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

  • Deepika

    I am a an online publisher myself and we buy each and every illustration and picture we use on the website. There is no question of using something that does not belong to us.
    The sad part here is, that TOI has been in the media industry for years, has all the right partners and well is known to be a bad paymaster.
    If you put up your pics on the net – the best is to watermark them so that even if someone copies it, they cannot use it without it showing clearly your watermark. Those who are concerned, will have to buy the pic to get the watermakr removed.

  • Sonali

    hey i saw a reference to your pick use and an apology in a tiny tiny column last friday! what a conpensation i must say!! now you cannot take the legal route as they have ‘compensated’ you!

    bad luck fairy

  • Saad

    @sonali: They printed an apology?

    But that’s not the same as giving credit for a creative common licensed item. The license is usually for Non Commercial work. So if I’m using T.F.’s photo in my non commercial blog, I can go ahead and use it, after giving credit. But newspapers cant just use photos for free just by giving credit (unless the person has set No Rights Reserved or similar license).

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Saad, Sahil – well yes, if not good, at least satisfactory for the time being.. I got in written that I would be getting the compensation I had asked for (which is of course more than 250/- or 1500/-) .. Now the latest is that I have received the cheque however I am waiting to encash it. I also receeived credit as mentioned by Sonali .. I am waiting for the cheque to encash and then I’ll post an update about everything.

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Abhishek – yes, you can surely spread the word about it.. I’ll also be following it up with the complete story, which needs to be shared definitely.

    Swati – no offence meant, but how on earth can I get an article printed in TOI? It’s not my paper 🙂 .. legal route, watermarking – I’ll update soon with a detailed post on how both these options are perhaps futile. What is needed is a stern attitude to NOT tolerate such incidents.

    Deepika – unfortunately this is a rampant practice.. amongst all media houses.

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Seema – I wish you had taken strict action then.. its more than a year old now.

    Sonali – yes, the corrigendum was part of my demands, apart from compensation. I have received the cheque and am waiting to encash it.. then I’ll share the complete update. Cant trust these ppl yet 🙂 .. and yes, even if someone gives credit, legally it is still theft and copyright infringement especially if it’s commercial use.

  • Seema

    Hi, I was also given an offer for publishing this kind of an apology by TOI, but I insisted since I use CC licensing, I need the credit the way I suggest! But those guys, just ignored it and never gave an apology! I guess one good idea would be start a blog just publishing all kinds of such instances and make it popular..for TOI the blog name can be something like “Shame TOI” 😉

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Seema – Ideally you should have asked for compensation and credit .. like I did.

    The central resource of all such cases – well that’s on its way .. stay tuned 🙂

  • Seema

    @twilight –its not very easy to fight sitting here in Kerala for my cause, a lawyer did write to them on my behalf, but such huge media houses are quiet unaffected –for them,a story means a day’s business and the next day its part of history! Individually people may get compensated here and there, but in the long run it has to be done through a collective forum! I dont know if one exist like that!!!

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Seema – if a lawyer did write to them, then it should have certainly taken shape. I also fought as an individual and not as a collective (that’s still on its way) .. however I did use the power of blogging and would really like to thank everyone who spread the word about this post. Ultimately when their PR got hurt, they were the ones running after me, rather than the other way round. Personally I feel it’s all about not giving up.. because with me also they tried a lot of bullshitting.. even after their PR got hurt, and they got in touch, they again tried blaming me for “getting angry” (duh) and not understanding that they never said they wouldnt pay. They then had the audacity to try and negotiate with me on some pretext or the other. One just needs to ignore their brainwashing tactics and stay persistent. Persistence pays!

  • Nita

    Wow, your sure are lucky TF. I think then Times of India is certainly more professional than Hindustan Times. No one ever got back to me, forget about compensation and aplogies! Now I realise that TOI is not that bad at all, at least the editors are clamping down on juniors stealing! But in Hindustan Times, the editors don’t care. I guess the stealing will go on there without any control.

  • Sahil

    Great…im happy for u…
    so did u encash the cheque…hope it did not bounce…lol…
    the moral is persistance pays..
    also,u got the credit…nice..
    waiting for the update..

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Hey Nita, I cant say the same abt TOI unofortunately.. I have had better experience with HT.

