Ghumakkar Insights – Maya, Chitrachor, and Plagiarism

“The bees pillage the flowers here and there but they make honey of them which is all their own; it is no longer thyme or marjolaine: so the pieces borrowed from others he will transform and mix up into a work all his own.”…….Michael Eyquen de Montaigne

Permit me to narrate an anecdote about a fictitious schoolgirl called Maya. Her class is given an assignment to write an essay titled “My most memorable trip”. She has just returned from a visit to the famous Vaishno Devi shrine and decides to write about it. However, when she sits down to write, she does not know what to write about other than it was an enjoyable visit and the atmosphere in the temple was very spiritual. Maya logs into the internet and surfs in search of information. She used bits and pieces from everywhere, stitches together an essay and proudly submits her essay to her teacher.
Her teacher is not very impressed. She is familiar with the way Maya writes and is sure that it was copied from somewhere. So the teacher selects the first few words of the opening paragraph: “Shri Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine is on Trikuta Hills, Shivalik Range, at a height of 5300 feet. From Katra, which is more like base-camp, you need to climb 13 odd KMs. Katra would be about 50 KMs from Jammu. If you are on road then its about 35 KM from Udhampur. On the top, there is a cave where the deity is kept.

She inputs the first few lines in the google search engine and this result pops up on the screen in a flash:



When she clicks on the hyperlink, she is taken to the ghumakkar website and it turns out to be a copy-paste job from a blog written by our very own Mr. Nandan Jha !

Poor Maya. Not only did she not get the marks and accolades she expected, she received a stern warning from her Principal. One hopes that she has learnt a lesson.

While copy-and-paste jobs involving text are quite easy to track, in the case of images, it is is another story. A person, whom we shall call Chitrachor, is passionate about astronomy but has neither the photographic skills nor the equipment to shoot astral objects. Yet, he wishes to impress members of his internet group by writing a post on photographing star trails. So, he starts googling around, looking for pictures and other stuff on star trails.

Let us suppose that while scanning the web world, he comes across this blog:
http://www.ghumakkar.com/2011/12/18/the-land-of-monasteries-and-mysteries-of-god-spiti/

The photograph of star trails in this article catches his fancy and he decides to use this picture.

Image used with the kind permission of Mr. Aditya Khandelwal

Now, Mr. Aditya Khandelwal, the owner of this work, has obviously invested a lot of his time and hard earned money to acquire the skills and the equipment to produce this work of art. He traveled all the way to a remote location in the Himalayas, in search of a place where there is absolute darkness, which is essential for photographing star trails. He has also watermarked this image, letting everybody know that the copyright belongs to him and him alone.

While this might deter an ordinary person, the unscrupulous Mr. Chitrachor is quite resourceful and he uses software to slightly alter the original image and then replace the original watermark with a watermark of his own.

Image altered with the kind permission of Aditya. Our apologies to him for desecrating his work

He then publishes it on his interest group’s website and basks in the thoroughly undeserved admiration that is showered on him. What Chitrachor has done is not just highly unethical and morally reprehensible; it is also a cognizable offense, a punishable crime.

The crimes described above have a name: Plagiarism. It may be defined as theft of intellectual property. It can be a photograph, a painting, an essay or anything that is a result of intellectual effort of someone else. The rightful owner of the work possesses all rights and nobody can use such work without the consent or permission of the owner.

We are living in the information age and staggering amounts of materials are being published everyday. The explosion of information is unprecedented in history. Hence, there is huge temptation to steal someone else’s work and pass it off as our own. Journalists have lost their credibility and their jobs when they were found guilty of plagiarism. Music composers have lost their reputation when it was found that their latest hit was actually filched from some other country.

There are a lot of online sites where one can check whether any material is original or has been copied from somewhere else. All one has to do is to google for “plagiarism check” and hundreds of sites offering this service come up on the screen.

In India, laws for protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are still in the nascent stage and there are a lot of gray areas. However, under the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957, all original work published on the Internet is protected by this act. Plagiarists can be booked under the provisions of this act and legal penalties may be imposed by courts on them.

Ghumakkar is a site meant for people who share a passion for travel and sharing their experiences with others. Not everybody can capture images as aesthetically as Raghu Rai or write as elegantly as Vikram Seth. We are a motley bunch of working professionals united by an intense love for ghumakkari, writing and photography, in addition to other individual pursuits and hobbies.

Hence, it is of utmost importance that we maintain the highest ethical and moral standards of conduct. Plagiarism is totally unacceptable. There are occasions when we are not able to take photographs for a variety of reasons like restrictions on photography, malfunction of equipment, drained out batteries, etc. In such cases, we can use the work of others provided that

1. The consent/written permission is taken from the holder of the copyright

2. The material is not copyrighted and it is available in the public domain.

3. Due credit is given to the creator of the work and there is full compliance with the stipulations of the license.

Take the case of Mr. X. He is writing a blog on the famous Lotus Temple in New Delhi, but the photographs taken by him were not up to the mark as it was raining all the time. He visits the wikimedia commons website in search of images of Delhi. He finds a suitable image and on scrolling down, the license information is displayed as seen in the screenshot given below:.

