Copyright violation as the industry Standard in India

Is copyright violation the industry standard in India? If you are a photographer working in india chances are your work was published somewhere without your authorisation, credit or even payment. Sadly the notion of copyright and moral rights is not a part of common knowledge or practice in india. These things happen in other countries as well of course but let’s face it, india has always been notorious in disrespect for intellectual property. It has been, and still is pretty much the industry standard among many newspapers, magazines, corporates, book publishers and even government agencies who give very little importance to the photographers rights in their work. This general practice must come to an end. There are other realities that used to be acceptible but are not anymore. Rapists used to get away unpunished but hopefully this is also changing.

If you ever watched Goldfinger, the 3rd James Bond movie, you might remember the scene where bond slaps the girl’s butt and sends her away for the ‘men’ to have a serious talk. Bond was not an arse. He behaved according to what was industry standard at the time. This used to be acceptable behavior in the 60’s but Bond does not do this anymore.

‘Dink, say goodbye to Felix.’ An affectionate arse-slap for good measure.

Copyright and moral right theft in India now is what sexual harassment used to be in the 60’s. Copyright violators think there’s nothing wrong with it, or even worst they think they will not be punished. Who ever is the first to get punished will not understand why the rules have changed but the fact is that it has to.

Some years ago a famous army general was found guilty by an Israeli court for the rape of one of his secretaries. He was a very respected, highly decorated officer and could not understand what he did wrong. Army officers always played like this. Not everyone but many. In the general’s mind this was a little game. They were having some fun ‘only’. After all, he was the general. The rules suddenly changed for him and no one told him this could happen. The term ‘sexual harassment’ did not exist when he was a soldier. He was devastated. After that there were other examples and now an ex-president is jailed in Israel for rape under similar circumstances. The president! He also thinks he is innocent but he is in jail. No one is above the law in this matter. It took time but it is not accepted ‘industry standard’ anymore.

The same must happen in India. People must know that the legal system can do justice. Copyright thieves must know that they cannot do this without being punished. Maybe not as terrible as rape (I do not compare), but this is my body of work and I intend to protect it.

My book Street Food of India was published in early 2009 by Roli Books. I was supposed to be very happy but it ended up in court as I filed a suit at the Delhi high court against Roli Books for violation of my copyright and my moral rights in the work. The case is still going on but is coming closer to an end.

[quote]Roli Books, leading publisher of world-quality coffee-tablers, has been slapped with a legal notice for violation of copyright. The giant-slayer is Sephi Bergerson, an Israeli photographer based in India for the last seven years. Last month, when Roli sent him the advance copies of a book he’s been working on for six years—Street Food of India—Sephi got a shock familiar to authors and photographers here. He had been stripped of his copyright, both for the text and the photos. When he complained, Roli replied that they’d rather go to court than correct the ‘error’. Sephi did just that, hiring the best firm in intellectual property lawsuits, Anand & Anand, who have got Roli to backtrack but aren’t stopping until they get a “proper” compensation out of the German partner-in-crime.
OUTLOOK MAGAZINE, Bibliofile | JAN 26, 2009[/quote]

Does Pramod Kapoor from Roli Books think he is Sean Connery? More on this in the next post. Stay tuned.

  • thecontrarian

    Give the bastards a grand time, giant-slayer!

  • an emotional post, but true nonetheless. The mindset of “lifting” photos from blogs without compensation must change. Some education in these lines is required – there’s certainly an element of people who are “unaware” of copyright definitions. 

    All the best for your court case. 

    • yes, well written on the flight back to Goa after a couple of days in court. The emotion keep waking up when ever there is another hearing. We are close to the end though 😉

  • Kaushlesh Biyani

    Kudos to you man and good luck in the court case! I agree with you that there is no appreciation of Intellectual Property in India or the sub-continent. I just came across a Bangladeshi Wedding Planner’s Facebook page where they used my albums + content without permission or approval!

  • Bravo

  • Amitpix

    While Roli Books, if guilty should be punished, but may I ask you if you did or did not have the licence to use the photo used in this blog post.

    • Thanks for this comment Amit. I wish everyone was this concerned about copyright. The image used in the post is from the marketing material of a movie that was released in 1964. It is an image in the public domain and does not require any permission for use. Please feel free to ask any further clarification if you desire. Best, Sephi