“India’s Number One Magazine” copied my work.

India Today, which describes itself as “India’s Number One magazine”, has plagiarized this blogger’s work.

In April 2007, I posted a piece titled “Mills and Boon: An Indian Romance”. The post, which chronicled my teenage fascination–and subsequent disenchantment–with Mills and Boon romance novels, was also featured on the Indian blog aggregator site DesiPundit, which has over 20000 feed subscribers.

India Today, according to the company website,  “is the most widely read publication in India—a position it has held for over a decade—with a circulation of 1.1 million every week and a readership of more than 15 million.” Ms. Damayanti Datta, Deputy Editor of India Today, writes a blog “Personal Choice” for the publication. Her post “Grow up, Mills and Boon”, published Nov. 2008, is clearly plagiarized from my post.

The full text of my blog post can be found here, while the India Today article is  here.  Here is a paragraph-by-paragraph comparison.

Brown Paper:
Having shipped more than 3 billion books since 1949, Harlequin continues to write its own remarkable publishing story.

3 billion. And I bet a billion of them found their way to India; I personally devoured several hundred thousand in my mid-teens. I had favorite Mills and Boon authors (Betty Neels, anyone? Catherine George?) And favorite jacket colors (turquoise).  And at the local lending library, I’d read the plot summaries carefully before making my selection.

India Today:
Over 300 crore books have been exported across the world since 1949. 300 crore Mills & Boon romance. If even one-third of that 300 crore reached India, I have been a breathless reader of hundreds in my youthful past. My favourite writers were Anne Mather, Betty Neels, Penny Jordan. And my favourite cover colour was blue. I clearly remember those frenzied hunting hours spent every month amidst the termite-laden lending libraries of Free School Street of my city, Calcutta.

 

BP: Most embarrassing: I never remarked that the heroines were always in subordinate positions to their male counterparts– nurses to the he-doctors, secretaries to the businessmen and so on. And that interracial romance was noticeably absent; the tall dark handsome men were all Spanish or Italian.  The women were usually younger, usually virgins, and always so grateful to have been chosen for love by these rich successful men. (Disclaimer: I gave up reading these books when I left my teens; perhaps the books have changed over the past decade or two to include more than straight, white-on-white, doormat-meets-matador romance. )

IT: I am ashamed to admit that as an M&B reader I was never stirred by any feminist sensibilities. I never noticed how the heroines were always less ‘successful’ than the heroes—if the hero was a doctor, the heroine would be a nurse; hero businessman, heroine secretary, etc. I never asked why the heroines—simple, sweet, pure and always a virgin—were always way younger to the heroes. Or why at the end of the story, the M&B ladies were so full of gratitude to life for managing to be the love interest of the super-rich, super-successful, super-handsome men (I must point out: I have not been in touch with Mills and Boon ever since I moved on to my 20s; the doormat-heroines and larger-than-life heroes may have changed their love-talk now).

 

BP: Back in eighties/early nineties India, every girl I knew read (or had read) Mills and Boon romances.  They were especially sought-after during boring college lectures–the books were small enough and bendy enough to slip comfortably into Samuelson’s Macroeconomics text, or P.L.Soni’s magnum opus on Inorganic Chemistry.

IT:All the girls I knew back in the ’80s and ’90s—in school, in the neighbourhood—read (or flipped through relevant pages of) those Mills and Boon romances. We would narrate stories to each other, lend and share books, and fall asleep clutching an M&B. Not just that, those handy volumes were our best friend at all those sleep-inducing, yawn-invoking classes, slipping neatly inside a Resnick & Halliday physics tome or an A.L. Basham’s Wonder That Was India and enveloping us in a warm glow.

 

BP: I wonder why these books were so bloody popular. Perhaps the insanely competitive Indian academic scene, where doing well in the Class 12 board exams was a matter of life and death, led us to cherish the guaranteed happy ending the books offered? Perhaps it’s because there was no formal sex ed. class in our school curriculum, and we sought enlightenment wherever we could find it? The Mills and Boon books I read were pretty tame though; sex was described, if at all, in cagey and coy terms–”and then the room rocked and tilted, and she was borne aloft on a shower of golden sparks till she knew no more”–pshaw!

IT:Why were M&Bs that popular with us? Perhaps, those winning tales of wholesome love brought joy to lives juiced dry with the pressures and competitions of Board exams? Perhaps, without any meaningful lesson on sex and sexuality in school, we got a whiff of adult life from those? Not that, one could learn much about adult goings-on from the M&Bs that we read. Man-woman relation was always clothed in high-sounding metaphors: “then the room swam around her, and she soared on the wings of a sudden burst of golden light” etc.

BP: I think there’s more to the phenomenon than comfort or curiosity about sex, though. Many of us Indian readers had our love-lives mapped out for us early-on by family; a comfortable arranged marriage was both inevitable and desirable in the eyes of most.  A Mills and Boon  was perhaps the closest many would get to love-at-first-sight, lust-conquerors-all territory.  The latter wasn’t something everyone necessarily wanted, but certainly something that everyone wanted to know more about. And the books were unrealistic, yes, but no more than the average Hindi film…

IT: Were we interested just in sex? For most girls my generation, love-life was neatly mapped out since childhood. An arranged marriage with a boy chosen by one’s parents, a happy home, children, cars were all that we were destined for, and probably couldn’t think beyond. Perhaps, M&B gave us the first inkling of a life beyond arrangements where one could fall in love at first sight and step into a dream life of made-for-each-other ecstasy? Not that we all dreamt of falling in love. But we all wanted to know what it means to fall in love, how does it feel, how different is it from those arranged marriages? Sometimes, of course, we found the M&B route to romance absurd. So what? So are Hindi films…

I have a Creative Commons License on my blog that explicitly disallows sharing of my content without attribution or derivative works based on my content. Ms. Datta works for a respected publishing house and knows all about copyright; in fact, she emailed me back in April 2008 to ask for permission to use one of my articles which appeared in The Smithsonian Magazine. I wrote back explaining that copyright reasons prevented the same, and I never heard back from her. I learnt about the suspicious similarities between our two posts from another blogger last week.