Since the name of author is not known, it is sufficient if Mr. X mentions that URL of the website from where this image was sourced.

The Baha’i House of Worship, New Delhi, better known as the Lotus Temple

(The above image has been downloaded from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lotus_temple_Delhi.jpg. It is licensed under under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author of this work is unknown)

Wikimedia is an excellent source of pictures and written material which can be re-used freely in accordance with the stipulations specified for re-use of such content. More information can be accessed from this link.

Images can also be sourced from flickr. However, one must always ensure that the image is not copyrighted and is available in the public domain. Just because an image is available on the internet, it does not mean that it is not copyrighted. Always search for licensing information; if no such information is available, it is safe to assume that the image is copyrighted.

I would like to mention the example of Mr. Vishal Rathod, one of the prolific writers here on ghumakkar. On a recent trip to the sacred Somnath temple, he was not able to take photographs inside the shrine. However, on knowing that beautiful images were available with the Trust managing the temple, he pursued them with unrelenting tenacity. In his own words, “After around 25 – 30 days of wait, and continuous follow up on emails and phone, I managed to get the written permission put images from Shree Somnath Trust . For that I sincerely thank Shree Vijay Bhai Chavda ( AGM – Shree Somnath Trust) and Shree Mahesh Bhai Chauhan ( Legal Advisor- Shree Somnath Trust ) from bottom of my heart for granting me the same.” Well done, Vishal Bhai, you have set a great example for all of us and thank you for giving us darshan of Lord Somnath.

Wishing all readers happy ghumakkari and looking forward to enjoying your original work on our beloved website.

29 Comments

  • ???? ?? ??????? ???? ?????????? ??????? ?? ????? ?? ???? ? ????? ??? ?? ???? ?? ?????? ??? ???? ?? ?? ??? ??? ???? ??? ???? ?? ???? ?? ????? ????? ?? ?????? ???? ???????? ??? ?? ?? ???? ???? ????? ?? ?? ???? ????? ??? ?

    ????? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ??????? ??? ???? ?? ??? ?? ?????? ?? ?? ??? ??? ?????? ???? ?? ??? ?? ?? ???? ????? ? ???? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?? ???? ????? ??? ?? ??????? ???? ??? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ??

  • Bravo!
    Agree with you on both points. A very informative write up indeed.

  • Patrick says:

    That was very informative.

  • sacsim says:

    good for all those bloggers out there!!!!!!

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Glad that you think so, Sacsim.

  • Tarun Talwar says:

    DL ji,

    Very informative post.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Much obliged, Tarunji, thanks for your appreciation.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Nice Nice. I am sure that we are all aware and sensitive to this but a back of mind reminder often ensures that we do not slip.

    To add to what DL said
    1. A copied text is easy to spot by a regular reader. Everyone has a style, a pattern, a way to weave and when you find a particular section to be going outside that weave, you know that something is not right.

    2. Incase of photos, it is even more evident. :-).

    So, while we wont publicly comment that a section seems to be inspired from a text at Wikipedia, we would definitely know it and begin to make an opinion about an Author.

    Wikimedia is a great common library but if you need a particular photo, just write to me. There is a great chance that it might be there in a Ghumakkar story and I can help you get the necessary consent (just like Astro’s pic in this piece).

    And here is my regular advt time which I would hopefully stop doing after our monthly ‘Insights’ story is known enough. The monthly ‘Insight’ story comes on every 22nd and you can access all ‘Insights’ at
    http://www.ghumakkar.com/category/insights/

    If you want to write one, then send me a small brief and I would work with you.

    Thank you DL.

  • SilentSoul says:

    Narayanji, You have worked very hard to bring out this post. Your investigating skills are excellent. thanks for this post which will help many.

    Tell me if someone has removed the watermark and put his own, can still be traced ? I think each photo has its own technical data, which is copied into the next photo, even if it is photoshopped. Is it true ?

    also how can a text be called copyrighted if it contains facts and figures. suppose I write in my post :-

    “Badrinath is at the height of 3700 meteres, between the mountains Nara & Narayana. 3 kms from badrinath is the last village of India, called Mana”

    Now these are facts about Badrinath, which I also read somewhere…. how can it be my copyright ? anyone who writes about badrinath, would have to write same facts.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks, SS ji, for your appreciation. You are normally the first to comment and all of us wait eagerly for your insightful comments.

