TOI believes – Flickr is for flicking 190

TOI thinks flickr is for flickingThis is shocking but unfortunately true. Our leading dailies make a business out of the photographs clicked by many of us. And they have the audacity to use them without permission , credit or compensation as well, even if they are against the copyright license. One of my pictures got “flicked” from my Flickr stream and got published in a weekly supplement of TOI’s called, “What’s Hot”, dated 18th July’08. I happened to take a look at this supplement quite by chance because it was lying around and I had nothing better to do.

 I immediately called up the editor of this supplement – a lady called Poonam singh – who said she will look into the issue. I wrote about 3 mails in all, asking for (a very meagre) compensation for the damages done as well as credit. For one, I never got a response in written – but of course that would mean acknowledging the theft. When I called up, I was told that it is common practice to “use” free images from the net! Flabbergasted at the audacity of this all, I clearly asked whether TOI staff was blind or illiterate to not be able to make out the clearly written statement on my flickr stream and my copyright license, both of which stated that my images can NOT be used without my explicit permission – ALL rights reserved. This is plagiarism in its full glory. Not only this, on asking for compensation, Ms. Poonam singh clearly told me that as a next step I could even go to lawyers and that this case will then be forwarded to the legal department of TOI. Huh? Was this a threat? Or a challenge? They actually go ahead, use an image with “all rights reserved” clearly mentioned on my page, have the audacity to state that this happens all the time – the “graphics designer may not know” and that I could go take the legal route?

Well, I clearly understand that it was not the editor herself stealing my image, but some downtrodden employee. But then undoubtedly, Ms. Poonam Singh, who represents the Times of India, is not performing her job of being an editor, if her employees are violating copyrights! Who is responsible for educating employees about copyright violation and the legal ramifications of it? How come the Indian publishing industry takes this so lightly, whereas the Indian IT industry (of which I am a part) takes IPR’s, patents and copyright violations so seriously that they throw out employees who download pirated mp3’s on their machines? I have undergone trainings on ethics a zillion times in my career. We have had several instances of audits, policies stuffed down our throats and what not. Why? Because the Indian IT industry takes this matter seriously. On the other hand, nauseatingly so, the Indian publishing industry takes this as its birthright!

The Indian Copyright Act, 1957; Section 63 – states that copyright infringement, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to three years and with fine which shall not be less than fifty thousand rupees but which may extend to two lakh rupees.
The law is on our side, the proof is in our hands and YET victims like us, do not do anything about this. After I shared my story on flickr, I shockingly realised that this practice is so rampant! I now know of many more cases like me, all of us bleeding because our creation has been stolen and used for a commercial purpose and we could do nothing but helplessly watch.

When I asked TOI for compensation, I was told that they will pay what they pay to their own photographers, which is a grand sum of 250 INR. I am tired of using this word repeatedly, but yet again, I was shocked and told the editor to keep this princely sum with herself. I was then offered 1500 INR as a “last offer” since this picture had been taken and used without my permission (such euphemism for THEFT). Just who the hell is TOI to decide compensation for MY piece of work? I do not exactly shout this from the top of trees, but like hell they need to realise a couple of things. That photography is not just a passion with me, it’s also a road to an alternate career for me. That I take it seriously, I spend money in equipment, in attaining knowledge, I spend time, effort and my resources to make a “creation”, which later I SELL. That I am at this juncture of being somewhat known in the Delhi Photography circuit (not just amateur but professional as well). That I co-administer a rather active group of Delhi based photographers, which consists of the likes of Dinesh Khanna and Pablo Bartholomew. That I also sell my prints to well known connoisseurs in the same field. Just how the hell can the Time of India value my piece of work? That’s like stealing my Mercedes and paying me for a Maruti, mind you, only because they happened to get caught red handed? Yes, I am expensive, but did TOI care? They just stole my picture without asking me how costly I am.

I have no idea, how many such images are being used on a daily basis – they could be anyones, but I do know that this nefarious practice is increasing day by day. I also plan to start a “morcha” against this kind of theft. I know of a lot of cases already and if you know of any, please get in touch. All readers of this post, I would request you to please share it widely, so that we can attack this disease as a people and not as an individual. The next stolen picture could be yours. I will certainly take legal action against Time of India. Even if it proves futile, I would not like to be in a state where I am doomed to wonder for the rest of my life – what if.

UPDATE – this issue has been resolved, thanks to all of you for your support. I have received the desired compensation, corrigendum as well as a written apology. I’ll be updating about the details in a separate post.

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190 thoughts on “TOI believes – Flickr is for flicking

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Sidharth – I had updated in the comments and also updated this post. Had plans to write elaborate details, bt never got around to actual blogging after that 😐 (you can blame twitter for that).

