Monday, March 05, 2007

A United Voice Against Plagiarism



(Icon credit: Sandeepa of Bong Mom's Cookbook).

What is plagiarism? In simple terms, it is to steal someone's ideas or work and pass it off as one's own without giving them due credit. Plagiarism is serious business; it is morally wrong and often illegal as well.

As a food blogger, I pen down my thoughts, try my hand at food photography, share my favorite recipes...and it is all in the spirit of learning to write, photograph and cook. We live in a world of relentless consumerism, and I want this little blog to be a tiny oasis where there are no commercials and you can enjoy the contents absolutely free. Where the world revolves around money, food blogs exist simply for the love of cooking and the joy of sharing.

But you know what hurts? When someone else, often a big corporation with pots of money, steals your words and photographs and uses them for their own commercial purposes. A small-time stand-alone blogger gets no recognition, no compensation, nothing. This is exactly what happened recently when Yahoo India started a regional language portal and blithely stole contents from blogs without giving them any credit, let alone any compensation. This, from a multi-billion dollar enterprise. How shameful is that? Read the story here.

Recently, a picture from this blog ended up plagiarized on Wikipedia. I was alerted of this by a vigilant reader (thanks!) and I am grateful to Wiki for removing the picture immediately once I e-mailed them about the situation. But I can tell you the surge of anger that went through me when I saw my (humble, unprofessional, but mine nonetheless) work being displayed without attribution. There was also an incident recently where I saw my pictures being displayed on another food blog (ironically, I discovered this when the blogger mailed me asking for a link). When I contacted the blogger, she told me that she found them via a google image search, and that she had mailed google asking *them* for permission to use *my* images! So, it can happen out of a lack of understanding too.

Today, we are coming together to protest plagiarism. I urge everyone to:
a) be aware of plagiarism and that it is a serious offense.
b) be vocal against it, whether it means taking on a corporate giant or an individual.
c) let someone know if you see their work being plagiarized.

If you ask nicely and give credit, most times a blogger will be delighted to share his/her work. I know that I have given permission many times for my content to be used in other media (and never asked for any financial compensation, just for my name to be credited). For my part, I pledge to be vigilant and ensure that I do not unintentionally plagiarize anyone else's work. Thanks for listening, everyone!

6 comments:

  1. Aagh! That sucks:(
    In fact, what happened was also something you might not be aware. And this happened on the popoular website 'Orkut' where there is a community called 'Marathi Jevan'. I saw the owner using one of your pictures ( I think it was sabudana wada) as the display pic of his community.
    Plus, he posted a message saying 'The items on marathi food on 'google images' are getting scantier, so kindly send me any food related pics for the sake of this community'
    I sent him an email saying that he should have requested you to send the images that belong to you and not use it in an unauthorized manner like that.
    He was kind enough to acknowledge but do not know what happened later.

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  2. Hi Nupur,

    Just saw your post. Its shocking indeed-i had seen protest posts in the morning on a cpl. of other blogs too. I am with you all in this protest. I love cooking and food per se, so i can imagine how you must have felt. and even though i haven't yet blogged about cooking yet, i was enraged.....i wrote a protest post too.

    I hope the other blogger you mentioned has since come forth to remove your content from her site.....am not sure who he/she is, but i can only hope that they learn the words like "request", "Copyright" etc.

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  3. Rays of sun, sigh, I know that fellow. He mailed me saying, "can I use all the pictures from your site, and if you have others, please send them". I tried to explain nicely that what he was asking for was not a reasonable request, so please could he choose just one picture to use and give me credit for the same. I don't think he liked my answer very much and never wrote back. If you ask me, he thinks google images is a free-for-all bank of images, and that copyright means he has the right to copy whatever he feels like! If I ever catch one of my images on his orkut site, his name will be published here for all to see.
    rays of sun, thank you for watching my back and questioning this guy. The support means a lot to me.

    Musical, thanks for the support, really appreciate it. The truth is that all bloggers are at risk of being copied, no matter what they write about. March 5th, many bloggers decided to write a post highlighting this.
    That person who has some of my pictures on her blog removed them immediately. Like many others, she also thought that if you find it on google images, it must be freely available to be copied. It is a sad and serious misunderstanding.

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  4. Hi Nupur. Just what I think too. And you are right about the 'awareness' part as well. There may be some people (obviously not Yahoo!) who may not know better. But, ignorance does not absolve one of final responsibility.
    We must be vigilant and watch out for each other.
    Incidently, one of the images 'matched' with the stolen recipes was lifted from my blog!!

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  5. Not a problem!! :)

    Suganya, the vigilant reader

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  6. Thank you so much for this post. I agree with you 100%, as a blogger and an academic. I also want my blog to be a commercial- and consumerist-free space, and know how you must have felt when you saw your image used without permission or credit.

    I'm worried that since I don't title my photos or watermark them that I'll never know if/when they get stolen.

    A few times, I have used random images from google, but always attributed the site where I got them. I'll be even more vigilant now.

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