      1. All images shot on Digital Cameras carry embedded information known as metadata. They come in various formats such as EXIF, IPTC and XMP. The information embedded is usually about the camera make and model, aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings and other technical details and manipulation history using software like Photoshop, etc. By right-clicking on the image and selecting properties, it is possible to read metadata embedded into the images. One can also enter additional information using software like Photo Mechanic. For in depth info on metadata, please peruse this document.

      http://www.metadataworkinggroup.org/pdf/mwg_guidance.pdf

      2. It is easy to erase metadata using software. To the best of my knowledge, it is not yet illegal to erase or modify metadata embedded into images. But it is definitely unethical to do so.

      3. Regarding text, it is okay to quote factual information but usually one is expected to mention the source. When one is writing a thesis or an academic paper, one is expected to provide references. When writing a blog, it is okay unless one lifts huge chunks of information written by somebody else. I had given a quote at the beginning from de Montaigne which gives the example of a honeybee which collects nectar from many flowers but produces a honey which has its own unique character. So, it is okay to collect information but we have to express it in our own words.

      To end on a humorous note, it is plagiarism to copy from one source; copying from many is called research.
      :-)

  • SilentSoul says:

    Tks Narayanji, yr reply was equally enlightening. I used to comment first on some friend’s posts, but then Jaat Brigade took over charge from me and started giving first comments. If they put alarm at 0400 hrs wake up and give comment and sleep again, just to compete… I should withdraw from the competition… isn’t it?

  • Vibha says:

    Dear DL,

    Very insightful and educative post. Moreover, it is fun to read. The name “Chitrachor” was very imaginative and funny. :)

    Vishal Rathod has indeed set an example for all bloggers and writers to follow. Thanks for highlighting his diligence.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks, Vibha, for making my day.

  • Giriraj Shekhawat says:

    D.L Sahab

    First i must congratulate you for writing such insightful post full of revelations…. You have written and explained everything so lucid that an ignorant like me can understand the difference between original and fake.
    Information about metadata and plagiarism ………. I want more of such insights from you D.L sahab

    ??? ?????????? ??????? ????

  • SilentSoul says:

    The country who is zealously advocating the copyright thing, is itself the biggest chor. Not many years have passed when Tulsi and Neem were patented by them, which due to efforts of NRIs and Govt of India was finally trashed. Even now many of the yoga postures and many direct takes from Patanjali yoga sutras have been patented by americans. at least 350 yoga techniques are available, which are direct copy of Patanjali Yoga sutras and the modern day gurus are patenting/advertising them in their names.

    on a humorous side, a day will come, when they will patent “Om Namo shivaye” and each Indian would be paying 10 dollars for chanting the name of shiva.

    The temples in India, do not allow photography, but they themselves take photos of deity and sell it outside as picture cards. In Lebanon I went to Jetto caves and they dont allow cameras or even mobiles inside. But latest photos of the caves are being sold outside as costly picture cards.

    to me the idea in theory is noble, but practically it is for the gains of some clever few.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    @ Giriraj- Thanks for your effusive praise. Glad that you liked it. One more thing, please call me DL. ?????? ????? ???? ?? ????.

    @SS- I agree that the patent laws are being used to protect commercial interests. If the world had to pay for using the decimal system and numerals invented by India, we would have been the richest country in the world. I found your comment about having to shell out cash for the privilege of chanting ? ??? ????? extremely funny.

    On a more serious note, I agree that our temples have become commercialised and God’s blessings are for sale to the highest bidder. What else can we expect in the Kaliyug?

  • Good One DL………………..

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful information…………………

    Hope so it sets example to fellow ghumakkars……………..

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi DL,

    Great post, extremely relevant and topical.

    Ghumakkars on this site (and off) are united generally by two passions – one, the spirit of Ghumakkari (which goes unsaid) and two, the passion to share our experience with others to enable others reap benefits (howsoever small or big) out of it.

    Now, this post is about passion # 2, which generally remains unattended . That’s why I am truly appreciative of your post highlighting aspect of plagiarism.

    I hope that the message, brought out so effusively herein, drives home the point – a ghumakkar is all about his/her ghumakkari and an unadulterated description of one’s point of view thereafter. A ‘cut and paste’ job (words or pics) actually alienate the readers and as Nandan responded above, such actions get noticed sooner than later by redears.

    Thanks for the enlightening article,

    Auro.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks Auro, for your insightful comments. Its been quite a while since you have written an article here. Hope that you will soon give us the pleasure of enjoying one from your pen soon.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    DL ji,

    Very informative post. Hope fellow ghumakkars will get highly benefited from your high value post.

    Thanks.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks, Mukesh bhai…haven’t seen you here for a long while. I guess that you were travelling..when are you going to share your new experience with your fellow ghumakkars?

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Congratulations for Featured Author for the Month of June 2012

  • Thoroughly enjoyed the post, dear DL which I came across today only. But I’m extremely disturbed because of your complete silence over the years.

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