Saturday, 30 August 2014

Who owns the copyright to Lim Chin Siong’s writings? (Updated on 30 Aug: Editor's Note)

Who owns the copyright to Lim Chin Siong’s writings?

Author: Tan Wah Piow (London)

Updated on 30th August: Editor's Note 


【Sahabat Rakyat Editor’s Note - translated from the original Chinese version】The news of Lim Chin Joo, the younger brother of the late Lim Chin Siong entrusted lawyer to take legal action against Sahabat Rakyat’s blog for publishing Fragments of Lim Chin Siong’s Q&A Posthumous Manuscript,(in Chinese Language) has not only attracted the attention and stimulated the discussion of the democratic parties, organisations and democrats in the country, it has also drawn the attention and caused reverberation from many democrats who were expelled by the ruling clique of Singapore and Malaysia or living in exile (mainly in Hong Kong, China, UK, Australia etc) due to political reasons.

Tan Wah Piow, a lawyer currently based in London, who has been living in exile in London since the 1970s, sent an article in English entitled Who owns the copyright to Lim Chin Siong’s writings? few days back expressing his concerns and views on the corresponding issue. From his perspective, this is something very unfortunate, because instead of discussing the posthumous manuscript of the late Lim Chin Siong, the public’s attention is directed to this copyright issue.

Tan Wah Piow is a Singaporean born in Joo Chiat. He was a student leader from the 1970s period. He was also the University of Singapore Students' Union president in 1974. As a result of his support over Jurong workers in fighting for their rights and his challenge to the PAP control over trade unions, he was charged under sedition and thrown into prison in 1975. In 1987, he was forced into exile due to a false accuse by the PAP government of being the mastermind of a ‘Marxist conspiracy’. While in exile, his Singapore citizenship was revoked. He is still not allowed to set foot on Singapore.

Below is the original version of “Who owns the copyright to Lim Chin Siong’s writings?” by Tan Wah Piow. 

The current dispute between Lim Chin Joo and the blog Sahabat Rakyat Malaysia (SRM) over the publication of the late Lim Chin Siong’s writings is most unfortunate as it has the potential to sully the collective memory of Singapore’s most well known and respected left wing icon.

Lim Chin Joo is the brother of the late Lim Chin Siong. Lim Chin Joo is asserting that his copyright is breached when SRM reprinted a manuscript written by his late brother.

Lim Chin Joo is quoted as saying that he spent over s$100,000 on the publication of his 442 page memoir which also carried Lim Chin Siong’s manuscript in a separate section. 8000 copies of the book were printed. The book My Black & White Youth, published in Chinese, was launched in July 2014.

As a copyright owner, like all property owners, he is legally entitled to zealously protect his interests. Hence when he discovered that the section covering Lim Chin Siong's Q&A manuscript was published in the SRM website without his prior approval, his lawyer fired the first salvo threatening legal action.

From a legal perspective, Lim Chin Joo may have a cause of action. However, diving into litigation may not necessarily be the most prudent move. As a lawyer myself, my advice to clients has always been to shun litigation whenever possible.

This is not an ordinary copyright dispute. Neither party is motivated by monetary gain. Lim Chin Joo has pledged to donate all the profits from the sale of the book to a school in Johor As the publisher and author, he understandably has legitimate concerns that any unauthorised reproduction of Lim Chin Siong's manuscript could have an adverse impact on the sale of his book.

At the other end of the scale, SRM is a not-for-profit website with equally altruistic interests, albeit with a narrower objective of propagating the late Lim Chin Siong’s legacy. The backdrop to this dispute is the handling of the intellectual legacy of Lim Chin Siong who, at the prime of his political life, was destined to be the first prime minister of Singapore. His political life unfortunately was cut short by detention without trial, exile, and after his return to Singapore, he had to maintain his silence till his death. Even in death, his comrades had to conduct the memorial function in Kuala Lumpur.

Lim Chin Siong was vilified by the Singapore government both in life and in death. In about 1992 when he prepared this manuscript, he made a remark to a close friend that he might have to embark on a second exile if he had it published. It was not published. It is only now eighteen years after his death, that the manuscript sees the light of day. Once the manuscript was made available through Lim Chin Joo’s book, SRM seized upon the opportunity to publish the manuscript with proper acknowledgement of the source, but without Lim Chin Joo's consent. SRM’s motto appears to be – Publish & be praised and/or Publish and be sued.