    Well my issue got resolved and I received the compensation I had desired as well as corrigendum. It’s all thanks to all bloggers who supported me.

  • Dilip Muralidaran

    HI Neetha,

    With all due respects personally as an individual, but technically as an Entity of TOI you ARE probably a SPAMMER based on “Eivind Rohne” account.

    You wrote to “Eivind Rohne” (according to him) many a times despite him repeatedly telling you he is not interested in providing images. I’m not sure who is lying and who is telling the truth but considering cheap things TOI does my benefit of doubt is for ” Eivind Rohne”. TOI can go bury its face in the sand like an ostrich for all i care.

    Please don’t try and play your threaten game here with people. Just because you work for a multinational and have loads of money and lawyers at your disposal does not give the right to threaten somebody of a lawsuit when they say something about you.

    After all, Sidharth stated facts based on someone’s comment. Sidharth is not an investigative journalist who needs to provide accurate information. He is a layman. The accuracy and ethics is YOUR responsibility as a part of TOI, which in no way TOI has given a rats ass to keep up with. Blatantly infringing copyrights, in other words robbing the common man off his hard work like a THIEF is what TOI has done.

    Now, i’ve stated facts too, based on evidence i have at hand. I don’t know who “Eivind Rohne” is and what he says. TOI as many of us bloggers know is the SCUM of Indian journalism for its thieving around activities. These are all facts and there is a whole repository of evidence all over the internet to prove it. Just google “TOI steals..” or something along those lines and see where you get to and how many 1000’s of hits you get.

    I’ve personally helped at least 3 people till date with copyright laws and educated them about their rights and to fight TOI related copyright cases.

    Go ahead and slap an anti defamation lawsuit on me, will you? Before that, check with your lawyer. Last time i checked with mine, stating TRUE FACTS with evidence does not account to defamation. Facts can be said anytime at any point in time in a democracy. Its called Freedom of Speech and constitutes the Right to Information agenda that the government of India abides by.

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Neeta, Sidharth – my blog or comment section is not for your public feud, please settle it yourself outside the space of my blog. I have removed both the comments (Neeta’s, Sidharth’s).

    Neeta – No one has the right to tell me what to put on my blog or order me around with “I want” statements. It’s due to what I DID put on this blog, that I could get TOI to acknowledge their mistake. In any case, I am not responsible for what someone ELSE writes about you on the internet. Please settle your “repute claims” on an individual basis.

    Comments are now under moderation and nothing obnoxious would be released here.

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Neeta – I agree with every word Dilip has written here. Please get your facts straight before setting out to threaten people. You have absolutely no idea how TOI’s “repute” has been shredded in recent times due to the same attitude.

  • Nita

    I tend to agree with Dilip that TOI has ruined its reputation. They steal. What is shameful is that they are a top newspaper. HT steals too ofcourse. Not just that, these top newspapers pay peanuts to their contributers unless they are celebrities. This is another way of stealing, or rather, exploiting people’s work. They also steal ideas and publish articles without acknowledgment. And the Press Council of India does nothing. The whole system in India favours these bullies. And the common man who works hard is cheated.
    Two weeks ago a top regional language newspaper stole my photograph but when I complained to the editor-in-chief, they responded instantly, within an hour. They send me mails, sent copies of my mail to several key people in their organisation (with a copy to me) and called me up several times. I had just complained once. They apologized profusely, said they would give me any compensation I wanted, but ofcourse I asked for a nominal amount. They were so nice and did not even say don’t mention their name, but I decided not to. What a contrast to the HT, which shamelessly did not acknowledge a single mail of mine and these shameless people should actually be jailed for stealing! How is it that a petty thief is thrown into jail and these corporate HT bigwigs in their ac cabins are not?

  • Eivind Rohne

    Wow… Seems that my “exposure” of TOIs email caused quite a stir. With them…

    The reason I submitted the content of the whole email was not to offend anyone at all. It was to contribute to the discussion, and to inform others how they have been contacting me. And the reason I wanted to do this, was partly because of the discussion going on here, and because I suspect this email have been sent to not just me, but a “few selected” (or “a lot” as we call it here up north…) others as well. If you read the email, the content doesn’t seem very confidential or personal at all. Maybe it’s just me, but everytime I receive an email from someone I a)Don’t know, or b)Haven’t got a professional relationsship with already, and they start their emails with the oh’so personal and jolly “Hi There”, I get suspicious. An opening line like that sets off a few alarm bells, and I start thinking about all the emails starting with “You have just won $50.000.000”. In other words, I’m just not buying it.

