Thursday, April 26, 2007

Misusing Freedom

I had written about misusing freedom earlier, and that was provoked by a television invading into the privacy of a couple of teenage children when they were in a miserable state. I have to write again about how a newspaper has used a photograph by an amateur photographer without either asking her permission or even acknowledging her.

The story goes like this. Seema has put in Flickr some of the photographs she has taken and made them available under a Creative Commons licence that permits others to make use of the photograph for any non-commercial purpose provided the author is acknowledged. One of the photographs is that of a building in the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, that had been designed and constructed by the late architect Laurie Baker. The Times of India, a leading newspaper particularly in the northern parts of India, made use of this photograph in an obituary to Mr. Baker published in the issue dated April 21. This was a leader article written by Amrith Lal. The photographer came to know about it only when someone who was familiar with the photograph pointed it out to her. She immediately wrote to the Editor.

Apparently, a response was not quickly forthcoming. So she went to the ToI office at Thiruvananthapuram and told them about it. They could only give her the phone number of their Delhi office. She called them but could not get the author of the story, since he was away in Uttar Pradesh. Apparently, she has received an apology from the Times of India. You can read about the entire episode in Seema's blog.

This is just another example of how media people carry their freedom too far. I wonder whether the apology given by Times of India (if they really have) is sufficient compensation. I believe that the newspaper, if they still have any sincerity left, should publish the name of the person whose photograph they stole, and also pay for it. No newspaper in this country (or elsewhere for that matter) is being published for charity. The intention is very clearly to make profit. Therefore, they have absolutely no right to make use of someone else's material and not compensate the author.

I too have been a victim of exploitation by another newspaper. This time it was The Hindu, a newspaper that is popular mostly in the southern parts of India. I was asked to write articles for their supplement for young people and four of my articles were published. They never paid me. Nor did they respond to the mails I sent. This happened a few years back and I left it at that. I should not have.