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Clarity on Social Media Copyright by Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) answers the most frequently asked questions about sharing and uploading content on social media without permission from the original content creator.

The IPOPHL cited under Sec. 172 of the Philippines Intellectual Property (IP) Code of 1997 -protects literary, artistic, scientific, and scholarly pieces. Works covered by copyright are typically safeguarded during the author’s lifetime plus 50 years after death.

On the other hand, the most often used or shared copyright-eligible content on social media is composed of images, videos, graphics, and written works including articles, poems, songs, and even memes. Even if the image is disseminated without proper credit that isn’t registered with IPOPHL, it is nonetheless illegal because a copyrightable work instantly enjoys copyright protection the moment it is made.

Furthermore, the IPOPHL also makes it clear that the share and retweet buttons on Facebook and Twitter are not prohibited. Concerns may arise due to the shared content and sharing practices. The use of the Share and Retweet buttons is strongly encouraged. After all, if the content owner makes a post public, that should indicate his intention to have his word and work out with proper recognition, which could be achieved with the Share and Retweet buttons, as these can show the author as the original source, and thus the most likely creator of a post or tweet.

Some people, however, continue to download photos or videos from their feeds and upload them to their own accounts to make it appear that the content is their own. Some people also copy-paste text-based content instead of sharing or retweeting it. Such acts may constitute infringement.

Moreover, even if there is no commercial gain for the sharer or poster, using the phrase “CTTO” or “Credits to the Owner” may be illegal because a copyright owner has two sets of rights -moral and economic rights. The right to attribution is included in the scope of moral rights. So, being properly recognised as the author of a post, even if not for monetary gain, is an exclusive right that any copyright holder may exercise.

The IPOPHL emphasised those posted or published on the internet are not automatically become part of the public domain. However, when the term of protection for a protected work expires, the work enters the public domain and can be freely used. Creators can also renounce their copyright willingly by declaring this in plain language.

By sharing motivational quotes or memes, IPOPHL stressed that sharing quotes alone does not constitute copyright infringement, whereas uploading an entire book that is not yet in the public domain would, and that the answer depends on the photo background used.

If the quote or meme was posted with a photo that was stolen as a background, this constitutes infringement. If shared as text alone or on the background of a photo that is already in the public domain, this is acceptable. Since copies and shares occur every second on social media, it is difficult to identify the original author unless they are well-known. This turns into the “share at your own risk” policy.

Hence, based on the provisions of the IP Code in the Philippines, any person found guilty of copyright infringement, aiding or abetting copyright infringement is subject to imprisonment for one to three years and a fine between Php50,000 and Php150,000 for a first offence.

A person may not go to jail, however, if the IP rights holder opts for an out-of-court settlement or the more amicable path of mediation. It is ultimately up to rights holders to decide how to enforce their intellectual property rights.

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