I am upset. But I am upset not just for myself, but on behalf of bloggers everywhere. Why is our creative content and our copyright not accorded the same respect given to a piece in a print publication? Ms. Datta obeyed the law of copyright when it came to my article in The Smithsonian Magazine, but apparently felt few qualms about plagiarizing my blog post.

I have written to the editor of India Today, Mr. Prabhu Chawla, informing him about this incident. I will update this post if/when I hear from him.

UPDATE:  As of Oct. 18, 2010, I haven’t heard a word back from India Today. Following the outcry over their editor-in-chief’s plagiarism of an article from Slate, I wrote this post about the culture of plagiarism at this magazine.  India Today showed its customary good sense and posted a weak-kneed apology for the Slate incident as a comment on my blog while continuing to ignore my complaint.  I hence emailed India Today yet again on Oct. 14. Here’s the text of my email:

Hello, India Today Group Corporate Communication People,

Your unmitigated gall in posting an explanation for your plagiarism of the Slate story ON MY BLOG, while ignoring your plagiarism from this VERY BLOG leaves me amazed.  So Grady Hendrix deserves an apology because he’s from Slate, and I don’t because I’m an independent blogger? You couldn’t have demonstrated your stunning lack of principles better than with this incident. I never received a reply, let alone an apology, to my complaint made eighteen months ago, though you were quick to disable comments on the article on your site. And yet, you’ve reacted remarkably fast to the outcry about the Slate article.

Do the right thing and have your deputy editor apologize already. And no, you can’t blame jet-lag for this one.

Niranjana


No, I’m not holding my breath.

127 responses to ““India’s Number One Magazine” copied my work.

  1. Yes Niranjana,

    The plagiarism is just evident. You should fight back. I wish you success

  2. My Best Wishes Too !!! Keep up the fight !!!

  3. Plagiarism is a crime and in this case a magazine like India Today doing it makes it all the more despicable. Fight on!

  4. Oh, this is so distressing. Yet, inevitable perhaps, as we bare our work to the world in our blogs. Why write your own stuff when there’s so much out there that, with just a little tweaking (or sometimes not even that) can be passed off your own? There are enough unscrupulous sorts who don’t care about the creative commons license and what it stands for. I don’t know what the solution is, but I am sorry this happened to you.

  5. This might also be helpful

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070517043453/https://niranjana.wordpress.com/2007/04/01/mills-and-boon-an-indian-romance/

    That’s a archive.org snapshot of your original post as of May 2007.

  6. All the best, hope the editor takes some action.

  7. I can feel your distress. Any updates on this??

  8. @ Revathi, KoolRaaga, Rockus, Kamini, Vishy, Sayesha: Thank you all for the support. I will update the post if/when I hear back from IT.

    @Ambar: Thanks for that. Always good to have extra help in a case like this🙂

  9. Sorry to hear about this.

    It is not going to be of much help, but interestingly, the post previous to the “allegedly” copied post is “Opal Mehta, one year later”. Inspiration… there you go.

  10. Harsh realities. School, College and now at Work. Maybe they should start using turnitin.com😀

  11. Phew!

    Ms Datta has carefully rephrased the whole thing. Its evident she copied the whole idea. Perhaps its time for copyright awareness. I am with you. It would be helpful to know of actual legal clause that pins this as crime. If you seek any legal help, enlighten us too. I will twitter this.

  12. Ms. Damayanti Datta, Shame on you, and also on India Today for having someone like you as their deputy editor.

  13. Welcome to the online plagiarized creative people club! Hindustan Times stole my photos. I’ll spread your story. Hope you get some money out of it. Dont stop at only recognition.

  14. Tweeted it – http://twitter.com/Shripriya/statuses/1535645668

    Let’s hope India Today stands up for journalistic integrity and takes some action.

  15. I say sue them man!

  16. @Dummy :Ha Ha. I think.

    @K: Not a bad idea!

    @Poonam: Thanks for tweeting it. I will update you on the legal situation once I have more information.

    @Saad: Now that’s a club whose membership is a dubious honor… Thanks for taking up the cause. BTW, how was your case resolved? Do email me.

  17. Really sad that this happened.. hope justice is done in ur case.

  18. Pishabh Badmaash

    I am very disappointment at them. I will correspondance with them to cancal my subscription

  19. hey there,

    I don’t think this is plagiarism at all. There is no word by word lifting of content. They might have taken your idea but as long as they are using their own words it does not classify. No I don’t mean to get into a fight with you. I am not debating whether the article was inspired or not. I am just talking about what can be called plagiarism. It does seem heavily inspired but as I said as long as they are using their own words…

  20. Tearsndreams – plagiarizing is defined as stealing ideas as well as just words (it does not have to be a pure cut and paste). Are you seriously saying that if I publish a document in Nature or Science or some publication and someone takes my article and changes the words it is now their idea? That’s just inaccurate.

    See definition here – http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=plagiarism

  21. BTW, just because a work is currently published under Creative Commons doesn’t mean that the author can’t grant exceptions under a case-by-case basis, say, for commercial usage.

    (This in response to your statement that when you were contacted earlier you said “that copyright reasons prevented the same”.)

