books. It was encased in a wooden cabinet. She said during the typhoon Ondoy, their house was submerged in flood. Most of the books were damaged. She hopes to have copies of some of the damaged books but she isn’t sure if the publisher will give them for free.