July 13, 2015

Plagiarism and social media

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One of my friends pinged me this morning, with news that someone on Instagram had posted my pictures as her own.  I took a look at the screenshots that I received, and sure enough, these were pictures from my blog.

Over the years I have debated about marking my pictures, but as there seemed to have been few instances of plagiarism, I decided not to ruin the aesthetics of the images.  I'm not exactly the world's most popular and widely-followed blogger, so I hardly expect tons of people to swipe my pictures and use them as their own, but it has happened a couple of times before.

The most recent case involved a magazine in India using my picture of Gaggan Anand's pani puri.  I discovered it and cried foul over Twitter, but as it turned out, it was the PR team from Gaggan who had supplied them with my picture.  Both the magazine and Gaggan apologized quickly, and I was given photo credit in the article as well as a three month free subscription to the magazine.

So now it's happened again.  I don't know Jo Soo-Tang, but she seems to like these pictures from my dinner at Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) 2 years ago.  For whatever reason, she copied them, posted them on her own Instagram, and treated them as her own - even creating a strange hashtag called #tangvacations.  What these pictures have anything to do with her vacation is anyone's guess.

I was unamused.  I decided to confront her and left comments on her Instagram, asking her why she had used my pictures without permission or given me credit - both of which she could have easily done.

When I checked a few hours later, she had taken down these offending pictures.  No apologies given.  Now I'm pissed.

So who, exactly, is this person?  Her LinkedIn profile proudly declares that she has "15 years of experience from three communication agencies and also from several in-house Marcom positions", followed by a rather distinguished list of global clients.  So she's a professional, then... and in the PR/communications field.  And supposedly very experienced with senior positions under her belt.

Which begs the question: why the hell would a person like that engage in plagiarism?  Yes, she plagiarized.  She took artwork (if I may call my photos that) that were not her own, used them on social media and claimed them as her own creations.  That is plagiarism, plain and simple.  That she removed them from her Instagram account quickly after seeing my comments only suggests that she knew what she did was wrong.  She clearly knew better, so why did she still do it?

In this age where many of us cannot seem to live without the internet or social media, we have gotten accustomed to sharing and receiving information through the various social media platforms.  Pictures, videos, and tweets can go viral when viewers like what they see and choose to share them with friends.  I have a habit of doing that, too, but I always make sure I give credit to the source.  On the rare occasion when I use an image other than my own work for my blog, I always credit my source.  When I share something on Facebook, I always use the "Share" function so that the person who first posted it gets the credit.  But I know that not everyone thinks the way I do.  Many people just copy/paste without giving any thought about whether they are infringing on anyone's copyright.

Last year a friend's pictures at a particular restaurant were published by an American news website, and they properly credited her for them.  As the story went viral, a leading newspaper in Hong Kong picked up the story and reprinted the photos without giving due credit - using the familiar catch-all "reposted from internet" instead, if I recall correctly.  This was absolutely shameful for a media organization.

Look, I spend way too much time on this here blog, choosing to share my personal experiences with anyone who cares to read about them.  I don't make a dime from it, since I refuse to put any advertising on it... nor do I entertain any offers for sponsored posts.  In fact, the catalog of more than 1,000 posts is the result of me spending hundreds of thousands of dollars (yes, that's U.S. Dollars) on food, wine, and travel over the last 8 years or so - plus the thousands of hours in front of the computer.  I don't ask for nothin' in return, just that whoever comes across my blog (or my Facebook Page, Twitter, or Instagram) show me some fucking appreciation and respect.

But I guess that's just too much to ask for some people.

1 comment:

Areip said...

Next time, do a screen capture of your photos in her Instagram. @Josootang is now private. Can't see her photos.


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