  22. This is bad. When I read your first comparison I thought I dont see much but from the second comparison onwards it is quite evident the India Today article is a total lift off. And again it is not the words that make a work of art it is the ideas – this is for tearsndreams who has commented otherwise…

  23. Wow. If you do not mind, Niranjana, I would like to re-start my blog with this theme. Above, Ankur Banerjee talked about Creative Commons.

    Creative Commons is NOT recognized by the judiciary and has ZERO validity in India. Technically, you can sue the company even if it is under CC.

  24. @Shrinath: Creative Commons is perfectly valid in India; there’s even an India-specific version of the license available. I think the only issue that can come is that Niranjana is using a Canada jurisdiction version of the license – which spells out in Canadian legal terms. However, Creative Commons is just a license from an AUTHOR to a USER of the work. If the conditions are violated, you can ALWAYS sue for copyright violation. Basically, CC is just a way of saying “Under these circumstances, you don’t have to ask me for permission”. But if someone _doesn’t_ follow those conditions you’ve set in CC, then you can sue that person for copyright violation. CC comes nowhere in the picture then.

  25. @Isha: I agree.

    @Shripriya, Perx, Srav : Thanks.

    @Ankur: She contacted me the first time to use my publication in a print mag (The Smithsonian Magazine.) That piece also appears in (gulp!) two college textbooks in America. Hence the copyright issues…
    Oh, and she wanted to use my piece as a personal voice. That was the rub.

  26. @ TearsnDreams: According to the Merriam Webster dictionary:
    to plagiarize: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source.
    Thank you Shripriya!

  27. @TamilIndian: I agree, this is bad!

    @Shrinath: Do go ahead.

  28. when an artist or writer create their work, they put a little of their soul into it.
    The India Today person just proved that he/she has no soul and thus lost the right to be called a writer.

  29. Judging by the disarray that the Indian mainstream media is in and the travesty of justice that the Indian Judicial system is turning out to be, I hardly think you will get any reprieve from the India Today side. You all know what happened when Rashmi Bansal and Gaurav Sabnis (of JAM Magazine Mumbai) rebelled against the dubious claims of IIPM institute (of Arindam Chaudhury). It is a shame that publishers are getting away with (information) highway robbery in this way. You can sue them, or better claim all the revenue that Damayanti Datta would command via her article in IT. There are plagiarism detection software packages that would help too like plagiarismdetect.

    Isnt it ironic that Damayanti Datta became another Opal Mehta …

  30. @Niranjana: If you’re the author of a work, then I think you can always license your content to multiple people…unless you sign an exclusivity agreement. BTW, two textbooks too? Wow!

    @Shriniwas Kulkarni: Gaurav Sabnis case had absolutely nothing to do with plagiarism. More pertinent would be Twilight Fairy’s case – Times of India stole one of her pics from Flickr. She followed up with them, and actually won compensation. (http://blog.twilightfairy.in/2008/09/01/toi-believes-flickr-is-for-flicking/)

  31. It just shows that when someone is struggling to find their own creativity that they’ll do anything to save their job. This Datta person was obviously desperate, and unfortunately became a thief in order to be recognized once again. I say that not only should you be recognized for your own creative genius, but you should also receive monetary compensation. Fight for it because you deserve it!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Niranjana,

    This is absolutely shocking to be honest with you. I was more flattered last week when a leading cricket website’s article seemed very similar to one of mine the day after my article was on Desipundit. But the similarities ended with a couple of paragraphs and I was more flattered than upset.

    But this takes it to a whole new level. I am glad that you have mailed Prabhu Chawla and I hope you hear from him. Don’t let this go the way of other such cases and you can be assured that a lot of bloggers are with you!

    What annoys me is the most is how many main-stream journalists never pass an opportunity to criticize blogs and bloggers for their stupidity and their trivial posts and yet never find it hard to plagiarize content.

  33. Damayanti Datta has done this before. A comment on Annie Zaidi’s blog pointed it out. Go there. Do a search for Damayanti Datta. She took at least two paragraphs from in the Observer.

  34. Sorry, that should have read: “She took at least two paragraphs from Louise Carpenter’s piece in the Observer.”

  35. @ Alexander: Very true.

    @ Shriniwas, Kgm57, Prashanth: Yes, I plan to fight the good fight.

  36. Qaish Jaunpuri

    Oh!

    One more case of stealing creativity. You should make them shy. Don’t give up. God is with you. Fight till the justice and don’t satisfy only with recognition. You have the right to get compensation for it.

    All the best!

  37. The plagarist is an expert re-writer! Fight it out

  38. As someone who runs multiple websites, I understand it’s a big problem to keep track of it as well.

    I’ll publicize this post. Hope it works out well for you.

  39. These days plagiarism is infesting the Indian Press including the daily newspapers.Fight it out…you will have support from a lot of us here…

  40. Niranjana – cant help but echo Saad – welcome to the club😛.
    His case isnt solved as yet BTW. Will respond to your email in detail via email only.

    Shrinath – forget CC in India or anywhere. Any artist’s work comes under his/her copyright the moment it gets created. India very much has laws respecting copyright, even though they are kinda outdated.

    Niranjana, if Ms. Dutta seems to be the compulsive petty thief that she seems to be (since she’s copied some of Annie’s stuff too), it would be good to post an analysis about her as well. And of course you have already posted stuff about the theft. Please do spread the word, write to the marketing department of India Today (not editorial). Prepare to send in a legal notice in a few days. Mentally prepare yourself to go to court. It’s a long road ahead.

  41. This is awful. All the best to you! Hope you get an apology, or something, at least a decent reply.

  42. hi, was going to ask u to talk to my sis who went through a similar experience…. glad to know she (twilight fairy) has already made her presence felt! u should threaten to sue them. (and actually do it also)

  43. yes, you must fight.

