'Piracy' and 'plagiarism': My Experiences
Subrata Kumar Das
The words 'piracy' or 'plagiarism' is not something much unknown to most of us though a true definition of it may not be that much available to everyone, not even to the literates. The general observation is that piracy befalls on people who have fame and popularity. But experiences say it may sometimes hover even over the unknown or less known ones. With humble approach, I want to present my experience in this regard before the readers.
We live in a country where piracy is a very common phenomenon. The whole print media has dived into it for about the last 30 years. Even the compulsory books published from the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) get pirated without any monitoring. CDs and DVDs are no back runner also. Internet has helped us to run after it with more cunningness. Without any hesitation we copy materials from the online sources and place those as our own. A repeated victim of such incidents is the present contributor. Might be, the source of inspiration to write the present has been aroused out of the huge growl from the government corner against any sort of piracy in the recent days.
It was around the month of September in the year 2005. During those days I had much zeal to keep myself sitting outline till midnight. Once while searching thus, with the view of finding English-language materials on Bangla-language writers, suddenly I came across a link on Satyen Sen. Along side my own page in my web site on the novels of Bangladesh with the URL http://bangladeshinovels.com, the emergence of the link created huge enthusiasm in me. Clicking the link, my heart jumped up seeing a long write-up. Finding the root of the link of a national daily's from Bangladesh, I got more interested as I was, by then planning to add the link at the bottom of my own page on this veteran littérateur. But alas! What a horrendous incident!
Why was the language of that article looking the same of my own!! But the name of the writer showed someone Ifftakher Hossain! To cease my doubt, I opened my own write-up in a separate window that I could compare the languages of the two texts. And to my horror, I found a replica! The same article which got published in The Bangladesh Observer Magazine on 1 August 2003, which I posted later in my site with the link!
Curiosity in me began to jump up. Has Mr. Ifftakher Hossain been satisfied with the single one? One who had lifted so long a piece without any agony might have tried some more!! I started searching the novelists on whom I made articles earlier and posted in my web site, through the Google, AltaVista and Yahoo search engines.
Surprisingly, I discovered my writings credited by that great pirate on the authors including Nasreen Jahan, Shamsuddin Abul Kalam, Rabeya Khatun, Shahidulla Kaisar, Satyen Sen and Akteruzzaman Elias (serialized according to publication) on dates 08 July, 22 July, 29 July, 12 August, 19 August and 26 August of 2005. The articles were simply downloaded from online, copied and sent to the newspaper for publishing, in a few cases with slight changes.
What to do in such a situation was the main question that began to torment me. Being an ordinary teacher of an intermediate college, and with little credit of writing only some books and articles, did I have that organizational capacity to take any action against that big, politically supported, publishing house? “What to do? What to … what ….?”
My better half plays the best sometimes. She opined to collect the hard copies first. And as per our discussion, she went to the amazing office, bought the hard copies and brought those to my availability. Articles cent-percent duplicated and the rest a bit cut and pasted dazzled me.
In the mean time, I began forming a letter to the editor of the daily. Moreover, I posted a common mail to some of my online friends and well wishers who, Bangali or non-Bangali, residing abroad but had developed good relationship with me to get their suggestions. Shower of wise words began flooding my email boxes everyday. Most of them sympathized from the core of heart. Some detailed their own of-the-same-sort experience in Bangladesh context. Some suggested meeting the bigwigs, even some advised to seek for legal action. But many of them politely requested not to let out any howl, as the country is Bangladesh, and as similar incidents have rarely been punished, exemplarily, in our history.
But one thing they all agreed to be done was that a letter should be sent to the editor and publisher of the news daily that they publish at least a corrigendum on the incident and that the fake writer could be exposed to people. With this view, I wrote a letter, multiplied it, substantiated it with necessary photocopies of my previously published hardcopies and sent the letters to the Editor as well as the people responsible for the page.
What was the reaction? A few lines that were printed in the letters column saying that someone was lifting etc. Under the heading 'Highly regrettable' it read: “I am a regular reader of your magazine and consider the Weekend among the best of its kind in Bangladesh. However, here I would like touch upon an uncomfortable subject.
One of your contributors has been writing on famous Bangladeshi novelists for a number of weeks. I believe some of his writings are copied from somewhere else. As a matter of fact I found striking similarities of his pieces on Nasreen Jahan with a profile on the writer by Subrata Kumar Das which was published in another daily. I am tempted to say the matter reeks of share plagiarism. I am sure you will agree with me that the writers like Iftekhar Hossain are not to be given the chance to carry on their nefarious activities in your esteemed magazine.” And no further corrigendum or nothing.
When I am writing this article, on 2 January, the curiosity came to my mind if there is any further similar blunder that has befallen on my online effort. And I got one web site, without any bewilderment, called Bangladesh.wet paint.com which has added all my thirty two articles intact from the 'Articles' link of my site. Can I request my readers to click at http://bangla desh.wetpaint.com/page/Bengali+Articles and prove it? Even the same pictures taken from my site that I keep enliven at the cost of my writing, patience, time and even money as well.
Do you need further examples? Let's browse http://www.southasian media.net and you will find almost all the texts added there to some of the leading personalities of literature in Bangladesh section have been lifted from Bangladeshi Novels. Especially articles on Syed Waliullah, Akhtaruzzaman Elias, Shahidul Zahir, Nasreen Jahan, are some few to mention. Should I extend my tragedy more? Please visit Wikipedia where you will find many articles on the brightest figures of our fiction zone of which very few deserve to be recognized as original.
A teacher and author Subrata Kumar Das's web site is www.bangladeshinovels.com