To protect Copyright Privileges of Bloggers, To Document incidents of illegal content theft from Blogs.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

FAQ - Copyright Violation by Yahoo

A brief History

  1. Yahoo India launched a multi-lingual portal for seven of the Indian Languages.
  2. While browsing through the portal bloggers spotted around 8 instances of plagiarism by Yahoo! India. They were primarily poems, articles, recipes written in Malayalam copied to Yahoo! India's new Malayalam portal. Poems which another web magazine ( remunerated the authors and published it on their online magazine were copied into Yahoo's portal pages.
  3. Yahoo! India Portal had a copyright violation report page, with the Yahoo! Inc email and mailing address. After complaining to Yahoo! Inc, they redirected bloggers to Yahoo! India and Webdunia, causing the bloggers to run in circles. These games were played for about a month. Yahoo! India even denied any incident of plagiarism or copyright violation prior to March 5th Protest.
  4. However, as soon as the complaints were made, Yahoo deleted the copied content. But an acknowledgement or a proper apology was missing.
  5. Yahoo! India shared personal contact details of the bloggers who complained by emails, to a third party (WebDunia), without permission from bloggers.

List of Evidence (updated periodically):

  1. 2007-Mar-29: 1 instance of content theft, by which a photograph from India's leading National Newspaper "The Hindu". Picture from The Hindu. Yahoo stolen picture screen shot.
  2. 2007-Mar-29: 1 instance of content theft, by which a photograph from India's leading newsportal Picture from Yahoo stolen picture screen shot.
  3. 2007-Mar-29: 1 instance of content theft, by which a photograph from a very popular online recipe site Picture from Yahoo stolen picture screen shot.
  4. 2007-Mar-29: 1 instance of content theft, by which a photograph from an online recipe site, Picture from Yahoo stolen picture screen shot.
  5. 2007-Mar-29: 1 instance of content theft, by which a photograph from an online business site, This picture had a watermark, Yahoo even copied the watermark. Picture from Yahoo stolen picture screen shot.
  6. 2007-Mar-15: 1 instance of Hindi poem was stolen by Yahoo India without authors knowledge or permission. Article in Hindi.
  7. 2007-Mar-13: 1 (one) instance of content theft, by which a photograph from Sailu's Food was stolen by Yahoo India. Yahoo stolen picture screen shot. Yahoo India cropped this picture, and used it in a Gujarati Page elsewhere.
  8. 2007-Mar-13: 1 instance of content theft, by which a photograph from Saffron Hut was stolen by Yahoo India. Yahoo India cropped the picture and used it in a Hindi Page. Yahoo stolen picture screen shot.
  9. 2007-Mar-13: 1 instance of content theft, by which a photograph from Shilpa's blog was lifted and used by Yahoo India on a Kannada Page. Yahoo stolen picture screen shot.
  10. 2007-Mar-13: 1 instance of content theft, by which this picture from Anita's post was cropped and used by Yahoo India to further "glorify" the theft from Kariveppila.
  11. 2007-Feb-05: Nalapachakam, chintha , moonnaamidam . Nalapachakam, entire blog was eaten up by Yahoo. Literature from Chintha and Moonamidam. Unfortunately, by the time people were notified, Yahoo removed the contents.
  12. 2007-Feb-05: 6 instances of content theft committed from Kariveppila blog. Post in Kariveppila blog.
  13. 2007-Feb-02: 1 instance of content theft committed, by which a poem from was stolen by Yahoo India. Post in

(Thank you Valli from China, a non-blogger but an avid reader of Mahanandi, who brought forth many evidence for this post)

How did bloggers expect Yahoo to handle the issue?

  1. A written apology from Yahoo to be sent to each blogger whose content was stolen (hereafter referred to as affected blogger).
  2. If a specific affected blogger demands monetary compensation for his/her work, Yahoo should honor that as well.
  3. If a settlement is reached between an affected blogger and Yahoo, the affected blogger should be allowed to make the details of settlement public if he or she chooses to do so.
  4. Such a settlement, if reached, between an affected blogger and Yahoo, would mean that the matter shall be construed as resolved amicably and no claim shall be made or caused to be made by either of the involved parties in future in this regard.

Why did bloggers refuse to talk to Webdunia?

Blog contents were found on Yahoo's domain. Evidence for affected bloggers were only on Yahoo's domain. Yahoo owns the portal. Therefore, any official apology should come from Yahoo! India - not from their contractor (WebDunia).

Did WebDunia try to contact the bloggers or solve the issue?

