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Miner gains copyright on ‘we're alive' note

Rory Carroll
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SPOTLIGHT: Chilean President Sebastian Pinera with the original note the once entombed miners passed on to their rescuers. It is now registered in the name of its writer, miner Jose Odeja. – PHOTO: AP
SPOTLIGHT: Chilean President Sebastian Pinera with the original note the once entombed miners passed on to their rescuers. It is now registered in the name of its writer, miner Jose Odeja. – PHOTO: AP

The red-ink note that confirmed the 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine beneath Chile's Atacama desert were alive has been made the copyright of the miner who wrote it.

The message (“We are OK in the refuge, the 33”) triggered jubilation and a rescue that captivated the world.

The note was added to Chile's intellectual property registry this week in the name of its writer, the miner Jose Ojeda, 46, who has now seen his words adorn mugs, T-shirts, flags and bags. Pablo Huneeus, a Chilean academic and writer, registered the phrase in Santiago for Ojeda after seeing the country's President, Sebastian Pinera, triumphantly display the note on a European tour. “I thought, this can't be, that sentence is literature and must be copyrighted,” Huneeus told the newspaper El Mercurio.

The phrase in English and how it was written, in Spanish (“Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33”), has appeared all over the world.

The miners' story has sparked a scramble for books, film rights and exclusives. There have been at least seven applications to copyright phrases including the words “33 miners” or “the 33”, and bids to register web domain names. Francisco Leal Diaz's “Underground: 33 Miners Who Shook The World”, is tipped to be the first book.

The miners have pledged a pact of silence over certain events. It emerged on October 22 that they shot at least 60 hours of video footage before their rescue. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010


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