  44. It’s sad what happened with your post. I think as bloggers we need to publicize this incident and make people aware of the incident. The collective response can have a much more impact. I will soon write a post on my blog about it.

  45. @Rahul: Okay, this changes everything. I can’t believe she copied from the Observer and from me. She obviously casts her net rather wide.

    @Qaish, Phoenixritu, Sasidhar, Justnurman, James, Nids, Divya, Priyanka: I appreciate your support and your offers to blog about this–thank you all!

  46. @Twilight Fairy: Thanks for your mail and comment–I’ll email you back shortly.

  47. OH MY GOD!!!

    Chor!!!!!

    This is quite ridiculous… What’s India Today thinking… And as for that Datta character, no shame at all!!! Cheecheee…

    Niranjana.. Good luck. Bring them down to their knees.. you have our support.

  48. Imitation is the best form of flattery?

    Lame, I know, but hope that gives some silver lining in this rather annoying situation. Wishing you the best and a positive response from India Today.

  49. People,

    From what I know using an opinion and saying it in your own words is not plagiarism. It hurts, it sucks but its not a crime. Its called paraphrasing. I really do not have time to get deeper into it and don’t care much about either parties.
    This is the first link I found on this:
    http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml#wwwplagiarism
    To quote them:
    Plagiarism and the World Wide Web

    The World Wide Web has become a more popular source of information for student papers, and many questions have arisen about how to avoid plagiarizing these sources. In most cases, the same rules apply as to a printed source: when a writer must refer to ideas or quote from a WWW site, she must cite that source.

    If a writer wants to use visual information from a WWW site, many of the same rules apply. Copying visual information or graphics from a WWW site (or from a printed source) is very similar to quoting information, and the source of the visual information or graphic must be cited. These rules also apply to other uses of textual or visual information from WWW sites; for example, if a student is constructing a web page as a class project, and copies graphics or visual information from other sites, she must also provide information about the source of this information. In this case, it might be a good idea to obtain permission from the WWW site’s owner before using the graphics.
    Strategies for Avoiding Plagiarism

    1. Put in quotations everything that comes directly from the text especially when taking notes.

    2. Paraphrase, but be sure you are not just rearranging or replacing a few words.

    Instead, read over what you want to paraphrase carefully; cover up the text with your hand, or close the text so you can’t see any of it (and so aren’t tempted to use the text as a “guide”). Write out the idea in your own words without peeking.

    3. Check your paraphrase against the original text to be sure you have not accidentally used the same phrases or words, and that the information is accurate.

    This was at best, one of those movies that draw inspiration from another movie. We all know “draw inspiration” is just a way to mask lack of originality but it is not illegal.
    And I am not contesting that it happened esp if the editor had contacted BP earlier but I think you should be very sure before making an accusation. Because just like plagiarism, slander is a crime too.
    Again, nothing personal, I would be happy to be proved wrong.

  50. Pingback: Plagiarism: A growing disease on the internet??? — Priyanka’s Blog

  51. what’s even more pathetic is how much BETTER the blog post is. it actually sounds like a real person talking.

    the damayante datta reads like it was written by a behenji nancy drew.

    go for it, niranjana!

  52. Hi folks,
    If you check out other sites and reviews on mills and boon, they will all appear to be the same to you. Niranjana, no offence, but all you ladies talk about the same issues…how much you loved some authors, how you all went by the book covers, how you all read in class and all that, how it helped girls of those years to grow up. There are thousands of such stuff all over the internet. I am sorry but not a single piece is original. And why are you saying the magazine “copied” you? It’s someone’s blog, not something the magazine wrote.

  53. Came here through DP. Reading your post my first reaction was dismissive. Being a guy my initial thoughts were how else would one analyse M&B.But I guess there is more to it than that.

    There are many ways of analysing a body of work. Film and book critics are always susceptible to being labeled as copying from each others’ reviews, because however honest you are to your trade, you might just end up feeling like someone else.

    But then when you are talking of 100s of books, however similar, you are definitely come up with different issues. Still I might have thought that it could have been accidental. But your mention of the previous request of use of your article made me read the fine print. And both read the same!

    Of course its been done very intelligently- one doesn’t get to be a Deputy Managing Editor, or whatever, if one doesn’t cover their tracks well. A careful inspection gives it away.

    However, I am skeptical of whether anything will come out of the entire exercise. It is sad- and very frustrating. All the best.

  54. @ dilip, AKP, Megha, The One : thanks.

    @Tearsndreams: You are of course entitled to your opinion, but I believe you have been misinformed. It makes no difference whether there was a cut-and-paste or an instance of “using an opinion and saying it in your own words”–it is plagiarism because the source was not cited. The bulk of your comment actually stresses the need for source attribution. If the IT writer had included a line mentioning the source of her piece, this situation would not exist. You can check this with academics and other writers if you need any more clarification. I did, before sending out my post.
    Your insinuation that my post might be slanderous is so off-the mark that I am not going to respond to it. And by the way, I think you are referring to libel, not slander.

  55. @Priyanka: Thanks for the kind words about my writing. And for your post.

    @Ameena: thanks! Behenji Nancy Drew. My mind is busy boggling.
    BTW, are you the Ameena Meer who wrote Bombay Talkie?

  56. It almost sounded like active is turned into passive.
    I feel so sorry for India today. Even if it is done by any of there author , this is no way near to ethical.

