Did Rogue go rogue on Miguel Syjuco?

Miguel Syjuco claims Rogue magazine used excerpts of his work without his permission

THE ROGUE MAGAZINE? Miguel Syjuco wants a public apology from Rogue's editors. Image from the Rogue Magazine Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – On April 3, “Ilustrado” author Miguel Syjuco accused Rogue Magazine of featuring his work in their April issue without his permission.

Rogue Magazine posted the issue’s cover on their Facebook page featuring actress Giselle Tongi on April 2. One of the blurbs promoting the magazine’s content read: “Exclusive: New Fiction by Miguel Syjuco.”

Syjuco is the internationally-acclaimed author of “Ilustrado,” an English novel that was awarded the prestigious Man Asian Literary Prize in 2008.

As a reaction to the blurb, Syjuco posted this note on his Facebook acoount on Wednesday, April 3:

New fiction from Miguel Syjuco?!? A Rogue exclusive? It’s so exclusive even I didn’t know about it. They don’t have permission to run my work! Nor do I have new fiction I feel is ready to show the world.

Don’t tell me Rogue’s dug up old, outdated drafts and decided to run it proudly. What kind of self-respecting magazine does that? And don’t they understand the concept of copyright? This is unacceptable; I eke out a living from writing. 

We should hold our country’s so-called top magazines to a higher standard of ethics and professionalism. How can we trust their journalism if they pull stunts like this?

The post has since spawned comments from other Facebook users calling Rogue’s alleged deed “ridiculous” and “outrageous,” heaping criticism on the magazine’s editors for the “unethical” act.

The mistake

A visit to Rogue.ph cleared up which of Syjuco’s works was used in the issue.

An issue write-up states: “This month we are featuring an excerpt from Miguel Syjuco’s ‘The Terrorists Have Already Won,’ part of the upcoming anthology ‘Manila Envelope: The Best of Contemporary Philippine Novelists,’ published by BBDO-Guerrero chairman David Guerrero.”

In an online interview with Rappler, Syjuco said, “Rogue is running my work without permission. I own the copyright to my work, yet I was never asked, contracted, offered payment, or even told that my work would be included in this month’s issue of Rogue.

“I only found out when I saw the magazine cover posted on Facebook!”

The author, who contributed a short story to Rogue in the past, said that the story Rogue used excerpts of — “The Terrorists Have Already Won” — is indeed a part of the anthology “Manila Envelope” edited by Jessica Zafra and Zack Linmark and published by David Guerrero (who is also chairman of advertising agency BBDO-Guerrero).

Syjuco revealed that Rogue asked Guerrero for permission to feature excerpts of the story; permission which, according to Syjuco, Guerrero “mistakenly” granted. Guerrero  apologized to Syjuco when the latter contacted him after the issue exploded.

But though Guerrero is partly to blame for the mishap, the “Ilustrado” author emphasized that Rogue still had “the responsibility to ensure they own the copyright to everything they publish.”

Copyright infringement?

WITHOUT HIS CONSENT. Miguel Syjuco is the award-winning author of the novel 'Ilustrado.' Photo from Miguel Syjuco's Facebook page

Syjuco, who is in Montreal working on a new novel, stressed that although his story is a part of the “Manila Envelope” anthology, he still has the copyright to the work and thus should have been consulted by Rogue.

“I know I’ve not relinquished copyright, or else I wouldn’t have signed the contract. I and my literary agents always make sure I retain copyright for all the work I publish — to avoid situations like this, and so that I can one day use my own work in my own collections or anthologies.”

Syjuco said that his contract with Guerrero’s group did not include giving them first serial rights which, according to Writing-World.com, grants a publication the right to reproduce a writer’s work in a “serial” like a magazine or newspaper.

But now that the damage has been done, Syjuco hopes for 3 courses of action from Rogue: “a public apology, payment at my personal freelance rate, and the firing of whoever was responsible for this.”

Syjuco’s literary agent has told him that they can sue for copyright infringement and even try to stop the issue from being published. “I don’t want it to come to that,” Syjuco said.

Syjuco is represented by literary agents Melanie Jackson in the US and Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge and White in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.

As of the time of the Rappler interview, Syjuco had not received a response from Rogue except for an apology from their online editor Mara Coson.

But if there’s one person he held accountable for the alleged copyright infringement, it is Rogue editor-in-chief Paolo Reyes.

“Who else but the EIC can make the decision to run a writer’s work without contracts, permission, or copyright?” he said.

Rogue and David Guerrero respond

On April 4, Syjuco told Rappler that Rogue publisher Ipe Cruz contacted him and said they decided to pull the issue from distribution and reprint the entire thing without “The Terrorists Have Already Won,” something which Syjuco thought was “totally unnecessary” and a “sad waste of money.”

Rappler received the following statement from Rogue:


It has come to our attention that the excerpt of fiction by Miguel Syjuco that we promoted in our current April 2013 issue has received controversy on social networking sites. We would like to clarify certain points and to communicate our position regarding this matter:

The piece of Mr. Syjuco entitled “The Terrorists Have Already Won,” which was set to appear in Rogue, 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. The piece was promoted on Rogue’s cover with the line, “New fiction by Miguel Syjuco,” as it was a previously unpublished work and part of a new collection of fiction. 

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. 

We have always acted in good faith; in light of everything that has transpired, we are no longer publishing the piece.

Throughout the whole ordeal, Syjuco said that Rogue editor-in-chief Paolo Reyes cannot be contacted.

Rogue assistant editor Michelle Ayuyao confirmed this when she told Rappler that Reyes has been in Botswana since the week of March 25 and has been unreachable. Rogue plans to contact him on the night of April 4 when he is expected to be in Johannesburg.

David Guerrero, the publisher of the anthology to which Syjuco contributed “The Terrorists Have Already Won,” also sent Rappler a statement through Rogue.

Below is his statement:

“Manila Envelope 4: The Best Contemporary Filipino Novelists will be launched on April 27. In this, the latest issue of an ‘occasional’ cultural magazine, the focus is on contemporary Filipino writing in English. The chosen authors are multi-awarded writers whose work has gained both local and international recognition. They include: Dean Francis Alfar, Gina Apostol, FH Batacan, Vicente Garcia Groyon, Angelo R. Lacuesta, R. Zamora Linmark, Sabin Murray, Brian Ascalon Roley, Lakambini Sitoy, Miguel Syjuco, Katrina Tuvera, Bino A. Realuyo and Jessica Zafra, who also edited the collection.

The book has been over three years in the making. In fact the original title was ‘The best of young Filipino novelists’ and has now been changed to ‘contemporary’ in part to reflect that passage of time! 

On March 18, we provided Rogue with an advance copy for review purposes. Within the same day they asked for permission to feature the launch of the collection and run an extract of around 500 words in the magazine. We agreed to this. 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.”  – Rappler.com

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