Monday, August 01, 2011

Copy and Copyrights

Disclaimer: I am forced to write this post as there are various leading newspapers and magazines which are publishing blog posts without taking prior permission of the original author. Read on if you want to know about copyright laws and/or have been the victim of copyright violation, or come back to read when you become one!

Every now and then I keep reading about how blog posts are being used by leading newspapers and magazines as a part of their regular content. Irony is that these newspapers and magazines do not even bother to take a prior written (or even oral) permission from the authors of the original content. Posts are getting edited, tweaked and published shamelessly!

Around a year back, when I was as lousy a blogger as I am now, my posts were copied too verbatim by a site twice. They didn't even give a linkback. They simply mentioned my name as the author. No blog link anywhere, nothing. I sent them a mail informing them that I would take a legal action against them for publishing my posts without taking my permission. They immediately removed my posts and promised me that they would never publish my worthless content ever! Ah, what a loss for me!

I lost an amazing opportunity to be a famous lousy blogger, but I know a few amazing bloggers whose posts were copied recently. These magazines and newspapers are respected and reputed names. When a newspaper recently copied a blogger's blog post, upon asking the newspaper editor said that they gave proper credit to the blogger. The blogger's permission was not obtained before publishing the post. Further, it was edited too. The matter will be resolved soon, but the way it was treated on social sites like twitter was very disappointing. A few replies were rude and vague.

I have a very simple question: For how long these newspapers and magazines are going to take blogs and blog posts lightly? We write posts for ourselves. When we see other media channels making money and gaining readership by using our content without even taking our prior permission, it violates our copyrights that we have on the content.

For any medium that wants to use any content of any person, first that medium has to take a prior written permission from the author. Upon the terms and conditions agreed upon by the author and the printing medium; due credit, publishing and re-publishing of the content, number of times the content to be re-published, period over which it can be re-published and such various terms are decided.

In India, when a literary, artistic or dramatic content is copied without prior permission, or plagiarised by someone; it is protected under Indian copyright act. Further, Information Technology Act 2000 has certain provisions too for the protection of original content especially softwares.

When a person whose content is copied without his/her permission, it is called as Infringement. There are certain acts which do not amount to Infringement. (Kindly click on the links I have provided. They are useful for you as they give you an insight of the laws relating to copyright to protect your original content). As per the Indian Copyright Act, when a person violates your Copyright, he is punishable with an imprisonment of minimum 6 months, but which may extend to three years; and a fine of minimum of 50,000 which may extend to 2,00,000 or both. There are various punishments for various kinds of Infringement, which can be found in the Indian copyright Act. You can contact me too if you want to know about a specific infringement punishment.

It is a serious offense to copy someone's original content. These days, the leading newspapers and magazines are publishing original content of bloggers without their prior permission. Isn't it sad? Our blogs are protected under Creative Commons License. This license does not give permission to non-owner to copy the content of the blog without blog owner's permission. Still, these newspapers and magazines shamelessly steal content from blogs so that they don't have to pay any money to the writers for such articles. Further, they say that they are a huge platform and they are obliging bloggers by publishing their posts and giving them due credit. This, according to them is much more than the monetary compensation. For such a feature, they don't even find it needful to take the permission of that blogger. And a few fools like me still swear by ethics!

There is a difference between Plagiarism and Copyright violation. When someone uses your original content unde his/her name and claiming it to be his/her original content, it is called as plagiarism. While copyright violation is when someone uses your original content, publishes or re-publishes it without your prior consent, it amounts to copyright violation.

Yes, I am angry. And I have written this post so that in future when famous brands copy your content without taking your permission or without giving due credit, you can refer to this post to know whether or not they have violated your copyright. You can even contact me in this matter as I have done my masters in Law in Intellectual Property Laws. I have written a thesis of 200 pages on Infringement. Whoever is interested, I can mail them a copy for their reference. Mind you, that theses is my copyright, so dare you borrow it to copy and publish it in your "famous" newspaper!


  1. Thanks for all the information in this post. I was starting to get irritated over these petty acts. First Femina, now is who? Better be prepared.
    Taking somebody's creation without their consent is such a gross violation of ethics and basic courtesy as it is. Shame on these newspapers/magazines.