  57. Niranjana:

    I am so sorry to read about your blog being plagiarized and printed by India Today. What is even worse, in my opinion, is the very POOR writing style of the plagiarist – perhaps because of translation? I’m not sure not knowing much about your blog or India Today. Despite that, the India Today article clearly has stolen your intellectual property and amends should be made.

  58. Glad you’re going ahead with this – have you heard anything from the magazine yet?

  59. Pingback: Topics about Bollywood » “India’s Number One Magazine” copied my work. « BROWN PAPER

  60. niranjana,
    what you are doing here is a very serious offence: defamation. similarity is not enough to prove plagiarism. there’s a lot more to the issue that needs to be settled in a court of law. my question to you is, why didn’t you write to the person directly, asking for explanation first since you know her? instead of that you are indulging in character assassination and provoking others to do so. is it because you are trying to gain cheap popularity? why else have you mentioned “india’s number one magazine”? was it printed in the magazine? no, and you know that. you are misleading people into believing that. shame on you.

  61. @Paranoid: Thanks.

    @Pop and Ice: Thank you. And, no, the piece wasn’t translated.

    @Aishwarya: No response yet. I’ll update the post if I hear back from them.

    @Himadri: You are mistaken in both your assumptions and your facts. For instance, on the India Today website, there’s a caption stating:
    India’s No 1 Magazine
    SUBSCRIBE NOW
    on the top right hand corner below the banner/masthead.
    I don’t intend to respond to any further flames, and will be deleting any comments you make.

  62. Hi

    This is not technically plagiarism. As per the copyright law, if 20% or more material is changed, it ceases to be the copyright of the original author. And clearly, here more than 20% of the words have been changed.

    The article is definitely inspired by your post, but you can not take any legal action.

    I think you should stop being angry about it and just start boasting that you serve as an inspiration to India’s largest selling magazine.

  63. Hi,

    To all those who are saying that ‘this is technically not plagiarism’, please, expand your scope of reading and understanding little bit. This is plagiarism because it is the same ideas that have been stolen. It’s not the exact words, yeah, but it does look like for every sentence that Niranjana used, Damayanti Datta has used an equivalent, saying the exact same thing in slightly different words. She hasn’t even bothered to restructure her argument. It’s a sentence by sentence, para by para lift! And Niranjana is right – this would not have been such a big deal had Damayanti Datta bothered to cite Niranjana’s post as a source in any way at all. As the case stands right now, Niranjana *is* entitled to take legal action.

    Niranjana, good luck with following this up.

  64. Every single girl I know that grew up in the 70s, 80s and 90s feels exactly the same way about Mills and Boon. so what originality are we talking about here? Where are these so called original ideas.. i dont’ see any. I can safely title this piece.. Much Ado about nothing- and guess what i don’t have to worry about shakespeare coming after me.. yippeee he’s dead. Thank god for small mercies!

  65. Niranjana,
    A couple of points. You have given the impression that the article appeared in the India Today magazine. I read India Today cover to cover every week and can say with authority that Damayanti Datta’s article has not been published by the India Today magazine. The only place it has appeared is on a personal blog on the digitaltoday website, which is owned by the India Today Group. Being a writer yourself, I hope you know the difference between a magazine and a website. I believe the India Today Group brings out over two dozen magazines, some of them being Travel Plus and Cosmopolitan, and please don’t tell me that if one of your articles were published in these you would go about telling people you were published by India Today. I seriously think you should refrain from shouting out loud that “India’s Number One MAGAZINE” copied your article. I don’t know what you’re after, justice or cheap publicity.

    Second, are you telling me that it’s just you, and no one else, who’s noticed how the heroines were subservient to heroes, and that you’re the only one who browsed through lending libraries? Now, Ms Datta may or may not have copied your article, but i just feel it would be a lot easier for a writer to write her own stuff than painstakingly change words in every line that you have written. Don’t know how other people’s minds work,. but it just seems more difficult.

  66. Tara, your comment made me laugh.

    No, it is not just Niranjana who noticed those things about M&Bs, but she’s the first one to write it down in a particular way. She makes several points in each paragraph. Are you telling me that completely coincidentally Ms. Datta has the *exact* same order of paragraphs and within each paragraph the *exact* same order of sentences? And yes, each one is just reworded – not a single new thought by the brave Ms. Datta.

    Did you even read the proof presented by Niranjana or are you just defending the “brand name” here? The proof is there for all too see. So obvious that Ms. Datta should hang her head in shame. Sure, it is probably easier to write something original, but Ms. Datta is clearly not capable of that.

    To address your other point – if India Today hosts plagiarism, they are responsible. The blog is hosted on their site and is written by their Deputy Editor. They make money off it since the page is filled by advertisements that are sold by the India Today web team and the revenue is collected by IT. And the url is, oh, surprise, surprise IndiaToday.InToday.in. They are therefore responsible.

    Finally, it is easy to criticize Niranjana b/c she allows your comments to appear here. Try making any comment disagreeing with Ms. Datta. I did – several days ago. The brave IT web team has not even approved the comment. What a joke.

    Just because someone belongs to the mainstream media does not make them right. This is not the first time Ms. Datta has been accused of plagiarism (with proof). India Today, by continuing to employ someone with little to no journalistic ethics is hurting it’s own brand.

    Niranjana is right here. The law backs her up.

