Note: I had made this post to demand that The Sri Lanka Guardian take my unauthorized article off its website! Within 10 days of releasing this post, the newspaper took my article of its website. Thank you to everyone on Facebook and Twitter who helped by circulating this post and gave voice to my protests over the violation of my copyrights.
A few days ago, I received tweets from people regarding an article of mine, published in The Sri Lanka Guardian. This was an article on Gandhi’s sexual abuse of young girls under his tutelage that I had published on Youth ki Awaaz (YKA), but I had not been approached by the Sri Lanka Guardian to reprint it, so I was surprised. The format, including the photo of Gandhi, was exactly the way it is on YKA, as was the author’s bio that YKA put up for me.
I do write for YKA regularly, and there is a standing understanding between us that while I usually do not publish the same article on two sites, anyone approaching them for anything I’ve written should contact me directly. Still giving The Sri Lanka Guardian the benefit of the doubt, I checked my inbox for mails I might have missed, but found nothing. Then I asked YKA. They too were surprised, for they hadn’t been approached.
So I wrote to The Sri Lanka Guardian asking for an explanation. They said they had copied it off someone’s Facebook wall! When I put this to my legal counsel, he said this was absurd! Facebook is an informal platform for social sharing. However, The Sri Lanka Guardian is an official, commercial, publishing house, to which stringent copyright rules and publishing protocols apply. Even if they got it off Facebook (as they seem to claim they have), it has my name and bio on it, and as the author they should to have contacted me for permission before publishing it.
I wrote back to the Sri Lanka Guardian, relaying what I had been advised, and stated that I understood they had clearly violated my copyrights! Also on counsel’s advice I gave them two options to resolve the matter for me. Either they paid me what they did their columnists, or else within 48 hours (by May 07, 2014) they must remove my article from their site. They did neither! Instead they just stopped responding!
Copyright violations are something that writers and artists have to deal with all the time. And it is very frustrating to deal with, because the laws in countries like India where I live are not strong or effective. Violations across international boundaries are even harder to deal with. Sometime ago a major magazine printed a photo that I have taken without my permission, and it took me 6 months to get them to pay me, and publish an apology in the next issue.
What I find is that there are two approaches to copyright violations. One is by the little magazines, who feel they are too small and obscure for anyone to even find out. And usually we don’t!
But it is the second group that is particularly obnoxious! They are the big media houses, who print and put their stuff everywhere, and feel they can brazenly violate copyrights of writers and photographers, because no one can do anything to them! They know you are not going to court for each violation, because it is expensive. So they can go ahead, like big bullies and trample on your rights! Of course they choose their victims carefully, for they won’t do this to a high-profile, “celebrity” author! Most writers and photographers try to address the issue through communication, but eventually give up and back away. Well, I’ve never been one to give in to a bully!
Here’s the link to the original article on YKA: http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2013/10/gandhi-used-power-position-exploit-young-women-way-react-matters-even-today/
Here’s the link to the unauthorized post on Sri Lanka Guardian: http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2014/04/gandhi-used-his-position-to-sexually.html