It is, I hope, not disrespectful to say that the public interest in the dissemination of the manuscript of Lim Chin Siong far exceeds any potential interest in Lim Chin Joo's memoir. Sale of political memoirs, especially in the Chinese language, do not normally exceed a two thousand copies. By combining his own memoirs with his brother’s manuscript in one publication, Lim Chin Joo’s book could therefore reach out to a far wider audience. This is an astute and respectable publisher's marketing strategy since both documents are complimentary. In his own right, Lim Chin Joo had contributed and made sacrifices as a student and later as a trade union leader in the 1950s and 60s, and was detained without trial for 9 years by Lim Yew Hock and Lee Kuan Yew. His side of the story is equally important for the understanding of Singapore's history, and the history of the leftwing movement

SRM argues from the point of public collective right and justice. Their main argument is that Lim Chin Siong was the leader, and part of the anti-colonial national liberation movement in Malaya including Singapore. The writing of Lim Chin Siong was part of that historical legacy, and should therefore be widely shared. SRM’s argument is politically attractive, but law and justice are often two separate issues. Although SRM's argument will be frowned at by most lawyers, it is certainly well received by many in Singapore and Malaysia who were political activists at the material time, and who continue to speak fondly of Lim Chin Siong. To the ardent supporters and former comrades of Lim Chin Siong, the niceties of copyright law is a capitalist construct, and Lim Chin Siong was the leader of the leftwing, socialist leaning movement.

So long as Lim Chin Joo can prove that he owns the copyright of his late brother’s manuscript, any defence raised by SRM based on common ownership of a political legacy is unlikely to gain much mileage in court. Short of a miracle, SRM will be in trouble if Lim Chin Joo were to carry out his threat and sue.

But in this cyberspace age, netizens tend to favour freedom of, and free information. The courts move at a snail’s pace, whereas in cyberspace, information is unstoppable, moving freely and swiftly, at times elusively. Any attempt to curb the dissemination of materials of this nature invites swift and harsh criticisms from netizens.

As an example, the erstwhile well-known London-based leftwing publisher Lawrence & Wishhart was bombarded recently with over 4000 hate mails when it sent a similar lawyer’s letter to a radical not-for-profit American website demanding that they remove, from their electronic archives, the 50-volume set of Karl Marx and Engels Collected Works which Lawrence & Wishart had over many years, painstakingly translated, published in hard copies in the 1970s, and latterly digitised. The law is with Lawrence & Wishhart, and they are progressive publishers as well, yet they face unfair abuse from the very readers they hope to serve. Fortunately, unlike Lawrence and Wishhart who need the income to support their skeleton staff, Lim Chin Joo's concerns are not monetary.

While the anguish of Lim Chin Joo is understandable, resolving the problem through the courts might just unleash the type of unwelcome response received by Lawrence & Wishhart.

This is the conundrum confronting Lim Chin Joo. One well educated Lim Chin Siong’s supporter who would otherwise have bought the book was so infuriated by the threat of the lawsuit that he swore not to buy a copy, and instead would borrow it from the library. This is probably not an isolated expression of anger. I am sure Lim Chin Joo is mindful of the risk of not just alienating the core market for his book, but a legal action could be interpreted as crossing the Thin White Line. This may also cause discomfort and embarrassment to members of the clan of the late Lim Chin Siong.

Many are already asking. What would Lim Chin Siong do in the circumstances? In the first place, the manuscript comprised of notes prepared for Q&As for a television interview in Singapore which never materialised. This was because Lim Chin Siong wanted the interview to be broadcasted live instead of a pre-recording as was proposed to him at the time. His motivations were purely political and he wished to achieve maximum public impact. Friends who discussed with him at the time did not recall any mention of remuneration. He was only concerned that the integrity of his message would not be cannibalized by his political enemy.

This begs the question of whether dragging the dispute through the courts could be prejudicial to the honour and reputation of the author. This is not a defence available to SRM as they are not part of Lim Chin Siong’s estate. Even if they were, it is unlikely to run its full course in court. But strange things can sometimes happen in the course of litigation, we just have to wait and see, and hope that the process would not tarnish this much cherished political icon. Of course it is everyone’s interest to avoid litigation.

Meanwhile, instead of discussing the manuscript of Lim Chin Siong, our attention is directed to this copyright issue. This is most unfortunate. By the way, what did Lim Chin Siong say about Lee Kuan Yew?

Wah Piow Tan
London
27 August 2014

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通告 Notification


成立18周年纪念,9月21日举办论坛

我们决定举办“‘509改朝换代’马哈迪当政,民主改革运动前进抑或倒退?”论坛与自由餐会,作为我们今年(2019年)纪念人民之友成立18周年的活动内容。以下4名专人欣然接受作为论坛的主讲人:
  • 兴权会2.0领导乌达雅古玛 (P. Uthayakumar)
  • 人权律师西蒂卡欣 (Siti Kasim)
  • 自由撰稿人及评论人唐南发(Josh Hong)
  • 媒体工作者及评论人蓝志锋(Lum Chih Feng)
4名主讲人将针对论坛主题分别出具论文,发表讲话,并回答现场问题。我们会在论坛过后,将主讲人的专题文章和讲话视频,上载到人民之友部落格(sahabatrakyatmy.blogspot.com),供公众阅览。我们希望通过此论坛激发更多的民主党团领导、学者、各阶层人士,共同为我国民主改革运动做出更大的努力和贡献。