    The fact is that TOI have been sending me emails with almost identical content several times the last year, and I have answered them a few times in the beginning as well. As a professional photographer and a business proprietor, I receive everything from Nigeria scams; emails from people who doesn’t really want to get in touch with me – but keep hoping someone takes their bait; to people promising the world to get their hands on some good photography – preferably for free. Or less… My two cents…

  • Ankur Thatai

    Hi TF,
    Today same happened with me… Dainik Jagran Publish my picture without informing and my permission.
    I dint make any call yet, but I know I will not get any statement of satisfaction and justice.
    Friend, tell me what is the legal way to stop this?
    I will be waiting for your reply…

  • Tarun

    at least you are in India and came to know about this, there might me more such cases where blogger outside India will never know if his or her conent is being used by these media people. That’s good you fought and won. Three cheers for you.

  • sandeep

    thnx for taking this up for all of us … had u not called, i may not have even knows! till today i was generous with photos i’ve taken and granted permissions to whoever asked. but they cant even ASK!

    atleast, i am putting a watermark in all my pictures

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Akp – NDTV seems to be becoming the new anti bloggers thing these days. Well nothing new.
    For all thieves the rules are the same – please do write to them via email or fax or best – registered post. Ask them to pay up and give you credit, failing which you will go to court. Stick to your claim and you’ll get whatever you ask for.

    Also please join this mailing list and share your experience. –

  • onlinemf

    ‘Pirates of India’ is what TOI needs to be called as. As I can read in the comments above there are many Johnny Deep in that organisation.

  • arundati

    this morning i saw a picture of mine from my flickr photostream used to accompany a recipe in Deccan Chronicle in their hyderabad TV supplement…. i’ve written to the editor and am awaiting a response.twilight fairy, might need your help here…

  • Kumar J

    Jan 13th issue of Mid-day Mumbai, took my photos off facebook and hasn’t given me photocredit. I was contacted by the reporter doing the story and I specifically said give me photo credit. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the country at the time this happened. I have already written two emails, both ignored. I don’t know what to do further 🙁

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Kumar J – do you have written proof that you allowed the usage of your pictures in return for credit? If not you cant do much about it. Maybe except blog about it. what do you expect them to do now? They would certainly not reprint it with credit.

  • Kumar J

    Yes I have the emails and facebook messages. Atleast a corrigendum? or since it has taken them so long, compensation of some sorts?

  • Purnima Rao

    I hope you get to see this comment seeing as it comes at the end of a looooooooong list of people who support your work 😀

    I went through your flickr stream and LOVE your work. I’m glad you resolved the copyright issues and fought for your wonderful images.

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Hey Purnima – thanks 🙂 and yes of course I see all the comments :p

    As for pics getting stolen I wish more people would take action.. it’s our nonchalance that makes these publications steal so openly.

  • Renata

    Hello there

    I have also had to complain to ToI as they have linked one of my Flickr photos to a tag search on their website. I have emailed once, with no response, and have today emailed again as my photo is still there available as a thumbnail after searching for “spitting in public” on their photo section. I am UK-based, so I have no idea what level of compensation to ask for … my photo (to my knowledge) was not printed, but they have made it available as a thumbnail with a cheeky heading about photo sharing on Flickr (I have put in my email in capital letters that I have never agreed to share any of my Flickr photos). This kind of theft drives me crazy … they might be big in their industry but it does not mean they can break the law as they choose.

  • Nita Kulkarni

    Renata, it is unlikely that TOI will compensate you. TOI and also other major newspapers in India (Hindustan Times Delhi stole my photo and neither the editor nor any person bothered to even reply, leave alone pay anything!) think nothing of doing it. Basically, they want to cut costs so that they can make more profits. It is systematic stealing. Copyright laws in India are weak. Worse, they are hardly ever implemented. A pity isn’t it to see the blatant disregard for ethics in these major organisations.

  • Alok Shankar

    Hi Friends
    One of my picture on Flickr has been used by a famous National News Magazine, without my permission and credit has also been given to some other photographer.
    My Flickr setting is All Rights reserved.

    I have to send them a letter, and while searching for Letter Format on net , I came across your blog and found that many fellow photographers have been the victims previuosly.

    Most of the information regarding Copyright of photographs are about US and UK, could not find details about copyright act in India.
    Is there a Letter Format available or can you help me in writing a Legal Notice Like Letter as I have never faced this type of problem and I have no idea how to write a Legal Notice like letter to any magazine.

    Expecting an early reply.

    Thanks & Regards

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Hi Alok,

    You can contact any lawyer for getting an idea on how to formulate a legal notice.
    You can also join this mailing list where a lot of “fellow victims” and lawyers contribute towards the cause.

    You can get help regarding the entire situation and what all can be done.