As Livefist readers, it is important that I share the following with you. An Indian defence and strategic affairs magazine Geopolitics has plagiarised a Livefist post from September this year, verbatim, word-for-word and without credit. The short piece appearing on p.26 of the November edition [PDF] of the magazine is a straight reproduction of a September 27 post following a meeting I had with Rolls-Royce executives in Delhi. The photograph printed by the magazine with the snippet is also mine, though the magazine has correctly provided me with a credit. This, I should perhaps point out, is because I complained to the magazine's editor last month regarding the use of at least two my original photos in the earlier edition without a credit (use of my photos is permitted without prior permission, but always requires a credit). For instance, in the October 2011 issue of Geopolitics, p.62 has a photo of a special forces commando that I had taken at Aero India 2009 (coverage on Headlines Today) and posted here on Livefist at the time. After the magazine's editor apologized for the oversight on mail and assured me this would not happen again, I now see my written content being lifted by the magazine.
Failing to reach Geopolitics editor Prakash Nanda (Twitter handle @prakashnanda) on his cellphone today (he is apparently in Paris), I spoke to Geopolitics managing editor Tirthankar Ghosh over the phone at his office. He apologized over the phone and assured me that action would be taken. He was gracious and polite, and I thanked him for saying he would look into the matter. After speaking to him, as a matter of record, I sent an e-mail with my complaint to Geopolitics editor Prakash Nanda, and copied to Mr Ghosh. Here's what followed:
In response to my e-mail today, Geopolitics editor Prakash Nanda responded: "I think it is a small news item; we collect content for these items from many sources. Was the content exclusive to you? Anyway, since they have given credit to you for the photo, you should not be that sensitive."
Assuring Prakash Nanda that the post was exclusive to me, I responded: "Mr Nanda, Intellectual property is a serious issue. It would be appropriate if you did not advise me on being "sensitive", considering that your magazine has lifted my written work verbatim without a credit (a highly serious offence if this was done in the US or UK). And by giving me a photo credit in the current issue, please note that your publication has done me no favour -- you have only done what is correct and just, and pointed out by me in my previous complaint to you on use of my photos without credit. With due respect to your long years in journalism, I find it surprising that you would consider the provision of credit such a light matter."
Mr Nanda then wrote back, "A small news snippet does not deserve the reactions of the intensity from your side. It was a news item. I am hereby asking my colleagues not to look at your blog (I do not)."
About my photographs that his magazine used without credit, Mr Nanda added, "I was told by my staff that they did not take the photo (about which you had mentioned in your first mail to me) from your blog; it was readily available in many places and none of them mentioned that it was yours. In fact, they did not know that you had a blog."
This is patently false. The Geopolitics twitter account follows the official Livefist twitter account (I have saved screen grabs of this, in case they unfollow me). More significantly, the magazine's Editor-in-Chief K. Srinivasan also follows Livefist on Twitter. Therefore to say that his staff "did not know" that I had a blog is obviously an exaggeration.
My final response to Mr Nanda: "The least I would expect from a professional organisation such as yours is a brief credit in your next edition, mentioning that the HAL LUH piece was written by me, and was taken from my blog. That is only fair. Obviously, if you choose not to, that is upto you. It is of no concern to me whether your colleagues or you look at my blog. How is that the point? The fact is my work has been plagiarised and used without credit or attribution, and that is my ONLY concern."
This is where the e-mail exchange ends. I felt it was important for me to share this with readers of Livefist. I should say here that I was perfectly willing to let this go with a simple apology and corrigendum credit in the magazine's next edition. But given the brazenness with which the editor of Geopolitics has justified his magazine's plagiarism of my work, I may be considering other options. Will keep you all posted.
UPDATE @ 8.00PM
Well, it turns out that Geopolitics doesn't lift stuff only from humble little blogs like Livefist. Thanks to Jay in the comments section of this post, we now have an instance of the magazine (same issue, Nov 2011) lifting a full article -- word-for-word, verbatim again -- from Times of India, India's largest English-language newspaper. Page 53 of the edition has a piece called 'NSG Commandos Go Hi-Tech', copied word-for-word from this piece in Times of India by journalist Dipak Kumar Dash, titled 'New-look NSG Commandos Go Hi-Tech'. They've even lifted the headline!
And since this dispute needs to be above board, here goes my mail to Geopolitics editor Prakash Nanda, in light of this fresh revelation:
My email: "Mr Nanda, It appears the Nov 2011 edition of Geopolitics has also plagiarised word-for-word an article from the Times of India! In the November 2011 issue, on page 53, the story "NSG Commandos Go Hi-Tech" is once again a direct verbatim lift of this article by TOI correspondent Dipak Kumar Dash. Surely you cannot claim that TOI content is simply floating around on the net, or that your staff/you do not read the Times of India. I have posted on my blog on your magazine's act of plagiarism, as also the responses you have sent me by e-mail, since you do not appear willing to (a) show any willingness to correct a grave oversight, and (b) acknowledge that something very wrong has been done by your magazine/staff."
UPDATE: Mr Nanda responded, saying, "I appreciate you read Geopolitics so carefully. That means my magazine is doing the rounds. Could you please tell me the site of your blog; I have never bothered to look at it. I would see how authentic and original it is. Then i will reply to you."
Again, my final response: "Mr Nanda: Actually, the acts of plagiarism on your magazine's part were pointed out to me by readers of my blog (since I do not subscribe to your publication). I have provided you with links to my blog (livefist.blogspot.com) in my past e-mails as well. Your magazine's twitter account follows mine, so clearly your staff keep a track of my work (contrary to your assertions). And I am honoured that you think that my having investigated your journal for more instances of plagiarism/theft means your magazine is "doing the rounds". For an otherwise decent journal, you really must set the bar a little higher than that. Feel free to look at my blog (or not) as you choose. But remember that your journal has stolen my work."
I wish I could say "I'm gonna speak to my lawyer", except that I don't have one :) So I'm going to get one and see what my legal options are. Will keep you posted. If any of you have any constructive ideas of how you think I should proceed on this dispute, feel free to let me know. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is important to point out here that Geopolitics sends out unsolicited complimentary copies of its magazine to several media houses, including to mine, though we are not subscribers. Though I have noticed the magazine in my office newsroom -- along with the several other magazines that usually come in every week -- my only interface with its contents has been through its online edition, linked here severally in this post.
Plagiarised Clippings from Geopolitics Nov 2011