Help! Someone has stolen my property and re-selling it!

4 weeks ago

For almost 50 years, I had been an employee working for various news organisations. Officially, I “retired” on Dec 31, 2016 and the following day, I became what I call myself – an “independent contractor” to ply my knowledge, skills and experience in the media industry.

I have been (and still am) consulted on training, investigating wrong doings, people management and above all, what I do best – my writing or what the Copyright Act of Malaysia aptly describes as “literary work.”

In the course of my work, I either license my work to be used by any individual or assign my rights in my work to commission me, of course for a higher fee.

In the case of a licence, I become the licensor and the user becomes the licencee.

The literary work can be used by the licencee once or repeatedly or stored in its archives by agreement. At the end of the day, I can compile all articles in a book and I still maintain myself as the owner of the copyright.

Once I assign, the copyright of my articles (again depending on the agreement), they become the property of the licencee.

Just like ad and PR agencies who do work for their clients, the copyright (in most cases) is transferred to the clients.

I may enter an agreement to get a share of the profits if the article is re-sold to a third party.

I have in the past, allowed re-publication of my articles for a token RM1 licence fee for my articles to be used for common good and the community and for non-commercial purposes.

So, when billion-dollar outfits like Google, Facebook and Yahoo use my articles as “content” and drive traffic and earn millions, shouldn’t I be compensated?

I have no contract with these organisations, but it is not their God-given right to take (or steal) my literary work, plonk it somewhere and call it Google news.

I have no privity of contract with anyone except the licencee. Without any such arrangement, can some stranger (like Google or Facebook) whom I do not know, pick up my work and commercialise it (to put it crudely, make money) without my permission and reproduce it and monetize it without any effort?

To enjoy copyright, it must be original work, for which I must have spent time, effort and money to create. I meet these criteria.

So, why is Google stealing my articles and passing them off as “content” without any benefit to me?

This is the crux of the issue in Australia’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code law, which is currently in draft stage and targets Facebook alongside Google.

It follows an inquiry that found tech giants to be taking a disproportionately large share of online advertising revenue, even though much of their content came from media organisations. 

The Australia government has said it will adopt a mandatory code to require tech giants such as Google  and Facebook to pay local media for reusing their content.

The landmark measures would include fines worth millions of dollars for non-compliance and force transparency around the closely guarded algorithms firms use to rank content.

Oh course, when revenues running into billions are affected, the retort and response from Google was expected.

And expect fear and suspicion to be in the forefront!

ABC news reported: Google Australia and New Zealand managing director Mel Silva said the code would severely impact Google and its subsidiary YouTube.

… the proposed law, would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia. The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses — news media businesses — over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business.”

Unfair advantage to one group? Bunkum! How much has Google profited from unauthorised use of content from news organisations around the globe?

My question is: Who gives you the goddamm right to steal my work for you to prosper?

I cannot speak for news organisations and conglomerates who have private arrangements with the tech giants, but for independent contractors like me, aren’t I expected to be compensated because you are prospering on my hard work.

So, with all the hullabaloo about the Press Council and the dire straits the newspaper industry is in, why aren’t Malaysians pushing for law a’la Australia so that we can all claim for our share?

Of course, the tech giants with powerful lobbyists all over the world are going to pooh-pooh this and use their might including the US government to staveoff any such efforts.

They will arbitrarily dismiss Malaysia although they get billions of ringgit in revenue from our shores.

But then again, can we expect anything from our Multi-Media ministry which is more apt at censorship and curbing the rights of journalists? Or should journalists collectively sue for copyright infringement?

BY R. NADESWARAN

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