  67. Shripriya: couldn’t help responding to your comment about the blogger(no 1/original etc) being the first to have ever written about Mills and Boon(wrt content). I’m sorry but everytime I’ve read a nostalgic or sentimental piece about M&B and what it meant to generations of women.. i have read exactly what Niranjana has written.
    Lastly.. this is not to take up for plagiarism….but you might like to consider the fact that Wong Kar Wai in Hong Kong and Rietuesberon in France.. used the exact same music in their creations in the year 2006. They didn’t know each other and hadn’t even heard of each other.. similarly pablo bartholomew and raghu rai.. both took the EXACT same picture.. of the bhopal gas tragedy . Rajat Kapoor made Raghu romeo that won several awards across the world… it looked like a cut to cut copy of almodavar’s tie me up tie me down.. and Kapoor hadn’t even seen the spanish film. We can of course choose to disagree with everything and call everything copies.. and your free to do that.. but then there are things that are beyond reason and logic and there are ONLY that many original ideas in the world ESPECIALLY when it concerns Mills and Boon… and some of us might want to keep an open mind. Do allow us the privilege.

  68. Pingback: Topics about Love-stories » Blog Archive » “India’s Number One Magazine” copied my work.

  69. @ Pradipta: Thank you for that voice of reason!

    @ Mahesh: Please see Pradipta’s comment.

    @ Sabyasachi, Tara, N.R Nair (and others who believe this is not plagiarism): When five paragraphs resemble my writing in terms of the argument structure, the sequence of ideas, right upto the disclaimer in parenthesis and elipses at the end of the piece, are you seriously suggesting this is a coincidence because the writer and I might feel the same way about Mills and Boon romances?
    I repeat, I showed the two pieces to several writers and academics before sending out my initial post. Please check the definition of plagiarism with such people of your aquaintance.

    @ Shripriya : Thank you. I appreciate getting this opinion from a person with so much expertise and authority in matters concerning the internet space. You have articulated my thoughts exactly.

  70. To the comment that claims “Every single girl I know that grew up in the 70s, 80s and 90s feels exactly the same way about Mills and Boon. so what originality are we talking about here?”: I am from Brazil, not India, but read similar romance novels growing up… I borrowed them from a private library, the generous receptionist at my dance school who provided weekly installments of such fun reading… I may have FELT similarly, had similar REACTIONS to the content, but that is completely different from the similarities I see above between BP and IT.
    It seems to me that it is crucial to distinguish between “similar feelings” and plagiarism exactly because the fun in such personal pieces is exactly that we feel similarly about popular culture (novels, or films, or radio programs, etc.), so we can relate to the author… That is a world away from stealing the author’s sequencing of ideas and content and signing your name under it.

    To the comments about defamation of the IT writer: note that (1) truth is the “most obvious defense” against libel charges; (2) damages to defamation are mitigated by showing that “the plaintiff’s reputation is already in low esteem” (which seems to be the case for the IT writer, previously accused of plagiarizing from another writer).
    Note that I QUOTE the writers I am borrowing from, and that is Carter, Franklin and Wright, “The First Amendment and the Fourth Estate: The Law of Mass Media.” The book is intended for U.S. audiences, but I am not trying to make a point here about whether Niranjana can sue in India; I am simply stating the definitions of libel and defamation as they derive from British common law.

    I am upset at the insinuation that paraphrasing is OK.
    Disclaimer time: I am friends with Niranjana.
    But I am also upset because I finished a 400-page dissertation in law and social studies where I mentioned EVERY SINGLE writer from whom I borrowed ANY idea.
    It was a lot of work to do it, but it is ALWAYS the right thing to do, and not just in academia; in effect, I believe it is even more important when it comes to personal, first-person pieces such as “Mills and Boon: an Indian romance.”

  71. Sorry: I meant to say paraphrasing without acknowledgement, which constitutes a form of plagiarism.

  72. @ Ana: Thank you for your detailed comment. You make the very important point that a similarity of opinion in no way equates a similarity of expression.

    As Ana mentioned, she is a friend. But she also taught at Journalism school at a leading American university for several years, and knows more about plagiarism than most of us (including me) viewing this thread. Please note before you flame.

  73. Hey Niranjana, the entire tone of the discussion here is very angry. I do not doubt that your article was copied – and I mentioned as much in my comment. The point that I was trying to make has been completely missed. It is – you will not be able to win a lawsuit based on this because more than 20% of the material has been changed.

    This fact does not change, regardless of how angry you are at your article being the source of inspiration.

    All those egging you on for a lawsuit, do not know the law. Please go ahead if you want to, but you will waste your time.

    Again, just to clarify – I am not saying that what was done was right. What I a saying is – it is time to move on. As Shakespeare said – what is beyond remedy, should be beyond grief.

  74. the paragraph to paragraph comparison was quite interesting to read. That made me see the similarities.

  75. @ Mahesh: My ire wasn’t directed at you in any way–apologies if it came across as such. I was responding those who state that my piece wasn’t copied–despite all evidence to the contrary. You are obviously making an entirely different point, and I appreciate your input.
    This isn’t about a lawsuit for me; this is about ethics and integrity. Anyway, I’m still waiting to hear IT’s side of the story.

    @ Arunima: Thanks.

  76. Sorry that this had to happen to you Niranjana. I don’t see any updates so I take it “India Today” hasn’t got back to you yet?

  77. @ Lotus: thanks! No reply from IT yet.

  78. hai, every one i think creativity flowing from internet eventually.literary flouds drenching up the conventional creatures,the problem behind this kind of activities is non-reading habit. netizens simply gumming to the silver screens where as crispy,browny,natural nad lovable books are vanishing from many laps.please depend on real life observations are at least do some brain work not this type of robbery.
    niranjana you have every right to fight against your ethical freedom. All the best

  79. @ Chaarvaaka: Thanks!

  80. welcome to the world of media . this is how the real media is . but u have to came forward to fight for your story

  81. shame shame shame .dear niranjna ,we dont think ‘india today ‘is a number one magazine of india .

  82. @ Amaan Ahmed: That’s depressing! But I’m still hoping it’ll all get sorted.

