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