Penman No. 139: Memo to the Palancas

Penman for Monday, March 9, 2015

[THIS JUST IN: Mrs. Sylvia Palanca-Quirino, director-general of the Palanca Awards, called me to announce that the implementation of the copyright rule discussed below will be suspended pending a review to be conducted by the foundation.]

THE PALANCA Awards—the country’s best known and, especially for young writers, still the worthiest literary award to go for—are entering their 65th year this year. I was happy to be reminded of this milestone by an email I recently received from a representative of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature Foundation, which administers the awards. The rules and entry forms, I was told, were now available at http://palancaawards.com.ph/newPalanca/entries.php.

I took a peek at that page—not because I was thinking of joining, something I haven’t done in 15 years since I was inducted into the Hall of Fame—but because I was curious to see what was going on with the Palancas, to which I and hundreds of other Filipino writers owe so much of whatever we’ve made of ourselves and of our work.

For the members of my generation—those of us who began our writing careers under martial law, when there were hardly any publishing venues and free speech was under the gravest threat—the Palancas were a lifeline, engendering the production of good new work, even though much of this would come to light only after 1986.

The Palanca Awards have also been vital to the encouragement and promotion of new writing from the regions and from young writers, for whom special categories have been added. Its biennial prize for the novel—which is up for grabs again this year—is key to the production of new work in this flagship genre, which I’ve argued is really our only way to get our writing known to publishers and audiences overseas.

For all these, the Palanca Foundation and family deserve every Filipino writer’s deep gratitude.

I should note, however, something I spotted in the rules that might be cause for concern. Pardon the long quote, but you’ll see why this should raise eyebrows:

“21. In submitting the Work(s) the contestant and parent/guardian (if applicable) (the “Contestant”) accepts and agrees to the rules of the contest (the “Rules”). In the case of a winning Work or Works, the Contestant further grants and assigns to the Sponsor the concurrent and non-exclusive right to exercise the full copyright and all other intellectual property rights over such Work(s), as well as all intellectual property rights over the Contestant’s previous Palanca Award prize–winning work(s) if any, (collectively, the “Work(s)”), and waives all moral rights over all his or her Palanca Award prize-winning Work(s) in favor of the Sponsor.

“This grant, assignment, and waiver of rights (the “Sponsor’s Rights”), may be exercised by the Sponsor to the extent permitted under existing laws applicable at the time of exercise. The Sponsor’s Rights shall extend to all forms of storage, transmission, dissemination, and communication, presently existing or subsequently created. To the extent permitted by law, the Sponsor’s Rights shall be worldwide, continuous, and may be exercised by the Sponsor for the maximum time allowed by applicable law. In furtherance of education the Sponsor reserves the right to donate copies of individual winning Works or compilations of Winning Work(s) to public and private educational institutions and public libraries.

“To promote Philippine Literature in the modern world of information technology, the Sponsor intends to make the winning entries accessible through the Internet or other electronic media, to serve as a literary archive of the contest. The website or other media to be established for this purpose are intended to be a repository of the award-winning Works, recording the history of the development of Philippine literature over the years through the Palanca Awards. In making the Work(s) thus available to the public, the Sponsor intends purely to promote literary appreciation for and public awareness of such Work(s), and not to commercially exploit the same. Contestants must indicate on the Official Entry Form whether they agree to have their Work(s) posted on the CPMA website and made available for downloading by the public for free in the event that a prize is awarded for the entry; in the absence of any indication in the entry form, it is presumed that the author has agreed to such inclusion of the Work. To encourage use for educational purposes, winning Work(s) shall be posted on the website in their entirety. Should any winning author subsequently instruct the Sponsor in writing to include or remove the Work(s) from the Internet archive, such instruction will be honored and the Work shall be included or removed from the Internet archive within a reasonable time from Sponsor’s receipt of the author’s written instruction. The exclusion of any winning Work or Works from the website shall not constitute a waiver of any of the Sponsor’s Rights.

“The prize money which may be awarded to the Contestant for the Work(s) shall constitute full payment for the Sponsor’s Rights, and shall be in lieu of any royalties or other compensation to the Contestant.”

Please correct me if I’m wrong (and I hope I am), but this this reads to me—and I wonder who else will read the rules so carefully—practically like a blanket waiver or surrender of one’s rights to the present work, including those to one’s previous winning works, as well as e-book rights—to the foundation. Unless you explicitly say no, your winning work could also be published in its entirety online and downloaded.

In this age when Filipino writers have just begun to understand the value of their work as intellectual property and to exercise those rights, this rule could be a deal-breaker for many established authors wanting to join the competition, and a rather onerous imposition on new writers dying to get a break.

Some other Palanca oldtimers like fellow Hall of Famer Krip Yuson and I have had the occasional pleasure of a private lunch with Palanca Awards director-general Sylvia Palanca-Quirino to informally review the rules and update them if necessary. Since Sylvia’s not been too well lately, we haven’t had this privilege, else I would have told her personally what I’m saying now, thinking that this over-claiming of intellectual property rights could have been a well-intentioned oversight meant to facilitate the promotion of Philippine literature.

But since the rules are out there and the competition is now officially open to all, I feel obliged—on behalf of my fellow writers—to go public with this appeal to review and moderate those rules, to make for a competition that’s freer, fairer, and more fun.

(Image from palancaawards.com)

5 thoughts on “Penman No. 139: Memo to the Palancas

  1. Sir Butch! Good to come across this!

    This exactly is a concern of mine. Back when I was in med school, me and a friend got the crazy idea of submitting something for the Palancas that year. I ended up having to push her to finish her children’s short on the day of the deadline while I was editing what she finished. And she did win 3rd place that year!

    I’ve always been meaning to get a hold of that short story again, have a friend illustrate it, and send it off to my friend as a surprise birthday gift. However, I was hindered by that exact same copyright rule. I’m glad you took this up and that they did take notice. I do hope that I will be able to have the chance to share my friend’s work with her in the form of a book and maybe help her share it with children. 🙂

    Sincerely,
    Doc Harry

  2. Good day Sir Butch, I’d like to ask a question about the Palanca Awards – coming from a young writer, albeit having a different perspective when it comes to writing.

    Is it obligatory for a writer to join the Palancas? I don’t know about the others, but I personally don’t find any reason to participate (though, some writers I know say that winning a Palanca means that you’re already a “made man” in the Filipino literary world).

    • hi–no, it isn’t obligatory, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. many good writers never joined a competition nor felt they had to, to prove their worth.

      however, it’s a great help to know just how others will respond to your work. joining the palancas will give you some idea of where you stand (hardly the final word, mind you, whether you win or lose). better yet, join a workshop to get some direct feedback from others. that’s if you’re interested in other people’s opinions of your work (and you need humility to do that, which is always good). if you’re writing for yourself, then there’s no need for any of this. 😉

  3. Pingback: 98 – On Two Years Down The Blogging Road | The Monching's Guide

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