    @ Awesh29: Actually, India Today calls itself “India’s number one magazine” on their website. I merely quoted them🙂

  83. Oh Damn Aunty (Damayanti) how could you do this… at least be brave to tender an apology. Mr. Chawla/ Mr. Poorie Why so Hefty pay packet for Deputy Editor… this plagarism work can be done by fresh graduate…

  84. Pingback: Plagiarism and The New York Times « BROWN PAPER

  85. First time I’m reading the post and all I can say is.. may the force be with you.

    Btw, did you really expect a response from someone whose prime motive for becoming a journalist was “It’s the only profession that allows you to be as irreverent as you please.’ (as mentioned on her profile at the link given by you)

  86. @ Raven: Thanks to you this blogger gives.

    And yes, I had hoped for a response–from the publication, if not the concerned person.

  87. Hitender Singh

    Did India Today initiate any action against the erring copyist? Have they tendered an apology to you as yet?

  88. @ Hitender: To the first–not that I’m aware of. To the second–no.

  89. Pingback: Mills and Boon: an Indian romance « BROWN PAPER

  90. It is really painful when your work is seen at another place with credit going to someone else..
    Especially when you have spend your nights typing out or writing it..
    Sad, it came from India Today.
    And sad, ‘reputed’ authors do such things.

    All the best with your fight dear!
    DN

  91. @ Durga Nandan: Thanks!

  92. Wow, this is more prevalent than I thought!

    A freelancer for Mid-Day Bangalore recently published one of my blog posts word-to-word under her name. I wrote to the editor and they printed an apology a couple of weeks later. They’ve said they’re going to pay me whatever they paid the freelancer, so let’s see.

    Wish you all the best. Go get ’em!

    • Mid-day Bangalore is one of the papers that are pretty good about stuff like this. Most papers don’t even bother.

      I am not surprised. Most Indian magazines copy/paste content from bloggers, some are more subtle that’s all.

      Sorry, this can be very upsetting if it happens to you.

  93. @ Veda: Wow! That is good news, I’m happy for you!
    I really respect the publication’s measured response. Sadly, India Today’s ethical standards seem to fall far short of Mid-Day’s.

  94. It is sad that India Today never rendered an apology.

    It may not be plagiarism verbatim but plagiarism it is. Many of us write on similar topics but our language and style is what makes us unique. Here, even though the lady wrote in her own language it still has same style and pattern as this blogger. I wish they could at least credit to you or acknowledge you.

  95. @ Solilo: Thanks for visiting, andI enjoyed reading your blog too!
    Yes, a simple apology would have ended this–too bad IT doesn’t see fit to resolve the matter with grace.

  96. Just pathetic! IT is losing more credibility (never really appreciated the University rankings they push out every year either), and it’s sad that they’ve such a big ego to admit it. Coming to think about it, since it’s been over six months, have they responded yet?

  97. Apology by IT would mean admission of wrong doing… never going to happen!

  98. you have to claim a court case. hope u can get some result.

  99. @ Vig: Nope. Not a whisper.

    @ Neeraj: I fear you are correct.

    @ Web: I’m probably going to explore that option.

  100. polite answers i like it

  101. Dear Ms Iyer,
    I guess I’ve stumbled on this post a bit late in the day.
    Though I can feel your pain, it comes to me as no surprise that Ms Datta is the culprit. For, she has a bit of notoriety in the India Today Group for being the Queen P (P for plagiarism)!
    In fact, she was publicly ticked off on the issue at a national seminar of the group a month ago.
    Colleagues who work with Ms Datta or worked with her at The Telegraph in Calcutta (her previous employer) are aware of her modus operandi — cull as much information as possible from diverse sources and then start rehashing things. Whatever the end product, she can’t be accused of lifting from one particular source, though she can’t lay any claim to originality either.
    In the article in question, she has pushed the limits of her ‘fine art’ a bit too far and seems to have got away with theft, well nearly.
    I say, ‘nearly’ because everyone in the India Today Group, including her bosses, is aware of her pathetic effort in this particular case; they also know her capability to border on the bizarre while ‘manufacturing’ the health stories.
    I know it’s of little consolation to you that Ms Datta is a repeat offender. But that’s what she is and I wish the cyber law could chastise criminals of this kind.

  102. @ Insider: Thanks. I suppose I’m comforted by the idea of natural justice (albeit delayed) kicking in, but it doesn’t quite compensate for the lack of institutional punishment. Intellectual theft is as much a theft as is stealing someone’s car or money! That India Today has chosen not to pursue this matter formally–or indeed, even get in touch with me– is very depressing.

    Again, thanks for taking the trouble to write in–I appreciate it.

  103. Guess what??? Ms Damayanti Datta does not have the balls to admit that she plagiarised or the decency to apologise for it. But, she is slimy enough to hide her wrongdoings. She (or maybe her company) has deleted the Mills and Boon blog entry from the India Today website so that people are not able to refer to it. This would slow down the namecalling but Datta’s crime cannot be washed away by this. Cunning conniving tactic!!! Shame on you, Datta!!!