    However, that’s not even a criteria in getting what is owed to you. As I said, it’s all about persistence.. HT/TOI they are all the same. At the end of the day, you have to act in a way that they just can not ignore you anymore. Its never too late, you can start getting after them now.

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Thanks Sahil – it’s yet to encash. Plus its a bombay based bank cheque so it’ll take time. That’s why I am waiting before the update :).. dont trust them.

  • Niloufer Wadia

    Absolutely the same thing happened to me, not once but twice with TOI. Pencil drawings from my art site (clearly marked for sale) were lifted to illustrate articles of the same subject as the art, for example “Child Bride”.
    The first time between mails to and fro, the editor quit. The second time I got a printed apology so tiny I had to be told where to look for it. That only after I threatened to put a pop-up on all pages of my site saying “NOT TO BE STOLEN by ANYONE, INCLUDING TOI” and send the screen shot to publications (My company has a PR wing).
    They’re disgusting and arrogant. I wish I had the time to follow up more. I had however also written for advise on copyright issues to some UK site (couldn’t find an indian one) and they wrote back, I was amazed and pissed off, that actually the press could use any image they choose if it “really illustrated the article”. I hope thats not really true.
    The irony is, if someone had just called / mailed me for permission, back then I’d have happily giiven it for free, with just a by-line. I wouldn’t now.

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Niloufer – TOI seems to be in the “business” of stealing. And abt the UK site saying that press can use any image they please, I doubt if that has any basis at all.. copyrights would cease to exist then.

  • Ambuj Saxena


    What they are talking about is the “Fair use” or “Fair dealing” clause. This is a clause in most countries copyright laws that allows exception to use copyright works under the condition that:

    1) The work in question is used for illustration purpose, critical commentary, or parody
    2) There is no existing free alternative
    3) No free alternative can be created
    4) The derivative work adds something new
    5) The derivative work does its best to not adversely affect the original author’s right to sell the work (like using a low resolution version in case of work of art)

    The Fair Use clause is extemely important, for without it, you can’t even quote others. Even the photograph of ToI page at the top of this article is under the Fair Use clause (ToI has copyrights over the newspaper) as it satiffies the criteria. Different counties have slight variations in this law.

  • Pingback: » TOI flicks an image off Flickr again

  • Ambuj Saxena


    No, it is applicable to all possible works of art irrespective of the kind of copyright on them. Perhaps you are in doubt because you haven’t realized how difficult it is to claim a use under the Fair Use clause. In most cases (>99.999%) it is possible to create a free alternative. Be it a photograph of Prime Minister, a flower, or a monument. The rest of the clauses seal the misuse even further. If you check against all the conditions, you will hardly be able to justify the use. The rare examples where it can be used are:
    1) Use of a downsampled company’s logo in an article about the company.
    2) A short music sample (of reduced quality) in an article on song.
    3) An article about a painting/photograph (not the subject of the photograph, but THE phototograph) itself with downsampled painting/photo. For example see this article on Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima and the long list of rationale after the actual photograph.

    If you still have doubts that it can be misused, I will be happy to clear them.

  • Darpana Athale

    Hey TF,

    Looks like a whole lot of us are sailing in the same boat! Then how come with so many people complaining and saying they’ve sent mails and called etc, but there still has been no action taken against TOI!?

    Tch! I think all Photo sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa should have the option of ‘right click and save’ disabled. And a stronger rule against flicking and for copyrights.


  • Smaran

    This is seriously disturbing, but not in the least bit surprising. Now we know where they get their photos from.

    I’ve posted about this on my site in the hope that a few more fellow Indians read about it and starting voicing their concern.

    If this continues, we should consider some sort of economic boycott, by which people stop buying the Times of India. That would send a clear message.

  • Ambuj Saxena


    It is because of the lax Indian judiciary system, the cost of non-compliance is very low. Only very rarely (like in TF’s case) do they have to pay for the theft and in most cases they just go on cheating others.

    Disabling ‘Right click and save’ is not a solution to the problem. It is very easy to bypass it by just using the ‘Print Screen’ command. There are dozens of more ways to bypass it. Also, the websites cannot enfore any copyright laws as they can enforced solely by the governments involved.

  • Mishmash!

    Hello Twilight Fairy,

    Came here through Desipundit and could understand what you re going through as last month my work , a picture published in my blog was also printed in a leading malayalam newspaper, with watermarks cropped partly!I have written to them and no response till now and which is , as u said , a clear indication of acknowledging the theft they made….I lost respect for that particular Newspaper which I read growing up but after coming here and following other links, I am shocked to realise that it is a widely spread disease in the Indian publishing industry! Shame on them!