  2. A great post Neha. I am currently working on a book, whose content privacy is tough to maintain till the time its hatching and I am also apprehensive in sharing its manuscript to publishers or other known faces cos still a lot of work need to be done to end it. What should I do, suppose if I want to get it published somewhere outside India in about, say 14 month later or something. Should I get it registered here under the act, U mentioned? What is the process for it?

  3. Well,if they have mentioned your name and you as the author,that is not bad.There are millions of bloggers,and half the blogs are all copy and paste.If one is too serious about the contents of his or her blog,one has to display the copy rights protection.

  4. A lawyer eh!! No wonder. Thanks for the links though. I have got a few of them copied over, but those are more of the tech posts. And the credit was mentioned.

    I think it's either the ignorance of these sites/news papers or may be just the assumption that no one will make a fuss over a simple post spanning a few lines. Either way, it's a crime, but most of us(hobbyist bloggers) don't bother to take action.

  5. REad about the copy / paste. You have all the legal sides well covered. Ofcourse, permission should have been sought.

    I wonder how many people think twice before using duplicate software ! Or buying 'cheap imitations'. Was wondering where they fit in under copyright law. Am in for some education..please..

  6. Don't be surprised if you find this post of yours featured in one of these again.Thanks for the link .

  7. This was a post whose time had come.

    I am glad you have explained the various fine differences between various terminologies, which we interchangingly and unthinkingly use. As well explaining things in a way non-legal lay(wo)men can understand.

    A very very useful and constructive post. Am bookmarking the links.

  8. Very useful information. Those reputed print/digital media just take things for granted.

    But its tough to track such things. For eg, I would never ever know if my blog post was reused elsewhere :-(

  9. Hello Neha,

    We have scant respect of IPRs and thats a fact. Many of us believe whatever available online is free.
    The question is not per se monetary benefits but about proper recognition of our work.

    Many a times because of fear of law (and lawyers) bloggers don't take any action.

    I once had an impromptu chat with a leading IPR attorney of Delhi and mentioned about this problem, his advice was "Why don't you come up and sue" it might take some time but will surely teach a lasting lesson.

  10. As an English reader I can say for certain that this is a worldwide problem. In some cases it could be the work of one unethical writer rather than an entire newpspaper's policy.

    One simple way to check if your content has been stolen: copy and paste a section of your blog post - a sentence or so that would likely be unique - and search for that sentence in Google. Then you should see every web page with that sentence in and can check any that are suspicious.

  11. Thank you for this useful Information :)


  12. Thanks for sharing...I wasnt aware papers could do that..

  13. thanks for the info...true it hurts...infact some of the pictures we use in our blog from google also violates copyright...just giving credit is not enough...


  14. good sum up. Newspapers regularly steal content from internet, including blogs. Happened with me and many bloggers I know of

  15. brilliant-this is so super if only some of these "famous" newspapers publish me now*all set with the arsenal*

    thank you for this!

  16. Great piece of information! Thank you for that.!

  17. Now this is something quiet informative, well I don't think I will ever need it yet an added bonanza for good bloggers. :)

    Weakest LINK

  18. This will never stop.If the content is good, juicy and relevant to their story, it wont stop.
    Music, Film,Toy designs etc all formed their own little society to get a statutory recognition.
    It wont be a bad idea to form one

  19. Thanks for sharing this knowledge. I also have concerns about this issue. I write a personal blog and once I found out that few college guys copied poems and sketches from there. There is no way to find out if they use the contents in their events.
    And, you talked about artistic content also. Along with writing, I sketch and paint also. Many-times, for learning I have used photographs clicked by others as reference for my sketches. Is it come under violation or plagiarism? I have never published any such work anywhere but I would like to know about the rights over them.

  20. Neha,

    Thanks for giving such useful information. I will call on you if I feel I have been cheated. Thanks.

    Take care

    PS : Left comments on previous 2 posts also.

  21. Oh yes! I saw my blog posts appearing in a few online news portals. I recently threatened one that had plagiarized a blog post of mine. They promptly sent me an apology but considering that it was a post from March, that is pretty useless. Even Mumbai Mirror once featured one of my blog posts about Swine flu and didn't bother to inform me. I only got the link through Analytics. Maybe, they think that they are too high and mighty and are doing us a favor. It is my fault that I did not really take any action. So many times, I don't even know when someone flicks content :(. But, I will save the link you provided and threaten to sue them next time.

  22. Thanks for sharing such a useful information, I will visit your website for further updates.