Home > 2018 > Widespread Misuse of a Photograph

Mainstream, VOL LVI No 30 New Delhi July 14, 2018

Widespread Misuse of a Photograph

Sunday 15 July 2018, by Mukul Dube

When I used to visit Sushri Krishna Sobti’s home, which is near my own, I sometimes took photographs. One photograph of her, taken in 2011, appealed to me and I put it up in my Flickr “photostream” (https://www.flickr.com/photos/8234304@N03/6471151101/) Some months or years later I put the same photo on Krishna ji’s page on Wikipedia.

The announcement that Krishnaji had won the Jnanpith Award came on November 3, 2017, and pretty soon media people were swarming over my photo of her with their sticky fingers. One of my nieces said that I should feel flattered; to which my response was that no stable owner welcomes the praise of a horse thief.

I have only an incomplete list of news reports in which my photo was used: working alone, I could not search the entire Internet. In some, the photo has been removed or replaced: but I kept screen captures on FaceBook because I have dealt with shifty people before this. Below are URLs followed by notes about responses and actions.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/hindi-writer-krishna-sobti-selected-for-53rd-jnanpith-award-4921307/

Message from Monika Bansal, Grievance Officer, indianexpress.com:

“The illustration ... referred to by you, was a sketch contributed by Mr Subrata Dhar. He has unfortunately resigned and we have not been able to verify the source from which he sketched the illustration....” I had sent Ms Bansal two images as a PDF file: my photo and Dhar’s work. One look is enough to “verify” that the Dhar person’s work was based on my photo.

The photo has been replaced and there is no admission that an illustration based on my work had ever appeared. However, those who know that the award was announced the previous November will smell something fishy in “Updated: June 27, 2018 10:53:13 pm”.

Ms Bansal did not react to my remark that I contributed both text and photos to her newspaper around 1980 and text in the early years of this century.

https://www.thebetterindia.com/120034/grande-dame-hindi-literature-krishna-sobti-wins-2017-jnanpith-award/

The Managing Editor of The Better India, Vinayak Hegde, apologised for what he called “the oversight”. He said: “We have edited the article with the attribution—‘Image Credit: Mukul Dube via Flickr’.” I do not know yet if this complies with the terms of the licence, CC BY-SA 2.0. There is no published apology.

https://hindi.firstpost.com/culture/krishna-sobti-jnanpith-award-gyanpeeth-award-2017-hindi-literature-partition-is-always-in-her-literature-pr-64730.html

I sent multiple e-mail messages to the only address I could find, feedback@firstpost.com. At this general address they have probably put someone who is trained to delete inconvenient messages. The editorial and managerial staff do not seem to have e-mail accounts. I also sent a message on FaceBook to the account of B.V. Rao of Firstpost but no one appears to read messages there.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/books/features/krishna-sobti-to-receive-jnanpith-17/articleshow/61504481.cms

Like Firstpost, The Times of India is cagey about publishing e-mail addresses. I used to communicate with its editorial people when I wrote for it—but that was a long time back.

https://www.divyabhaskar.co.in/news/MAG-92-year-old-krishnaji-will-be-conferred-the-53rd-jnanpith-award-gujarati-news-5745088-NOR.html

Again, no e-mail address provided. I wrote a comment under the photo and also sent a link and a message on the feedback form.

https://tinyurl.com/ybhoubd9 (Deutsche Welle)

Message sent by e-mail, no reply received.

The Rajkamal Prakashan Group (or Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh), publishers, have used, in several places, including the Facebook page of their author Krishna Sobti, not the photo I took but the drawing based on it and published in The Indian Express. Thus they lifted the work of someone who lifted my work. A person named Sumer wrote to me on FaceBook that a credit line appears on the photo. Indeed such a line appears—but it reads “https://images.indianexpress. com/2017/06/sobti.jpg” and thus refers to an image based on my photo. Being in extremely small type, it is also immensely difficult to read. The Group or Samuh has also placed its own logo on the image. Unsurprisingly, this is large and legible. There is no published apology.

2. Videos (all but one on Youtube): URLs are followed by uploaders

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRv_fDLcEwQ — Essay|(,

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csgqn_SZzJ4 — Ravish Kumar Fan Club / NDTV

https://ru-clip.com/video/csgqn_SZzJ4/ravish-kumar-prime-time-krishna-sobti-chosen-for-jnanpith-award.html — same as previous, but not Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWrs2Pnv8Go — Manorama News

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGY2nhqQj0k — DDNews

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpLeTcZAKJ4 — DDNews

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d80QRRZtk1U — DDNews

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kjLm0170Lc — News1 India

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOUvBxoYXOg — Raja Sharma

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC6_6WYRk5k — BakLOL News

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq1-HF_m5UU — ZERO TO ONE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_2_9k0HOgY — Love Life Relationships Stuffs

For NDTV I found only feedback@ndtv.com and ravis@ndtv.com. Two messages to each seem to have sunk in the Jamna river; and no one has responded from the Facebook account “NDTV India”. I could not figure out how to communicate about the other videos in the list above. However, YouTube responded and is likely to act on my complaint.

There are several well-known names in the lists of those whom I hold to have improperly used my work. It is difficult to believe that major daily newspapers and leading television outfits do not make their employees aware of the law concerning copyright. Then there is the elementary principle, taught to every child, that one should not pinch something created by another. Why, then, do these media people grab any image they want from the Internet and present it to the world without giving credit to the person who created the image?

Perhaps an analogy will help. Children see, early in life, that there are some notionally forbidden acts which people can get away with; and, as a part of growing up, they try constantly to see how far they can go without being pulled up. The people who so freely misuse my work know that, given the realities of the Indian legal system, they can pretty much get away with murder. The prospect of punishment is what they think about, principles be damned.

The author is a writer, editor and photographer.

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