THE conjugal defense of plagiarism in the Philippine tourism ad campaign that is being assiduously circulated in the media should be turned on its head, lest plagiarism become standard practice in the Philippine advertising industry. This is how the worm of plagiarism infected tourism marketing in the country for decades.
The offending article, entitled “An ad campaign is a conjugal work of client and agency” and by-lined by a certain Dindo Danao (Manila Times, June 19, 2017), mocks and violates the laws of copyright and trademarks that are recognized in all creative industries (advertising included). It would excuse dishonesty in the advertising agency business, for so long as the client gives its consent. It contends that admen should be compensated for their shabby worthless work even after being found out.
A suicidal defense
This defense is probably suicidal. It sets the stage for Filipino taxpayers to demand the return of public money (P650million, according to the contract) that has already been paid by the Department of Tourism for the ethically challenged ad campaign. Why on earth should the republic be compensating a business for conning it?
If McCann Worldgroup Philippines really believes in this weird defense of plagiarism, it should sign its name to the op-ed piece, instead of letting a PR man hawk it. Who would hire an advertising agency that cannot deal on the originality of its promotional ideas?
Conjugal act of client and agency
I have already discussed at length how the Department of Tourism under three successive secretaries blindly and irresponsibly copied the tourism campaigns of other states (“Three times, DOT copied tourism campaigns of other states,” Manila Times, June 20, 2017). I cited the nature of the theft and the advertising agencies involved.
In Mr. Dindo Danao’s depiction of the act of dishonesty, the transgression sounds a little obscene. He wrote:
“[There is] a principle widely observed in the advertising industry. Any campaign output is a work in progress with the conjugal consent of the client and the ad agency.
The creation of an ad is a conjugal consent between the client and the advertising agency.
Let me cite the step-by-step process globally recognized by international clients and multinational agencies.
1. The first step involves the client giving the communication brief to the agency.
2. Afterwards, the agency gets market insights through market research.
3. The client then is informed on the results of research, which may be rather through qualitative, quantitative, focus group discussions or other means.
4. After this, the client gives conformity to research data.
5. The agency sits down with the client for strategic planning, which entails a series of client-agency meetings.
6. After concluding client-agency meetings for strategic planning, the latter then presents the strategic plans on a wholistic approach.
7. With the presentation, the client either approves or rejects the campaign strategy framework.
8. Once the client gives the go signal, the agency prepares creative materials for television commercial, radio, print, new media, activation and other related supports for the campaign.
9. With this long process, story boards and concepts are developed, revised, and repeatedly until the client again gives the green light.
10. Once approval is given, production cost estimates are prepared by the agency and signed in conformity by the client.”
He goes on and on and on.
The only thing this wordy explanation shows is that the plagiarism was a laborious effort (it took some doing). In my book, this labored dishonesty compounds the crime and should compound the penalty.
Amazingly, Danao wants to shift the responsibility for the mess from the agency to the client (who should show proof of the plagiarism) and to the courts. This is totally deranged, and it will become obvious to readers in the discussion that follows.
Copyright, designs and patent law
A judge once said, “Anything worth copying is worth protecting.” Reproduction of a substantial part of a copyrighted work may constitute infringement.
In our profession of journalism and literature, we know that our work is governed by the law on copyright and intellectual property. I keep abreast of trends in the law by purchasing regularly McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists (Butterworth’s, London, 2002). I also have on hand the volume, The Law of Journalism and Mass Communication (CQ Press. Washington, D.C, 2010). The first is British; the second is American.
Copyright is a branch of intellectual property law—that is to say, it protects the products of people’s skill, creativity, labor or time. Copyright does not have to be registered.
Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 of the UK, copyright protects any literary, dramatic or artistic, or musical work, sound recording, film, broadcast or typographical arrangement.
In the US, trademark law protects creations such as advertising slogans, movie and book titles, and cartoon characters. Patent law protects inventions. Patent, trademark and copyright statutes are all categorized as intellectual property.
Generally, intellectual property laws, particularly patent and copyright statutes, are intended to encourage creativity, ensuring that people will benefit financially from their creations.
Epidemic of plagiarism
Plagiarism and piracy are rampant in the world today.
Plagiarism commonly means using another person’s ideas without attribution.
Piracy means using the creative property of others without their permission.
Modern technology has abetted the urge to copy and steal. We would not enjoy so much films and pop music today if not for the wondrous modern copying devices for DVD and CD.
The Internet has also made plagiarism easier than ever before. From elementary schools to the highest levels of academia, the ease of downloading and copying online information has led to an epidemic of digital plagiarism. Manny Pangilinan was the victim of the easiness of plagiarism when his speechwriters lazily copied online the commencement speeches of some celebrities. The plagiarism, like the DoT plagiarisms, was easily detected and denounced.
Copying original work for a term paper in school is one thing. Copying or stealing ideas for a country’s tourism advertising campaign is something else.
Defending plagiarism as an act with consent is like the absurd defense of rape as consensual.