    I understand that you re in touch with Meeta…..She guided me a lot too….I am yet to publish it on my blog as I am giving them an opportunity to show some professionalism and respond to my mails and letters first! All the best with your legal attempts….I am waiting for my next trip to Kerala to visit their office and give a piece of my mind if they continue to establish such third level publishing!


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  • Aravind

    Hi, I came here to read your blog post about ToI, but please for the love of God, if you want another reader on your blog, change the background colour. It seriously hurts.

    All the best on your battle with ToI.

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Hey Darpana – unfortunate the state of affairs is. But we can surely improve it by doing something ourselves.. I think I have done something on my part to ensure that TOI (at least Delhi edition) would think thrice before doing something like this again.

    thanks for writing about this Smaran.

    Mishmash – yes I am in touch with Meeta about her case and hope it gets her some justice soon. You should surely write about this as you know that seems to be the sureshot way of making them listen to you.

    Aravind – thanks.. the issue has been resolved.. have to blog about the whole episode. The colour – aah well, I love it and so did most others who commented about it, so I’ll let it be. Other readers can read my feed in a feed reader instead 😛 🙂 .

  • Sidharth Vijayan

    Ahh..! My eyes.!!
    Take those shameless online thiefs to court.! And make that a top story.! I am keeping a close tab on your blog now. Wanna see how things work out.! And if you need witness “I KNOW YOU CHARGE A BOMB FOR A SNAP!!” 😀


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  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Sidharth Vijayan – this issue has been resolved already. Will update soon.

    Thanks Bellur RK.

    All – mainstream media finally picked up this piece and it was printed in Mint (10th October)

  • Jass

    Had no idea things like this were rampant, and that too with a brand like TOI. Jeez! I was even more shocked at the kind of reply they gave you!

  • Pingback: The Century Times » Blog Archive » Blogging or publishing online? Beware of Plagiarism & copyrights. But what’s that?

  • Eivind Rohne

    Hi there,

    I’m a professional photographer from Norway, and during the last year, I’ve got several emails from ToI where they’re asking for the right to use my images. I’ve answered them a couple of times, but didn’t really know what to make of this. A couple of days ago I got another mail from them, so I googled the issue and found your site. From what I can read here; better stay away from them…

    And by the way, here is their email:

    >Hi There,
    >I write to you on behalf of Times Syndication
    >Service, the syndication division of The Times of
    >India Group which is, the leading media group of
    >India, publishing the highest circulated English
    >daily, The Times of India
    >and the leading business and finance daily of India,
    >The Economic Times which is
    >second largest English financial daily in the world.
    >Kindly find a detailed introduction on The Times
    >Group attached in the mail.
    >In our endeavors to provide the best to our viewers,
    >we are displaying work of photographers, agencies and
    >models across the globe on
    > Having visited
    >your website, we felt your work would be well
    >appreciated on our website. We are keen to utilise
    >your photographs on indiatimes photo gallery. We
    >require fashion images of glamorous female models.
    >We would be happy to give you a prominent credit line
    >on the website with every photograph provided by you.
    >Waiting for a prompt revert.
    >Neeta Rajwar
    >Times Syndication Services
    >The Times of India

    Eivind Rohne /

  • Twilight Fairy Post author

    Jass – things like this dont shock my anymore :|. Have seen so many cases now.

    Jyotsna – sorry I have been so caught up, I havent even blogged in two months. But I’ll surely write a post abt all these instances and will link you. Hope you got your desired remuneration.

    Bobinson – this is great! we need more such victories.

    Elvind – as you might have made out, it’s better to stay away from TOI. Not only will they use your contribution for a petty 250/-, they will further sell it in their syndication service and earn much more than what they share with you. You are better off selling your work to image stock agencies.

  • Neeta Rajwar

    I would like you to delete my personal details mentioned in the comment written by Eivind Rohne….

    This is highly unprofessional on his part, If he doesn’t want to provide us the images its fine with us but how can he give my confidential proposal with my personal details like this on this blog.


    Neeta Rajwar
    Times Syndication Services
    The Times of India

    Comment by Neeta Rajwar — December 4, 2008 @ 5:44 pm