October 31, 2006

He had you at hello

Last heard from a thoroughly entertaining gent called Sach Kohli almost a year ago. Then today, I get this letter that he has just sent to the Times of India. Speaks for itself, so I'll let it do so (except for a few minor modifications, including one or two to get links right) then remind you of my previous communication from him.
    From: Sach Kohli
    Date: 31-Oct-2006
    Subject: Plagiarism within Mumbai Mirror and Bombay Times
    To: Times of India Big Cheeses

    Dear Big Cheeses,

    I'm a subcriber of the Times of India in Bombay, and Mumbai Mirror comes with it. I actually think the Mirror is quite fun, but yesterday I was home early from work and had a bit of time to read it a bit carefully.

    I did the quiz "Do you Fight Fair" (visit the Mirror site, use "Select Prior Issue" at top right to select the 30-10-2006 issue, scroll down to the "Do you fight fair?" link near the bottom). Some of it looked odd and a bit familiar. So I just googled the title to find it remarkably similar to one composed by Tracey Porpora that I read here at the website of Ladies Home Journal belonging to the Meridith Corporation.

    Well I dismissed this as a one-off aberration but I still had thirty minutes to dinner. So I picked up Saturday's (October 28) edition of Mumbai Mirror and I turned to the quiz "Do you have a devoted hubby?" (follow same procedure as above, but select the 28-10-2006 issue, scroll down and click on the grey "Relationships" link). One of the options to a question reads "b. Yes Boss: He had you at hello... but you're still confused about how he feels." Yes Boss? Wasn't that Jerry Maguire talking?? So I did a single google search and found the original article here at Online Cosmo. What was most entertaining was the effort that the writer had taken to 'adapt' the quiz to Mumbai Mirror. The 'guy' was replaced with hubby and of course the sheer genius of replacing hollywood titles with bollywood ...

    So now dinner was looming but still about ten minutes away, and I idly leafed through the day's Bombay Times (October 30). Nestled among the usual garbage sprung this headline The Tip: How do you clean your trumpet?. Hmm how interesting and different I thought (naughty, naughty). By chance, I know a bit about trumpets and was pleasantly surprised that Bombay Times, of all newspapers, was writing about trumpet playing! So I read it and well, once again, it seemed soo familiar. A quick google and bingo.

    And then I ate dinner.

    Anyway, beyond the sheer entertainment value of that evening, I find all this super mindboggling! Surely, the reporters and editors of the famed Times Group can come up with quizzes by themselves? Besides, by leaving out the trumpet cleaning story, would you have deprived thousands of Bombay Times readers of a richer morning read? If I could detect three cases in an hour of casual reading, how many more such cases are just begging to be discovered? And for heaven's sake, if you care so much to tell people about trumpet cleaning or advise them on how to be devoted husbands but don't know who to ask, why don't you just pay for the article or at least acknowledge it?? Or don't run it at all.

    Anyway, it's lunch time now.

Thanks, Sach, for a greatly entertaining evening of reading!

And the result of our previous email conversation is here.


Addendum: For some other similarly delectable morsels, you may want to take a look at You left out dazzling and Congratulations, Virender Sehwag!


On the same theme, check this song from 1961. What current Bollywood song from a terrific film does it put in your mind?


Kartik said...

Yes, sadly, this isn't restricted to the ToI.

I've had a friend work for a highly commercial daily that operates mostly in Hyderabad and (now) Madras and he'd have tales of the supplement columnists plagiarising from google and other online sources verbatim for the next morning's copy.

I should mention at this point that most of this daily's sales were thanks to the eye-candy on its supplement pages :-)

BTW, that previous article was even funnier. Especially the "creative" changes :-)

Sidhusaaheb said...

I was reminded of this:


Anonymous said...

The Slimes of India...!

km said...

What if ToI publishes a rebuttal/apology that is also lifted from another newspaper?

Then I'll believe God has a sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

Oh everybody has deadlines n room rent to pay and stuff...must be some poor post-google trainee :)

Anonymous said...

It is not restricted to the TOI or to "highly commercial dailies from Hyderabad". The Hindu's Gautaman Bhaskaran was caught last year lifting his reviews wholesale from the New York Times. When this made a certain amount of noise in the blogosphere, he was asked to go on leave for a while, and then quietly allowed to return.

The TOI is, at least, quite open about the fact that they don't have any standards and don't do serious journalism. The Hindu pretends to be India's version of The Guardian but, under the surface, is just as bad as the rest.

Anonymous said...

This expose and all the rest represents just the tip of the creative indian iceberg.

