Filipino children’s book artist accused of copying artworks of a South Korean

September 17, 2019 - 8:49 AM
Plagiariasm of The Little Hero
A Filipino artist was accused of plagiarising some artworks of a South Korean artist and using it for her illustrations in a children's book. (Artwork by Interaksyon/Uela Altar-Badayos)

(Updated, Sept. 18, 7:11 p.m.) A publisher of children’s books is investigating a case of alleged art plagiarism in one of its books titled “The Little Hero” recently sold at the annual Manila International Book Fair.

Kahel Press offered its gratitude to concerned Filipinos who pointed out that book illustrator Shellette Gipa could have plagiarized some of the artworks of South Korean artist Hong SoonSang.

The printed press added that it “has no knowledge” of the issue before it was published starting last year.

“Please be informed that we are currently gathering information about the situation and speaking with affected parties in an effort to resolve the issue, to preserve the rights of affected parties having no knowledge of or involvement in the alleged plagiarism, and to come up with the best course of action for the parties under the circumstances,” the publisher said. 

“In the meantime, we are suspending the sales of the book entitled ‘The Little Hero’ until the issue at hand is resolved and courses of action regarding the matter is determined,” it continued.

Re: Alleged Artwork Plagiarism in the Book Entitled “The Little Hero”Kahel Press would like to thank the concerned…

Posted by Kahel Press on Saturday, September 14, 2019


The publisher also said that it would release developments of the case.

While it has published a book with supposed plagiarized artwork, Kahel Press earned praises from the online community for its swift action.

Comments on Kahel Press’ statement. (Screenshot by Interaksyon)

What went before

Last weekend, illustrator and comic artist Kael Molo shared screenshots that were originally taken by his friend which involved Gipa’s artworks used in the book juxtaposed with some of Hong’s creations.

The screenshots included a Facebook conversation which involved Gipa, who appeared to have requested to delete something.

Molo said to Interaksyon that a friend “merely took screenshots of Paolo Magtira’s post on Facebook,” which he then shared on his Twitter account.

The screenshots included Gipa’s apology which was posted on her Facebook account shortly after the issue erupted.

A Twitter user also took a screenshot of what appeared to be Hong’s response to the plagiarism issue.

“I will not respond to this legally, I think that even the person who plagiarized my work is also suffering alone. Anyone can make a mistake BUT I hope that the same mistake doesn’t happen again,” Hong commented.

“This is a suggestion made by an artist who started (in this field) a little earlier. And if possible, please donate all profits received to charity. I would like to forward my thanks to the person who tipped this off,” he added.

When Kahel Press released its statement on the issue, a Facebook user tagged Hong, who expressed his gratitude for keeping him updated about the case.

Meanwhile, Gipa apologized for her actions, saying she did it for the sake of “saving herself.”

“Hindi ko alam ang sasabihin ko. Pero gusto kong humingi ng tawad sa mga nasaktan ko at naloko ko. I’m sorry sa lahat ng na-disappoint ko. I’m sorry kung ‘di ako gumawa ng art ng galing sa sarili kong pawis,” she wrote.

“Pasensya na at gumamit ako ng ibang art para lang masalba ang sarili ko. Alam ko mali. Mali talaga. This is a lesson for me. Gusto ko lang ngayon na ayusin ang sarili ko. Patawad sa lahat,” Gipa added.

Hindi ko alam ang sasabihin ko. Pero gusto kong humingi ng tawad sa mga nasaktan ko at naloko ko. I’m sorry sa lahat ng…

Posted by Shellette Geminiano on Friday, September 13, 2019


In the comments thread of Molo’s Twitter post, some Filipinos claimed that Gipa might get her bachelor’s degree “revoked” due to the issue.

“The artist is one of my batchmates in UP. Our professor is now the dean of our College of Fine Arts and according to my UP friend, her degree might get revoked because of what she has done. I’m sad and disappointed (of) her because of this,” a Twitter user wrote.

Gipa has a degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Visual Communication at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

She has previously created artworks for “Waterlilies for Marawi” by Heidi Eusebio-Abad and “Vicissitudes: Florante at Laura” by  Francisco Balagtas.

On art plagiarism 

Art plagiarism is “more than just copying artistic pieces,” according to CIIT Philippines, a private multimedia and digital arts school.

“Plagiarists copy sketches, paintings, photos, and even sculptures. When you copy someone else’s art without permission and/or proper credit—you are stealing,” an article on its website said.

“Even mere using of filter, changing of color, and adding of clip art or text are unacceptable and unethical,” it added.

CIIT Philippines mentioned that there are two kinds of art plagiarism—art theft and tracing.

It defined art theft as the “‘obvious’ stealing of artwork and publishing it as your own masterpiece.”

“Without seeking consent from or giving credit to the source, the act is an indirect claim or ownership of the stolen piece. Art theft isn’t limited to simple posting of an unreferenced artwork. Enhancing the material to make it look different is also an act of plagiarism,” the CIIT said.

Art tracing, meanwhile, is defined as the “act of duplicating the original artwork either with little or no change at all.”

“Similar to art theft, tracing also goes beyond the traced copy as it also involves enhancements. Even after tracing the original piece, putting color doesn’t make it yours. Flipping the traced piece backwards, altering details, and changing the original hues don’t make it unique,” it added. — Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos