Intellectual theft is the act of using someone else’s work without giving them credit. While it may not seem as big an issue in a country like Pakistan, it does affect us in many ways. Recently, a National Award winning Science Writer Mr. Muneeb Ali raised his voice on the issue. The sad part about his effort was the absence of any response from the media, journalists or the government, who would otherwise happily use his content for their own means. Have a look at what he had to say :

Just want an opinion (I'll delete all politically baised comments! ) I've tagged you because I value your opinion and…

Posted by Syed Muneeb Ali on Sunday, May 3, 2020

He even took his message to more heated social media platforms like Twitter but found no luck.

Syed Muneeb Ali’s Tweet on breach of his intellectual property

Next, he made a video on YouTube, providing the video of Mr. Mubashir Lucman as proof of his claim. In the video, Mr. Mubashir Lucman was reading out the exact words from Syed Muneeb Ali’s article – portraying them as his own. Have a look at the video:

YouTube Video by Syed Muneeb Ali on Media Ethics

Fighting Issues of Intellectual Theft

In Conversation with Syed Muneeb Ali

Why do journalists feel entitled to own any content for their show? Why, in your opinion, are people not concerned with giving credit to the content creator?

Well, this is a long debate but in my opinion, the reason behind this is ‘insult’. We feel ashamed in saying “I don’t know” about things we actually don’t know. Let’s suppose if the piracy scandals of mainstream journalists got exposed and they’re entitled as the ‘content narrator’ then their audience will be in the condition of doubt and will try to seek the original content creator for a more authentic information, consequently affecting their viewership. To escape from public embarrassment, they don’t mention the author’s name and present the content as if it’s their own property.

As a writer, how do you plan on safeguarding your content in future?

Being a writer, it’s more difficult and painful for me to see my content freely distributed without my name than to make a blog story on any topic. I’m aware of the fact that media piracy happens worldwide, but the system of law enforcement is what makes a difference between the world and Pakistan. I can’t do anything to safeguard my content except creating awareness through social media. However, it’s a fact that when the source is out of reach, then you can make consumers aware of the fact and this will automatically affect the so-called reputation of the source.

What measures should law enforcement agencies/government take to ensure protection of intellectual property?

If we want to see the originality or authenticity of the content being generated by some company or a country, we’ll first research about the intellectual property protection in it. In Pakistan, where we see the content being stolen, we need to make the National Response Center for Cybercrime active in not only catching the harassment or bullying cases on social media but also in responding the piracy reports. Interestingly, in copying content both senior and junior writers are equally active in Pakistan (Here is the Equality! Ah!) but only seniors are caught because they are popular among the audience. Back in 2019, 50+ articles written by me which are originally published at DAWN news were copied to about 200+ websites which includes the websites of Hassan Nisar, Javed Chaudhary and newspaper ‘Nai Baat’ etc.

Legal Opinion On The Scandal

We discussed the issue of Intellectual theft with a Lawyer, Mr Omer Imran. Mr Omer has been an active lawyer in advocating social issues in Pakistan. Here is what he had to say on Syed Muneeb’s issue:

There are laws in Pakistan protecting IP and copyright. Under the law of Pakistan, all cases related to IP infringement (an act which carries civil and criminal liabilities) lie towards specialized IP Tribunals.
Under our copyright laws, you cannot blatantly copy any original work of an author and reproduce it without credit and make a profit. (You cannot in many cases even reproduce it with credit to the original author if you are making money from the reproduction) unless you have the permission of the copyright owner.

This clearly shows how journalists, as mentioned and proven by Mr Muneeb Ali, are commiting a crime by openly using content that does not belong to them. However, neither writers nor the targeted individuals know how and when to take action.

Is Intellectual Theft Really That Harmful?

Well, yes! It is rather more harmful than stealing a material possession. A material possession will eventually run out and probably only benefit the thief. However, stealing an idea will discourage the content creator from sharing his content any further. This will consequently slow down intellectual development of an entire society. It is time for us to learn as a society, what should matter more and why. Daastan has been promoting intellectual development from the get go. It is in these collective priorities that we define ourselves. We thank Mr Muneeb Ali for raising his voice on such an important issue. We hope that our priorities and attitudes towards scholarship, ethics and morals will change.

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