Though Webdunia was never directly contacted by any affected bloggers, WebDunia obtained bloggers' contact information presumably through Yahoo India without the consent from the respective bloggers. WebDunia tried to influence the bloggers by offering money without a public apology, if bloggers retracted the complaints. These routes were unacceptable to the bloggers. When everything failed, WebDunia tried to create a public discussion mockery by creating a vague Wordpress blog with no name or address. They did not even host this on their portal. This 'discussion' failed miserably as no bloggers participated and bloggers called their bluff.

How did bloggers protest?

Around 150 bloggers voiced their protest by publishing posts simultaneously on March 5th. Many drew interesting cartoons also. Event details which has the collection of posts, excerpts and cartoons.

What happened after March 5th? Did Yahoo apologise?

Yahoo (sort of) apologized without naming the bloggers or their blogs. They played with the media giving out statements that they will be apologizing, but they kind of did a half-baked apology, apologizing only for non-attribution. Bloggers had stated many times, issue is not about attribution but it is only about copyright violation and stolen contents. The apology was put in Malayalam in the recipe section under 'continental' (whatever that is).

Why is the apology appeared on Yahoo's Malayalam portal not sufficient?

There were following problems with the apology:

  1. Yahoo didn't send an apology to the affected bloggers through email or postal address.
  2. Statement of apology didn't specifically mention the name of the affected blogger(s) or the blog(s).
  3. It was not visibly linked anywhere from the portal.
  4. Yahoo was constantly moving the apology page in the portal - may be to prevent link information being spread through email.
  5. The so-called 'Apology' appeared just in Malayalam portal whereas their malpractice is spread over several languages.

Why is WebDunia blamed now? i.e. after March 5th?

When content plagiarising was spotted, there were no indication that Webdunia was the contractor who supplied the contents from blogs. After bloggers protest on March 5th, Yahoo! made a public statement that Webdunia is the contractor who supplied the copied content. After the 'apology' statement on March 9th, Yahoo's contents had a footer that said, 'source: webdunia' under each article in the portal. From that day onwards, Yahoo! and Webdunia were considered co-defendants in this copyright violation.

After the protest on March 5th, were there any other incidents of copyright violation?

Yes. After March 5th, when the issue got public attention, many bloggers came forward to report more violations. Pictures and other literature were reported stolen from couple of blogs and even poems of contemporary authors were lifted without any consent from the respective parties. Details:

  1. Food pictures were copied from various blogs. Yahoo! removed the copyright statements and watermarks from the pictures. Some pictures were tilted and modified. Criminal intend is evident here.
  2. Yahoo! copied pictures from Telugu food blogs and used them in their Gujarati portal. Possibly under the impression, a Telugu speaking person would naturally not visit a Gujarati language portal.
  3. Another incident of copying a Hindi poem is also reported.
  4. See List of Evidence (at the begining for updates).

Will there be a lawsuit?

A court case is very much likely to erupt any time. It could be a class action suite or it could even be individually filed. Since blogs are ultimately individual entities, any affected blogger could proceed through a legal movement, depending upon his or her own motivation and urge. As the malpractice seems to take different counts, a possibility of filing a case (and the chance of it being a successful one) are getting enhanced as the time goes by.

What is the validity of legal action? Some say recipes are not copyrighted?

In recipes, listing of ingredients is the only thing that is not copyrightable. Similarly, news is not copyrightable. However, if there recipes written or news reported has any form of literary expression, then they clearly come under copyright laws. Please refer this article from SPICYIP blog.

CIOL writes in detail about copyrights in India, in this article: Press Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V for trouble

Excerpt from the article:

It is about giving expression to an idea in an original form,” says Pavan Duggal, Supreme Court lawyer and a Cyber Law expert. “For example, there is no copyright on a love story, whether Premchand or Shakespeare write it, but the style of delivery. In other words, the output can be protected. Anyone found guilty of infringing copyrights are liable for civil and criminal charges and can claim for compensation.”

Dr Sebastian Paul, an advocate and an expert on copyright issues, echoes the similar view and says that no stranger can make use of content in any manner without the explicit permission of the owner of the site. “It does not matter whether it is printed matter or a website or a blog,” says Dr Paul, who is also a Member of Parliament from Kerala.

Was there a Press coverage?

Media has given a good coverage so far. Please visit collection of media reports and other links at CopyRightViolations (this) blog.

How to obtain information about new developments regarding this?

Please visit this blog (CopyRightViolations) for updates.

How can I help?

  • As a blogger, you can post an article about the incident on your blog with appropriate links. If you have a popular blog it would immensely help to spread the word. This affects the entire blogging community, future existence of blogs.
  • As a lawyer, you could leave a comment on advising us bloggers about possible legal options and implications.
  • As a journalist, you can expose such undermining and illegal actions perpetrated regularly by multinational conglomerates.
  • Or drop us a line and tell us how you can help!

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