A case in point is Bollywood that has been using plagiarism as a creative option for decades (I cracked up when i saw this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5ky5ClIjL8)

It's just that in print, the plagiarism is easy to detect. But let's not forgive flagrant cheating that happen in indian music, movies

Anonymous said...

anon - Thanks for the desi-beatles link.

What really cracks me up is Bappi Lahiri accusing a rapper of stealing his stuff -- and winning.

Dilip D'Souza said...

We seem to have this same debate every few months ...

In any case, please check the update I've put on the post, which mentions this song from 1961.

Anonymous said...



km said...


With all due respect to the lifted song (and the source), IMO, rules of stealing don't quite apply the same way in music.

I think you listen to a lot of the same music as I do, so I don't need to flash the "where would rock be without the blues" badge at you.

Dilip D'Souza said...

km, believe me, I put that up only to raise the question that you do: is it plagiarism if it happens with music? And how do you draw the line?

Yep, the blues are a prime example.

I remember when the film "La Bamba" came out in the late '80s and made that song a hit all over again (30 years after it was first a hit with Richie Valens) ... there were plenty of people who said, but this is a copy of "Twist and Shout"! (or other such songs).

(This is a continuing debate: for example, note Wilf's comment here).

Except that first, it was likely "Twist and Shout" that had taken the easy musical form of "La Bamba" and used it; and second, is it really copying if you use a form like that?

Is it really copying if you re-use and re-work a tune?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this up Dilip.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled in to read about the TOI shame (shame shame), but the last few posts about music caught my eye.

Let me say this: the ambiguity surrounding the difference between plagiarised and influenced work, which is really what the debate here is about, is grossly overstated. As a performing musician - and you can ask other artists - integration of external influences is part of the creative process and great art is often created by unusual handling of juxpositions. The operative word here is *integrating*. Copy-paste doesn't lead to art and is instantly recognised; assimilation leads to integration.

However, the main point I wanted to make is that from the perspective of the creator rather than the audience, the difference between the route of plagiarism and that of integrating infuences is stark. It signifies two completely different mindsets and approaches. In subjective areas like art and music (unlike Indian print journalism!), practitioners can easily point out the fakes.

I remember talking to a veteran songwriter in india in the 80s and he was condoning the method of lifting western songs into bollywood giving me the argument "but otherwise how would they know about music in the west". The beatles youtube link by anon is a good example. Well, now *that's* a bit debatable, but in today's world with cable TV and internet, that argument doesn't hold anymore.

So anyway, I have to respectfully disagree with km. I would also dismiss his point made about rock and blues -- the prevailing cutural underpinnings and the influences of rock music and its relation to the blues has just been so ably documented the past that I won't attempt to duplicate it here...

Anonymous said...

km -- I think the question is rather "where would the blues be without rock."

The blues is a form of music using a particular scale and chord progression over 12 bars. Jazz musicians make substitutions in the chords, "folk blues" and rock musicians generally don't. You can't copyright a progression but you can copyright a tune and lyrics. When Cream recorded Skip James' "I'm so glad", in a quite unrecognisable version from the original, they still paid him royalties (which came in very useful for him even though he hated their version.) Thanks to copyright and royalties, rock contributed to the recognition, and financial stability, of many blues musicians who were in hard times in the early 1960s.

In general rock musicians have been good about acknowledging their blues roots. That's why I'm a bit dismayed that Dylan claims "Rollin' and tumblin'" as his own in his recent album. Yes, he did contribute his own verses, but others have contributed verses to Dylan's songs and haven't erased his copyright.

On the other hand, if chord progressions could be copyrighted, Gershwin's estate would be even richer than it is -- nearly half of jazz (the half that isn't based on the blues changes) is based on the "I've got rhythm" changes.

Anonymous said...

By the way, was this letter also sent to Cosmo and LHJ? I suppose they would be more interested in it than the the TOI!!

Dilip D'Souza said...

was this letter also sent to Cosmo and LHJ?

Yes it was. Don't know if any answer.

Kartik said...

Ahh- apparently, not everything about Munnabhai is Gandhigiri.

Which reminds me that the theme / one of the songs sounded decidedly like the ICICI bank promos.

km said...

@Rahul and Dilip: Maybe the music conversation deserves a separate post/discussion?

Dilip D'Souza said...

km, maybe it does! You wanna take a stab at a post? I might, or at least put up something about the blues, give me a day or two or three.

Anonymous said...

Dilip, km -- I may post on it too -- give me a day or so if Dilip doesn't beat me to it.

Anonymous said...

Here's my take.