A couple of weeks ago while leafing through the tatty tabloid of the local TOI I actually came across an article that interested me. It was not about violence, sex or murder, that being the usual fare. It was about bakeries in Pune. Having tracked them for a while I wondered if there was anything new the journalist had to report. Evidently not. Most of the article had been lifted verbatim from my blog posts about Kayani Bakery and German Bakery. Interspersed with her own paragraphs it became something which made no sense whatsoever.
This had to be a joke. The very same article had been plagiarised by a TOI reporter two years ago AND by a magazine from Delhi a couple of months before that!
As is my usual wont I called the editor to inform him of his staffer’s lack of creativity . After a couple of calls I got through to him and he seemed genuinely surprised and said he would investigate it. A day later I received a call from his assistant who promised to take some action. That action turned out to be instigating another call…from the journalist herself. She introduced herself as ” Ho!” ( Well she said it. I didn’t.) Actually her name is Poonam Manuja. Having been through the same business before I was not about to be fobbed off by a verbal attack by some “writer” who had recently discovered the cut and paste joys of the internet. I gently put the phone back on the hook.
After several more calls, which seemed to have been made to guage my legal intentions, the TOI finally printed a miniscule apology for inadvertantly “quoting” me without credit.
It gave me no joy. They had mispelt my name to begin with and the typeface was so small as to be unreadable. To be fair the assistant also said that the management had served the girl an internal memo, which, I believe, means ‘get ready to pack your bags”. Whether they will actually did this I am interested to find out.
As mentioned in the post ” Flattery and Plagiarism” on my blog The Cook’s Cottage , if editors cannot vouch for the ethical standards of their reporters they should have a policing system that does not allow such material to get through. Keep a permanent employee to check if their material is original. Most “content providers” do this. Scan the article through Google and it will bring up any sentences which have been written before. No editor worth her/his salt should have to plead ignorance today. He is responsible for what goes into his publication.
However many of them are so arrogant as to resent being told anything. Having got away for years with the most outrageous examples of copying, several think they can continue to do so. I recall one editor who actually copied, word for word, an American song writers lyrics and published it as a collection of his own poems. This was back in the days when information of any kind rarely crossed borders, let alone continents. So he got away with it.
It is mighty stupid to think that they can get away with it day after day in this age of the internet. There are people who actually use the internet to write and communicate – their own ideas and in their own style.
One hears of bloggers infringing copyright but have you ever heard of a major “reputed” publication stealing a blogger’s work? Well, here is an instance. I got a shock to see that a reputed newspaper like the Hindustan Times had stolen a photograph of mine. I say stole because I have not been given any credit for the same. This newspaper is a commercial entity and therefore has no right to publish anyone’s work without payment and acknowledgment. If this photograph had been used with acknowledgment and for non-commercial use I would have said nothing. But this paper with so many photographers at its beck and call has the temerity to steal a photograph of a blogger who makes no money from her work!
Here it is as it appeared on the middle page of the newspaper below Rajdeep Sardesai’s column. The headline of the article caught my eye as I am interested in the subject and in fact have written on tuitions. I wanted to check if the writer has stolen my work…I have come across some such instances…and well, I discovered that the article is original, but the photo is mine! I took it out near my house and have used it on this blog. The only reason I saw this picture is because I subscribe to Hindustan Times. Did they think that because I am a Mumbai blogger I wouldn’t find out? Here is the article in which the photograph taken by me appeared – in today’s Mumbai edition:
I have used this photo in this article of mine titled Impact of coaching classes on a nation’s psyche on my own blog. And I can easily prove that the picture is mine because I had cropped the picture. I have the original picture with me which is much larger…and well the larger picture also means a high resolution one. There is no way they can try to cheat me!! Well, I am writing to them too…but my past experience with newspapers is not leaving me hopeful. There is a newspaper I used to write for which stole my ideas but when I protested (I even met the editor) she gave me sweet talk but no compensation. I let it go as I had been writing for the newspaper (as a freelancer) for 2 years. So I know that big newspapers do this kind of thing, but it’s difficult to prove it.
The best way to publicize this is for other bloggers write about this. I would really appreciate if they did because up till now the Hindustan Times has not responded to my letter. I have written two letters to them and a few days ago complained to the Press Council of India. They have not acknowledged recieving my complaint. Hopefully they did receive it as it was sent to the both the email id’s given on their site (one of them bounced back but the other went through).
(This post was first published on my own blog here.)