THE editorial of the Filipino Reporter's Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 2010 issue on plagiarism states that "for selfish reasons, the Supreme Court of the Philippines deviated from this norm when it cleared one of its members who was accused of plagiarizing four authors without attribution in a decision he wrote dismissing a petition of 70 Filipina comfort women during World War II."

In absolving their colleague, 10 justices, including the chief justice, accepted Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo's alibi that he did not have "malicious intent to appropriate another's work as his own."

Readers of the Filipino Reporter may recall that in its Nov. 24-30, 2006 issue, the editor wrote a scathing editorial captioned: "Where Has Shame Gone?" for a blatant act of plagiarism committed by the editorial staff of the Filipino Express.

Statement of facts

The editorial mentioned about an article with no byline in the Filipino Express' Nov. 20-26, 2006 issue captioned: "N.Y.'s Filipino church without churchgoers."

The truth is: this article was copied verbatim, without giving credit to the original author, Tina Shah, in her article "Celebrating Mass without the Masses" under her byline which was published in The New York Times issue of Nov. 12, 2006.

In addition, the original text of Shah's article was tampered by erasing mention of the Filipino Reporter as the source of news from home and instead substituted Filipino Express.

This is a blatant act of plagiarism in line with the common and legal definition of what constitutes plagiarism.

To date, the Filipino Express hasn't done anything to rectify the fraud to its readers, the Filipino Reporter and more so to Shah and The New York Times.

The law on plagiarism

The Revised Penal Code of the Philippines or any special law does not consider plagiarism a crime, except Section 33(b) of the Electronic Commerce Act.

Use of copyright material without attrition is a criminal offense.

Plagiarism is not a crime but is disapproved more on the ground of moral offense.

Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics, subject to sanctions like expulsion and other severe career damage. (From Wikipedia.)

Ronald B. Standler, in his article on plagiarism, wrote that laws in civilized societies regard expression as property of its author.

This is not only the law of the U.S. but also the law of more than 130 different nations that have rectified the 1886 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

Plagiarism — either by verbatim copying or paraphrasing — is infringement of a copyright, a kind of tort.

Plagiarism, according to Standler, is also a legal issue as a violation of copyright law.

The owner of a copyright could sue the plagiarist in federal court for violation of the copyright.

Any work created in the U.S. after March 1989 is automatically protected by copyright, even if there is no copyright notice attached to the work.

Recognizing this harm, the true author could sue the plagiarist in federal court for false designation of origin, since the plagiarist was misrepresenting someone else's work as his own.

Similarly, there are also possible remedies under state unfair competition law.

Finally, Standler concluded that beyond intellectual property issues such as copyright and trademark, the plagiarist committed fraud.

The plagiarist knows that he is not the true author of the work, yet the plagiarist willfully and deliberately puts his name on the work.

Plagiarism is fraud.

Author's comment

As a lawyer emeritus, it is my role to point out the jurisprudence on the law on plagiarism.

It is up to the authors of the three academic articles, namely, "A Fiduciary of Theory of Jus Cogens" by Prof. Evan Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent; "Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations in International Law" by Prof. Christian Tams; and "Breaking the Silence on Rape as an International Crime" by Dr. Mark Ellis of the International Bar Association, which were plagiarized or borrowed by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo in the Vinuya ponencia to pursue legal action based on the prevailing jurisprudence on plagiarism.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Atty. Edgar Ariel Recto for furnishing the author with the article on plagiarism by Ronald B. Standler.

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