Late last month, über-popular and highly-respected travel blogger, Enrico Dee of Byahilo.com, made it known to his fellow bloggers that a certain publication in Iloilo City had used several of his photographs without permission. Dee, who travels around the country to cover various festivals and regional events, has lodged a complaint against Panay News [website] for the unauthorized use of his photographs of the Dinagyang Festival.
Dee’s blog post about this “dastardly act” is found here.
In an emailed interview, Dee told The Philippine Blog Press:
My problem with Panay News started January 2008 when they used 2 of my photos in their newspaper. The photos bear my watermark. At that time I just let it slip away. Then this January 25, they used again 4 photos for the Dinagyang Special Issue. This time I got so enraged because the watermarks of my photos were removed and I was never acknowledged as the source of the photo. Immediately upon arrival in Manila, I sent them an email charging them for the photos they used. I charge them EIGHT THOUSAND PESOS for the 4 photos.
But the management team did not bother to reply to my e-mail. So I was forced to blog about it and spread to the entire cyberspace their dastardly act.
A few days later their writer, Prince Golez, sent me an SMS asking for apology, admitting that he copied my photos from the Internet. I did not accept his apology, instead, I asked him to inform his boss to reply to my email and respond to my demand to pay. But until now, I have not heard a word from them.
Apology is no longer enough for a crime that has been committed twice. I really felt violated.
As of this writing, Dee has not received any compensation, but Panay News has reportedly apologized in writing for the aforementioned infringement.
This was not the first time that a blogger’s work — photos, original articles, what have you — has fallen victim to plagiarism. A frustrating reality is that, many unscrupulous individuals and organizations scrape huge amounts of content off of blogs and republish them online for profit without proper compensation to the bloggers. These “content scrapers” aim to generate content in order to create Web sites meant for SEO. Most of these scrapers hide behind the blanket of anonymity afforded by the Internet, and are thus virtually untraceable.
What is appalling is when members of ‘traditional’ media, normally considered the bastion of journalistic ethics, are the ones caught red handed.
This writer has personally heard print and broadcast media practitioners proselytizing to bloggers about ethics: that bloggers have no sense of journalistic responsibility. In some ways, that is difficult to refute — many bloggers do fall into the trap of publishing stories without proper research, nor even a cursory background check. The reading public, for the most part, excuse bloggers for such lapses, chalking it up to inexperience and lack of formal journalism training.
But for a media company, especially one that prides itself to be a respectable news organ in its locality, it is next to unforgivable to commit plagiarism.
Dee further disclosed to this writer that this was not his first case. He said that he feels very frustrated because he spends thousands of pesos for airfare, accommodation, food and other expenses, only to have his work stolen by these companies. However, Dee said that “[t]here are media companies that really take extra effort to ask permission from me to use my photos and I salute them. They know that it is not an easy thing to stay under the sweltering heat of the sun, getting burned to take photos.”
There are a number of services on the Internet that assist bloggers and other content providers monitor potential copyright infringement. Sadly, no such thing exists for cases when “offline” plagiarism happens — bloggers must therefore remain vigilant against such incidents.
(Do you think you have been victimized by copyright infringement? Let us know and we’ll try to investigate.)