TikTok is buzzing with two speeches of graduates with latin honors, three years apart, yet with lines that are suspiciously similar, sparking allegations of plagiarism, for which the alma mater of the most recent speaker, has apologized for.
Simply put, plagiarism is "theft" as the plagiarist passes off another person's work as their own, according to a Department of Justice legal opinion in 2012.
The DOJ saw it fit to issue an opinion on plagiarism that year as the public was gripped with high-profile scandals -- the Department of Tourism's ill-fated "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" campaign was accused of ripping off Poland's campaign to attract visitors.
Before that, tycoon Manuel Pangilinan was accused of plagiarizing parts of his commencement speech at the Ateneo, forcing him to tender his irrevocable resignation from the university's board of trustees.
TikTok users this week called out the Camarines Sur Polytechnic colleges and asked it take action against its magna cum laude graduate, Jayvee Ayen, for allegedly lifting parts of the speech of FEU 2019 cum laude graduate Mariyela Marie Hugo.
What does Philippine law say about plagiarism?
Plagiarism as a concept has roots in the academe, according to the DOJ, and spans creative work from academic papers to literary or scientific publications and artisitic work.
"It is an act of intellectual dishonesty, which assumes more gravity when committed in the context of an activity that puts premium precisely on the production of original creative work," the DOJ said.
The Supreme Court even proposed a standard to defining plagiarism, according to the DOJ. There has to be "deliberate intent" on the part of the plagiarist.
"Therefore, plagiarism, at its core, is a breach of standards of honesty, integrity and justice," the DOJ said.
Is plagiarism punishable by law?
Plagiarism is punishable by a fine and imprisonment if the act violates the Philippines' Intellectual Property Law, the DOJ said.
Plagiarism and copyright are two distinct concepts. Original material is protected by copyright for 50 years after the death of its creator. There is no such limitation in protection for plagiarism, taken on its own.
Take for example your favorite Christmas songs that start playing in November. The artists own the copyrightt and can sue anyone who plagiarizes their work. That's not the case for classics that have entered the "public realm" after half a century.
"Plagiarism per se is not punishable as a crime under the IPC (Intellectual Property Code) unless it also amounts to copyright infringement," the DOJ said.
"Thus, even if plagiarism is committed, there is no copyright infringement if the copyright of the work has already expired and there is no longer any legal ground to enforce the copyright of the original author," the DOJ said.
The copyright law also has exemptions, according to the DOJ, such as "news of the day and other miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information, as well as any official legislative, administrative or legal text, are not copyrightable."
"The over-arching rule is that, whenever applicable, the author and the work are given proper attribution and acknowledgement," the DOJ said.
Under law plagiarism that amounts to copyright infringement is punishable by P50,000 to P150,000 for the first offense, three years and one day to six years of imprisonment and a fine of P150,000 to P500,000 for the second offense, and six years and one day to nine years of imprisonment and a fine of P500,000 to P1,500,000 for the third and subsequent offenses.