The campaign period that led to the elections was a time when political hopefuls shelled out large amounts of money to ensure their victory in the polls. While we were mostly aware of the monetary value of posters, t-shirts, and even television commercials, one other aspect of campaigning goes unchecked, and that is the cost of jingles blaring on a speaker plastered on top of a van.
After all, Filipinos are usually drawn to lively music, and the jingle tradition traces back to the 1950s, when Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson popularized the Lacson Mambo. Either way, these catchy tunes were very effective because they take advantage of your “Last Song Syndrome” (LSS) amidst the heavy traffic and the insane heat of the summer.
Unfortunately, due to the widespread use of jingles, it never crossed the minds of voters that these government hopefuls could be violating any regulation with their cute catchy jingles. As a matter of fact they are, a regulation none other than copyright infringement. According to the US Copyright Office, copyright infringement is the reproduction, distribution, performance, public display, or derivative work of a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner. Take for example Psy’s wildly famous Gangnam Style, with a little tinkering to the lyrics favoring the endeavors of the candidate (i.e. inserting their name), Filipinos were caught in its invasion, even dancing and singing to it without really understanding the true meaning of the already altered lyrics. More recently the rights for even using the song for campaigning were not allowed according to the news articles that spread across the country. So why is it that a lot of politicians still patterned their jingle with this song?
Looking into local laws, R.A. 8293, also known as the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines (a law drafted similarly to that of the United States), states that whoever thinks of a concept first, directly owns it without the need for registration. So if Composer 1 somehow makes up the lyrics and melody for a new song for Artist 1, then Composer 1 still has the rights to the song because he/she created it (disregarding record labels because that’s where it gets tricky). This is why in the Grammy Awards there is a Record of the Year award and a Song of the Year award; The former is awarded to the performer and the production team of a song while the latter is awarded to the writer and composer of a song. The two are distinct from one another because it’s where credit is divided between the writer and performer in cases where they are different people. In a nutshell, if a copyright to a song would be equivalent to an award in the Grammys, it would be the Song of the Year award, where the writer/producers always win, automatically.
But when you go back and think about how the elections went about, more than the posters and television ads, candidates still set out to make their own jingles. As disrespectful it may be for the citizens who are still catching up on some shut eye in the morning or in the afternoon for a siesta, they still blast the music as loud as it can. They’re already committing a violation just to help them win in the elections, which they claim would benefit the public.
So assuming we count all the mayors of the country and say all of them used a song for the elections, which they did not have the permission to use. Let us say all of the artists that filed a case against certain candidates turned out to win in their respective lawsuits. Then we would have to account for all 1,634 cities and municipalities in the country. The lowest penalty you could get in violating the act would have the option to settle an agreement between the people involved. If not then those who are accused might be subject to at least 1 year in prison in addition to dealing with a 50,000 peso fine. This could go up depending on the situation, so when you think about it, how much do they owe? Multiply the fines with the number of cities and municipalities then our candidates would have at least PHP 81,700,000 worth of fines due!
That is just for the local government units: imagine the numbers that would emerge if the computation included their opponents in the elections, their running mates or the jingle for their own slate. When you look at it in a way, the government probably shells out more money than the figures mentioned. Picture the roads we could rebuild or the families we could feed with that kind of money. So why does it appear as if no one got in trouble for stealing songs?
Because no one probably even sued.
May it be from the lack of interest in doing so, but maybe a lot of candidates actually care enough about the music artists and their rights that they chose to settle and pay the record company to allow them use of popular songs. But that does not ensure that the composer actually wants people using their songs for political jingles. Eventually, the money works its magic around, and candidates are allowed to use songs for their campaign. Our future leaders should always be aware of what the norms are in campaigning and take a second look on who are the people they could be stepping on. Because they were sent for the purpose of serving the public and it would not be so nice to see the public being robbed of their rights.