Author copyrights famous Chilean miner rescue words

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A Chilean author said Friday he has copyrighted the words that Chilean miners used to announce to the world that they were alive in a collapsed gold and copper mine.

Sociologist and author Pablo Huneeus told AFP he registered the Spanish phrase -- "estamos bien en el refugio los 33," which translates to "all 33 of us are well inside the shelter" -- in the name of miner Jose Ojeda, who wrote it.

The miners attached the note to a drill that reached them 700 meters (2,100 feet) underground on August 22, 17 days after the cave-in blocked their exit.

When the note emerged at the surface where rescuers and families were struggling to maintain hope that the missing miners were alive, the words sparks mass celebrations and brought world attention to the miners' plight.

The men were finally lifted to the surface in mid-October after a 69-day ordeal.

President Sebastian Pinera kept the message, hand-written in red ink on a small piece of paper, as a sort of good luck charm.

Pinera, currently nearing the end of a week-long European tour to Britain, France and Germany, has handed framed replicas of the message to dignitaries he is meeting as gifts.

Pinera linked himself closely to the rescue early in the operation. He traveled to the San Jose mine in far northern Chile, where the men were trapped, six times to oversee operations.

"My motivation to copyright the phrase was seeing the president of the republic pocketing the creative work of a laborer," Huneeus told AFP.

"The rest was mere paperwork, doing the tasks of a choreboy to protect what I define as a 'work of intelligence' and what this writer considers a brilliant phrase," he added.

Huneeus, the author of several books on sociology, said that after copyrighting the words he contacted Ojeda, "who was very happy" to hear the news.

According to Chilean law, copyrighting the phrase means that each time someone wants to use it in mass media they should ask the owner's permission and possibly pay the author in order to use it.

Huneeus believes that Pinera should return the original document to its author, because now he is making use of "stolen" property.

However Pinera, a spokesman said, believes that the message is a creation "that belongs to all Chileans."

© 2010 AFP

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