Amid online discord, Rogue Mag no longer publishing ‘new fiction’ by Miguel Syjuco

Rogue Magazine will no longer publish an excerpt of fiction by Man Asian Prize winner Miguel Syjuco, amid controversy on social networking sites, and complaints from Syjuco himself.

According to the award-winning Filipino writer and author of “Ilustrado”, Rogue had not obtained his permission to publish any of his work. After Syjuco complained on Facebook on Wednesday, netizens joined him in demanding an explanation from the magazine.

“We have always acted in good faith; in light of everything that has transpired, we are no longer publishing the piece,” Rogue said in a statement sent to GMA News Online on Thursday.

“I was surprised to find on Facebook an image of their April 2013 magazine cover, which trumpeted at the very top of their list of articles: ‘Exclusive! New fiction from Miguel Syjuco.’ At first I thought the cover must’ve been a mock-up, because I never gave them permission to publish any of my work. In fact, I don’t have any new fiction to speak of,” Syjuco told GMA News Online in an email on Wednesday.

No permission

Syjuco, who is based in Canada, sent out emails to investigate, and found out that the magazine had taken an excerpt of a first draft of a novel he abandoned years ago. “They had taken it from ‘Manila Envelope,’ a new anthology of contemporary Filipino novelists being published by David Guerrero and edited by Jessica Zafra and Zack Linmark,” he said.

He explained that although his contract with Guerrero allowed his work to be published strictly in the anthology, he still retained all copyrights for his work, including first serial rights. “Because I earn a living solely from my writing, I never give out my work for publication without appropriate contracts, agreements, and payment,” said Syjuco, who stressed that if his work were excerpted in Rogue, he would no longer be able to sell first serial rights to international magazines who might promote his book.

“For example, publications such as the New Yorker or the Paris Review won’t excerpt books previously excerpted elsewhere. My publishers won’t like that. So there’s tremendous opportunity cost to me as a result of this,” he said.

Rogue, in their statement, said they had promoted the piece on their cover as “New fiction by Miguel Syjuco,” “as it was a previously unpublished work and part of a new collection of fiction.”

According to Syjuco, Rogue had been asking him to write for them, but he had not given them any material.

“Rogue is a magazine I’ve long loved. I’ve contributed to them before (a short story, November 2008) and hoped to contribute again in the future. In fact, over the last few months, they’d been persistently asking me to write for them. I communicated to their editor-in-chief, Paolo Reyes, that I’d be delighted to, but only in a few months’ time, after finished wrestling with my second novel,” he said.

Still published in April issue

Despite this, Rogue included Syjuco’s “The Terrorists Have Already Won” in its April issue.

Rogue said this “was an excerpt from an upcoming collection of fiction entitled ‘Manila Envelope: The Best of Contemporary Filipino Novelists’, to be published in a personal capacity later this month by advertising man David Guerrero.”

“Mr. Guerrero sent us an advance copy for review and subsequently agreed to the publication of a 500-word extract from Mr. Syjuco’s story, with the intention that we were promoting Mr. Syjuco’s work and the book in which it appears,” Rogue said on Thursday.

Guerrero, in a statement provided to Rogue magazine, said that on March 18, they provided an advance copy to the magazine for review purposes. He also said they gave Rogue permission to feature the April 27 launch of the collection, as well as to run an extract of around 500 words in the magazine.

“Unfortunately in the case of Miguel’s work we were specifically restricted to usage in our own publication. We have apologized to both parties for the error and regret the problems this inadvertently caused the author and the magazine,” Guerrero said.

Galling, unethical act

Guerrero on Wednesday told Syjuco that Rogue had wanted to review the anthology, as well as excerpt Syjuco’s work, the author said.

“While Mr. Guerrero was not in a position to give them my work, the responsibility ultimately lay with Rogue’s editors to contact me, ask my permission, contract my work, pay me properly for it, and work with me in possibly choosing an appropriate excerpt. The publisher must always check that what they publish is legal. They did none of that. Instead, Reyes seems to have made the decision to act unethically by going over my head, and illegally by violating copyright,” said Syjuco, who was advised by his literary agency to sue, and demand that Rogue not publish the issue with his work included.

“However, I don’t want that, because it looks like a solid issue, put together by hardworking writers and editors I respect,” he said.

Instead, he said he wanted “a public apology, a clarification that the excerpt is neither new nor exclusive nor licensed, embargo of my work online and in promotions, due payment at my personal freelance rate (if they can’t afford me, they shouldn’t have published me), and accountability from whoever made the decision to try to publish work they didn’t have permission for or own rights to.”

Syjuco wondered why Reyes would publish his work without consulting him, despite his having said he had nothing to offer. “Even if Guerrero was mistaken, Rogue was legally and ethically obliged to confirm with me. If Rogue’s bosses can do this to their writers, then how can we readers trust their journalistic integrity and ethics?” he said.

Syjuco said the incident was “particularly galling, especially after the very public stance I’ve taken on copyright in regards to Tito Sotto’s recent persistent plagiarism.”

Last September, he challenged Sotto to a public debate on the then Reproductive Health Bill after the Senator was accused of plagiarizing part of his Turno En Contra speech against the controversial bill.

“I hope Rogue will see fit to do the right thing in the end. If not, I’ll file a case – our country needs a proper discussion on why copyright and intellectual property rights actually do matter,” he said. – KDM, GMA News

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