A day before Independence day, Prasant Naidu couldn't believe his eyes when he saw that SiliconIndia, a leading Indian technology magazine, on its online edition, had, allegedly, and liberally, used the contents of his interview he had done and published on his social media blog Lighthouse Insights - without giving him any credit. When Prasant confronted SiliconIndia on Twitter, he encountered more disbelief after SiliconIndia refused to accept the charges of plagiarism and copyright infringement.
As per the screenshots published by Prashant Naidu, the resident blogger at Lighthouse Insights, SiliconIndia supposedly feels that they are above any plagiarism debate since they are a news site. "WE are sorry you feel that way, but we are a news site.that gives the liberty copy paste", was the exact and sarcastic reply from SiliconIndia - probably from a rookie - more high on testosterone than grey matter. In a development whose irony didn't go unnoticed among those responding to the 'silicongate' - the players being Lighthouse Insights, a social media blog that tracks people's social web behavior, and another, the magazine SiliconIndia, which informs the country about cutting-edge technology
- SiliconIndia's website and its brand became a negative newsmaker, and showed no 'silicon' in handling the interview it published - brazenly copying parts of Prasant's interview. The interview, which is at the center of the social media storm, was that of Gautam Ghosh, a blogger, social media evangelist, and human resource expert, who had completed 10 years of successful blogging.
Fortunately, Prasant, relating the entire incident in a piece on his blog, said that he had saved frozen shots of SiliconIndia's response via Twitter
and the url of the story in question. In order to force SiliconIndia to take action - in this case the removal of the article and an apology - Prasant went public with the charge of plagiarism on August 14 itself, and soon had hundreds of readers responding to his revelation - the tweet becoming the top 10 trending hashtags in India
by August 14 evening. The news was also picked up for reporting by one of India's top blogger Arun Prabhudesai in his blog Trak.in. However to give a new twist to the matter an unverified account holder named Sharad spoke on behalf Silicon India and commented on Arun's post. Sharad defended the incidence and called the entire reaction to be immature and publicity stunt. He even went to the extent of claiming the tweeter screenshot as fake and threatened legal action. However, whether Sharad was making an official statement on behalf of Silicon India team remains unverified.
"It's clear from what Lighthouse Insights has made public that SiliconIndia should do the done thing - acknowledge the serious lapse, penalize the writer of the story, and get on with it. The more SiliconIndia hides and tries to wish the whole thing away, the more it will continue to bite Silicon," said Kiviraj Mehrotra, an online content manager at Khaleej Times's website, told this citizen journalist .
It was not as if the Pune-based Lighthouse Insights did not try negotiation with the Bangalore-based SiliconIndia - before going public on Twitter. It appealed to the CEO and content managers of SiliconIndia - but its requests met only studied silence, which is when Prasant brought the battle to Twitter with the hashtag #OccupySiliconIndia. As soon as the Lighthouse-SiliconIndia tweet started gaining mileage, SiliconIndia did a disapearing act, sealed its lips - as if nothing had happened. So far, it has not uttered a syllable in response to the alleged plagiarism charge.
Copying copyright material and using it without giving due credit is common in Indian media. Some do it smartly, some hope it never gets noticed, the rest, like SiliconIndia, think others are idiots and won't notice. "All said and done. SiliconIndia made a huge goof up. If they thought that once someone publishes something it becomes publicly usable then all they could have done was provided a hyperlink to the story by Lighthouse. After all, how many people check hyperlinks within a story?" Avinash, a senior journalist, who has worked with leading media houses, told this citizen journalist.
Meanwhile, stunned silence from SiliconIndia - unless backchannels, unknown to us, have been thrashing it out behind closed doors - continues - and it's pretty much certain that we have not heard the last about the Lighthouse-SiliconIndia story or the plagiarism debate.