Sunday, July 8, 2012

finally, i'm spilling the beans.

Hi guys.

It is currently Sunday early morning and I'm awake before any of my family are, so it's calm and quiet here. Slightly chilly too, as it was raining through the night.

Today, there would be no photos (and chunks of words). But instead, I'll be sharing something that I've kept secret for a few months now. It wasn't because I didn't want to tell, but because I felt I shouldn't and couldn't. But it is now the time.

So since last week, there has been a great hooha (how do you spell this anyway) going on over Daniel Ong and Jamie Teo's cupcake bakery saga with SPH. For the uninformed, SPH is Singapore Press Holdings, a major media organisation in Singapore which prints most of our major newspapers here. You might want to digest it here first, before you read on.

Note that the link opens to Daniel's facebook account, and you'll have to look for his posts where he mentions about SPH, not hard to find since they're overflowing with comments and likes!

So in a nutshell, the cupcake bakery was interviewed by reporters under SPH and articles were published. They reproduced the articles on their website for sharing with their fans and friends. SPH emails them and warns them that this violates the copyright laws, and demands that the bakery pay for each article (the fee is to be paid every year for as long as you want to keep the article on your website, about $500+ per article) OR take them down immediately and pay a settlement fee of $214.

And this is exactly what I experienced from SPH a few months ago. The conditions were exactly the same, and the fees etc. If you look at my In the Media tab, you'll find that the scanned reproductions of both newspaper articles featuring AiClay are removed too.

When I first received the email from SPH, I was frantic because no one likes to find out they've broken the law. During the interviews with the journalists, there was not once I was told that I could not reproduce the articles, nor was there any contract signed. Which made me all the more confused.

Plus I've been well-taught in Civics and Moral Education lol, and am as law-abiding citizen as the average Singaporean (which is very). I also hated to infringe anyone's copyrights since I'm a content-producer myself and also why I decline commissions to sculpt copyrighted characters.

The email was definitely a rude shock for me.

I definitely couldn't afford a $500+ yearly fee for reproducing each article on my blog, so I promptly apologised and removed the scanned articles online. And I naively thought that settled the issue. But nah, SPH soon slammed me with a $214 settlement/investigation fee.

I don't know my law terms well, but if investigation fees were fees incurred because they had investigated me, I'll be damned! I had definitely not asked to be investigated, it just felt plain unfair. 

After consulting with a lawyer friend, what I did was to ask for a waive of the settlement fee. On the grounds that I was fully apologetic, had removed articles immediately, and was just a full-time crafter (which they jolly well know seeing that was what was written in the articles) and $214 is a significant amount for me.

And guess what, SPH never did reply. So I'm assuming that means they've agreed to waive this off, though I'm not holding my breath.

I did not want anyone to fall prey to this, so I went about approaching the other crafters who were featured in the articles together with me.

I informed them about my experience so that they could react before SPH got to them. From then on, everytime I saw people putting up scanned newspaper/magazine articles (which occurred all too often) I immediately dropped them a note about my case. I even contacted Wendy Cheng when she reproduced an article (better known as Xiaxue) and Daniel Ong (after the incident to tell him my experience). I was turning into a machine for forewarning unsuspecting people lol.

During all of these communications, I would ask to be kept anonymous if the informed wanted to spread the word. I also avoided mentioning it on my website or any of the social media sites. Reason being that I thought it would be unwise for me legally, since liason with SPH seemed to be still ongoing despite it being months since they replied.

But after reading about Daniel Ong's case, I've decided I should break my silence and join him in spreading the word as well. 

Contrary to what SPH insists, I believe that most of the public are unaware that it is illegal to share reproductions of articles which they've been featured in. It does not matter apparently, even if due credit is awarded to the publisher and reporter/journalist.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to share one last juicy bit.

So while I was waiting for SPH to reply, a reporter* from SPH contacted me again and asked for an interview. Granted, I had mixed feelings. As a small business owner, it would be silly to reject any form of publicity. But I still feel a tad sour after the previous experience with SPH.

So I said yes to the phone interview, and at the end of it, I decided to ask the reporter this.

"So if this article is published and I decide to scan it in and share it on my blog, would that be okay?" 

Her reply? "Ya, I should think so. If anything, you should just receive an email from SPH to take it down and that'll be okay."

Of course this is not word for word, as it's been some time since then. But it's the gist, and I definitely recall her saying it is okay and my eyes going wide at the other side of the phone. 

This is from someone who works in SPH, so if I haven't received the previous email from SPH, I would have happily went ahead in reproducing the article on my blog. Apparently, the reporter had no idea about the investigation/settlement fee. Sadly, I have had a rude awakening and know better now.

So that's my story, and it might help anyone who's experienced the same with SPH. If you've got your own experience to share, feel free to write it in the comments.

*To avoid implicating the reporter, I'm not going to name her. But I had to bring this up to show that if SPH staff did not know their own law, then how would the rest of us?


  1. Several years ago Zhao Pao & New paper wants to write an article about my "unusual" business too, I had rejected them several times especially the chinese papers which was very persistent....I had jokingly tell them if I see my face on the paper other than the obituary page, I will sue them, make a tidy sum and retire early. If I had allowed them to proceed writing about my trade and I stupidly go around showing the whole world, I would probably fall into the same trap. It's not the amount, it's the frustration that you feel being duped into wasting your time, proudly telling them what your trade is and they just pour cold water on you like this. And the investigation part is that once they had interviewed you, they will be "stalking" you in cyberspace.

  2. So sorry you had to go through all that stress. They sound like a bunch of rip-off merchants!

    Rosie. x