An expert on intellectual property on Wednesday said he doesn’t believe that actress Cherie Gil could lay claim to the iconic “second rate, trying hard copycat” line as her intellectual property.
Veteran actress Cherie Gil claiming she owns the rights to the memorable line—through her lawyer – sent a Cease and Desist letter to Viva Films, which is currently running the musical adaptation of the film “Bituing Walang Ningning” at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila. demanding for the iconic line to be struck from the musical in its succeeding show dates.
According to lawyer Roderick Vera, managing partner of Vera & Associates and a member of the Intellectual Property Association of the Philippines (IPAP), the actress’ claim to intellectual property would be based on a martial law-era decree.
He said any rights that were created in the film “Bituing Walang Ningning,” which was released in 1985, would have to be based on Presidential Decree (PD) 49 or the old copyright law, not Republic Act 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code, which was enacted into law in June 1997 and took effect on January 1, 1998.
“Under PD 49, copyright shall belong to the CREATOR from the moment of creation (Section 2). Consequently, for cinematographic works, the creators ARE [the]producer, the author of the scenario, the composer of the music, the film director, the photographic director and the author of the work. The law at [the]time does not give any credit to the actor in the film,” Vera told The Manila Times in an e-mail comment.
“The issue of ownership can be answered by what the law says.
Ownership of the copyright belongs to the creators of the work [in this case the film]. For films, the law says that actors or performers are not creators. Without knowing any contractual agreement, the law sets the default. What was written above is the default,” he said.
Vera added that Viva Films, as the producer of the original film and the musical being shown at the Newport Theatre of Performing Arts, rightfully owns the copyright and thus, “has the right to transform the film into a play.”
“They are the producers of [the]film, hence creators, hence owners of the copyright of the film. Making the film into a stage play is considered a derivative work. As owners, producers have the right to transform the film into a play.
“If indeed Cherie Gil is considering herself as the author or owner of the copyright of that famous line, why is she only protesting now? That line has been copied and performed countless times. If she believes she is the owner, she should have sent cease and desist letters to everyone,” Vera argued.
“Lastly, if we allow Cherie Gil’s argument to prosper, then [US actor] Roy Scheider [who starred in the film ‘Jaws’ can claim he owns ‘You are going to need a bigger boat’ or James Earl Jones [the voice of the character Darth Vader in ‘Star Wars’]claiming ‘I am your father’ as his.”
Viva Communications Inc. counsel Heather Annang on Tuesday said Gil has no basis whatsoever for claiming she owns the copyright to the “copycat” line.
According to Annang, Viva clearly owns the rights to the film, and its story, which was written by Nerissa Cabral, with a script from Orlando Nadres. Moreover, the lawyer stressed that even the work of Bituin’s director Emmanuel Borlaza, who was also present at the news conference, and that of its entire cast, including Gil, is Viva’s property.
Borlaza, who is now 80 years old, said for the record that it was he who authored the line during the movie’s filming, since he had always been given a free hand by del Rosario to revise scripts as he saw fit. The respected filmmaker added that he cannot fathom why Gil would even make such a claim, but much as he would like to speak with her to clarify the issue, the actress remains unreachable while on a trip to the United States.
Meanwhile, Gil’s manager, June Rufino, also an executive at Viva Films, told a select group of entertainment writers on Tuesday that when she had spoken to her talent regarding the issue, Gil firmly told her that she should stay out of it.
“Hindi nagkulang si June ng paalala kay Cherie, pero sinabi raw nito na labas sa isyu ang manager niya,” a source of The Manila Times said.