  104. Dear Nilanjana

    A) have 6 carton loads of M & B s in my home in Jaipur
    Apart from 6 sent to my dear sister in pune
    @ the moment I’m in kolkata will bring it to kolkata
    I’m a man🙂
    Me my sister Kamala & my late dad read re-read and re-re-read novellas with Rose on its mast
    Interesting read and had I written a piece it would have been similar
    Because youth romance & m & b evoke same emotions from a person who was a teenager in 70 80 90 2k or 2k10

    But plagiarism is bad I do not support it

    My take on plagiarism
    A) journalists are the people who #fail in everything else
    B) had they been brains they’d be somewhere else
    C) knowledge of an average journo is less than an average reader
    D)while the reader has a choice what he reads .. A journo has to write what seth ji ask them to write
    Or else gharwali will send him empty stomach next day
    E) my take on Plagiarism is the same as of Manish Malhotra or Paul Mcartney
    i ) I feel proud my viewpoint / creativity is copied / plagiarised
    ii ) I wrote from heart and wrote because I wanted to communicate my view to the world at large
    iii ) by publishing my writings music
    The latter version is giving me wider audience
    Iv)whenever a person sees it down the line over a period of history the original piece always gets recognised
    V) I will give an example
    A song killing me softly
    It was written by an ardent admirer of neil diamond but her version dint become a hit
    Sung by Roberta Flack (most popular ) Perry Como was known & Recently by Lauryn Hill with Fugees was a disco hit for hip-hop
    Each was distinct
    But when you wiki it
    You know its not a Flack song
    Wiki never lies..
    I write on social political economic and topical issues thru blogspot.com Facebook twitter and reverbnation (music)
    Most of it gets plagiarised to the extent of cnn indian media doing an about turn position
    When I equated Arnab Goswami to Kasab an alien few television channels stopped
    when I said use of Army against civilians who were not provided basic necessities and their only source of livelihood is being snatched by Vedanta’s Tata’s n Haldia the Army said they won’t
    The tweets n writings somehow come out in a modified version in press
    But what do I do
    I feel proud
    I’m a change agent
    When the content that I generated is put on a public domain by a national broadcaster or newspaper or even cnn /george Soros in his latest interviews
    Isn’t that exactly what I wanted

    So dear Nilanjana
    A) be a money minded writer an publish on Penguin / Bantham /oxford press
    B) if you blog
    LET DUMB PEOPLE PLAGIARISE IT
    YOU CAN ALWAYS SAY WITH THE DATELINE PROOF
    We were the first

    Look jo khara hai Kabhi nahi badalta
    As a writer you should be as proud as me or Manish Malhotra or Beatles or Steve Jobs
    Plagiarism means you have arrived
    And kitsch and fake will always be fake
    And connoisseur’s always know the difference

    So like munni bad named zhandu
    Zhandu badnamed Da Bang
    Hisaab Baraabar
    Matter ends

    So Niranjana get famous
    And a damn to the some of India today stooges who said you are gaining cheap publicity
    You just apply a dark spot on your middle finger n show them that

    Ha ha
    Grt going
    Now get some publishing contract but do keep doing ‘open source ‘ writing

    Because the geeks know android , google and linux are real things
    As compared to Iphone windows and bing
    The latter are for ” dummies who need touch screen ” because they don’t know where to do what
    So Niranjana the dummies will be dummies
    You remain open-source and the moolah will come
    If not by royalties
    Then by banner ads
    All the best

  105. Pingback: India Today editor plagiarizes from Slate; what’s new? « Brown Paper

  106. I thought I am the only one. TOI copied my complete book review and never gave any credit.

    I noticed only once but I am sure they are doing it regularly.

  107. @ Anuradha: No, you have lots of company! Esp. when it comes to stealing photographs, I believe🙂
    But don’t hold your breath waiting for action; these media outlets don’t give a damn…

  108. Pingback: India Today apologizes–but not to me. « Brown Paper

  109. Niranjana,

    It seems that it plagiarism is a matter of common thing for India Today. Look at the piece in the link http://bit.ly/bLjg6W for another instance of plagiarism by India today, this time its from Slate on an article on Rajinikanth’s Endiran. Can you believe it !!

  110. Hi Niranjana,
    I blogged about the India Today editorial copied from Slate, and have referenced you there, too: http://thenitknumbskulls.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/open-letter-to-aroon-purie/

    Sure hope this helps you get some more publicity, and hopefully justice.

  111. Pingback: Open Letter To Aroon Purie « The NITK Numbskulls Page

  112. wow. i’m coming in really late but i’m horrified. on the other hand, HT and TOI have done it so often that i shouldnt be surprised. One can argue on technicalities but I find it sad that they should do that to you when its rather obvious that you’ve been a victim. As you rightly said – similarity of opinion is not the same as similarity of expression. i know this is no consolation but well, you have a slow small crowd building up on your side..

    • Never too late, since IT still hasn’t seen fit to respond! So many thanks for the mention on your blog. I’m heartened by the number of people who’ve come forward to link to me, write words of support, and generally prove that the world is an okay place after all.

  113. This is outrageous. absolutely. spreading the word.

  114. Go for it, Niranjana.
    Get the cheat!

  115. Pingback: Indian media’s ethical free fall « Brown Paper

  116. JOKE ALERT!

    Are you sure you and ms. Datta are not the same person?

  117. On a more serious note, I have ruled out journalism as one of the future career options for my 7 year old kid. We live in a really shameless society.

  118. @ marees: Um, that would be a mortal insult, if you hadn’t alerted me.
    Re: your child’s career: The Indian media desperately needs principled reportage– perhaps s/he will be the one to clean the Augean stables?

  119. If it was only an online blog post and not a printed article, then all that Ms Datta had to do was, just give a hyper link and give her comments on top of that. In fact that is how I reached your column from a yahoo article and is also the same thing being done in Yahoo Fit to Post articles. She must have been really desparate and really shameless to post another person’s feelings as her own, that too line-by-line with no original content.

    In general, we observe that integrity in individuals is over-ridden by the lack of integrity in institutions and systems. Let’s hope that in the long run yahoo-like initiatives are commercially successful resulting in more individuals with integrity who can act as role-models and create a new eco-system.

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