论坛举办日期:2019年9月21日(星期六),时间:下午2:00—5:30时分,地点:柔佛古来,新国泰餐馆。论坛结束后才进行简单的自由餐会,同时进行互相交流。我们欢迎关心我国政治发展的公众人士前来聆听论坛主讲人的演讲并参加自由餐会(入场免费,但请事先报名参加,以便准备食物。有意参加者请填上表格https://forms.gle/SWbjEaiwNikEUiKF6或联系以下负责人)。

9月9日张贴一篇具参考价值英译文章

我们已在今年9月9日(成立纪念日)这天,发表人民之友秘书处委派人员翻译的一篇新加坡前工会领袖庄明湖2013年所撰写的《廿世纪六十年代新加坡左派工运遭遇问题探索(续篇)》(原是华文版)的英文译稿,作为人民之友18周年纪念的一个献礼——提供一个新马人民反殖独立运动遭遇敌人从内部破坏的历史殷鉴,为在9月21日举行的论坛所探索的现实课题,增添一份具有启示意义的参考材料。

“人民之友”是一个着重促进我国民主人权运动的思想交流平台。人民之友工委会都是义务的自愿工作者,我们坚持独立自主的立场,我们采取自力更生、节约苦干的方针,为推动我国民主人权运动朝向正确方向发展而奋斗。我们欢迎“有心人”赞助我们的这项活动及其他工作,有意赞助者请联系:

(1)朱信杰 017-7721511
(2)钟立薇 012-7177187
(3)吴振宇 013-7778320


Forum to be held on 21 September in commemoration of 18th anniversary

We will be organising “Mahathir returns to power after regime change in the 14th General Election, A progression or regression of the democratic reform movement?” forum cum buffet in commemoration of our 18th Anniversary. The following 4 experts have accepted the invitation to become our panel speakers:
  • P. Uthayakumar – Leader of Hindraf 2.0
  • Siti Kasim – Human rights lawyer
  • Josh Hong - Freelance writer and commentator
  • Lum Chih Feng – Media worker and commentator
All 4 panel speakers will present papers, deliver speeches and answer questions on the theme of the forum. After the event, we will also be uploading the paper and video of the speeches of the panel speakers to Sahabat Rakyat blog(sahabatrakyatmy.blogspot.com)as reference material for the public. Through this forum, we hope to inspire more leaders of democratic parties, organisations, scholars and peoples of all walks of life to make more contribution to the democratic reform movement of our country.

Particulars of the event are as follows:
Date: 21 September 2019 (Saturday)
Time: 2:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: Cathay Restaurant Kulai, Johor
Buffet will start upon the completion of the forum, concurrent with the sharing session
. We welcome all who are concerned with the political developments in Malaysia to attend this event and join the buffet meal. (Admission is free, but please register in advance so that we can make necessary arrangement for food. If you are interested, please fill in https://forms.gle/SWbjEaiwNikEUiKF6or contact person in charge below)

9 September - Published the English rendition of an article of value for reference

On 9 September this year (the actual day of our anniversary), we had published an English rendition of the "Probing into the sufferings of Singapore's left-wing labour movement in the 1960s (Part II)" originally written in Chinese by Chng Min Oh, a former trade union leader in Singapore on Sahabat Rakyat blog, as a gift of our anniversary. This English rendition was translated by personnel delegated by the Secretariat of Sahabat Rakyat. This article provides a historical lesson learned about the destruction bore from within of the anti-colonial independence movement of the people of Malaya and Singapore plotted by the enemy, and constitutes revelatory reference material to the realistic issues that this coming forum is probing into.

Sahabat Rakyat is an ideological exchange platform that focuses on promoting democratic human rights movement in our country. All committee members of Sahabat Rakyat are volunteers. We adhere to the stance of being independent and autonomous, we adopt the principle of being self-reliant, thrifty and hard work, and strive to promote the development of the democratic human rights movement toward the right direction.
We welcome those who are generous hearted to sponsor this event and other work that we carry out. For those who are interested to sponsor, please contact:

(1)Choo Shinn Chei 017-7721511
(2)Cheng Lee Whee 012-7177187
(3)Ngo Jian Yee 013-7778320


此外,现居新加坡的庄明湖已将他在《人民之友》发表的《20世纪60年代新加坡左派工运问题探索》(正篇)一文的英文译稿传送到编辑部,因原文中所述人物的姓名或者是党团工会组织的全称或简称,在译文中尚未解决或有待查证,需要一些时日来完成——人民之友工委都是自愿挤出时间来进行工作的,因而无法很快完成。经过一番努力,我们终于在9月30日刊出,为我们的17周年纪念增添光彩!

值得在此一提的是,庄文所述的20世纪60年代新加坡工运遭遇问题(除了遭受来自外部的镇压,还要遭遇来自内部的破坏)的见解,或许能为一些读者(特别是不谙华文和不懂新马历史的读者)思考马来西亚民主改革运动在当前阶段面临马哈迪主义复辟的问题,提供一个历史殷鉴,或者是一个新的启示。


Malaysia Time (GMT+8)