Sunday, April 23, 2006

Copying...from Bangalore

I recently bought a book, Pinging from Bangalore by K.R. Chandrashekar. It's a "blog novel" (whatever that means) about "Basu" - a delivery manager at a software company; his overly stressed work life; his thoughts and ideas on arbitrary, yet important things such as language translation, Americans, the Iraq war, vultures, rocks and such; and Basu's diatribe on the software industry in general.

I didn't like it. Partly because it is the story of a manager whose only problems are a) intra company politics and b) inability to find people ("resources") for his customers' projects. I'll harp upon this in a different post.

Another thing I dislike: The book has appalling English, perhaps the worst I have read in print. I'm not saying mine is any better, but check this:

I went to the bathroom. Drank some water and was looking outside the window. Sun was rising slowly, triggering activities. People distributing milk and newspaper were seen going in their bicycles.

("Going in their bicycles"? I hope they didn't go on the newspapers..and milk!)

The book is littered with grammatical errors - it soon begins to get to you. Phrases like people at offsite are a put off - it means people in Bangalore, off-site from his customer in the U.S. But "at offsite" is just wrong. There is such a miserly approach to using "the" that Sun was rising slowly and Otherwise the moment US turns the tap of outsourcing... and so on.

But what's really disgusting is this: He has copied content shamelessly without giving proper credit. Throughout the book, Chandrashekar COPIES and PASTES text, largely unaltered, into the book. Sometimes he prefixes this with "A web page said", or "A survey reported" but follows that with the text of the web page verbatim.

This is wrong. This is blatant violation of copyright, and in a google-able time and age, very stupid. He does start the book with:

I acknowledge the material I have borrowed from the Internet news items, pieces of columns and articles.
Most of the material is from the following web sites: timesofindia.com, rediff.com, newindpress.com, sulekha.com, news.bbc.co.uk, nytimes.com, amazon.com...
Many thanks to:
  • The web sites
  • ...
Small mercies. The original authors of these articles would perhaps be enraged that they've been copied verbatim and acknowledged as part of a glorified thank you. That's like saying, "Thank you journalist world, I have copied some of your articles".

Note here: Quoting people means taking a small paragraph from their text, and giving them proper credit. If you take a whole page, you get the author's permission. If you make money from such copying, like Mr. Chandrashekar does by asking us to pay Rs. 200 for his gramatically flawed book, it is only fair that you share the profits with the authors.

What did he copy?
A helluva lot, but here's my initial set of findings:

[Note: He has, for some reason, changed some words, in some cases altering the meaning of the entire sentence.]

page 182 : a web page said: (etc.)

Copied from: http://www.nytimes.com/...
Author: Bob Herbert

"For all the talk of supporting the troops, they are a low priority for most Americans. If the nation really cared, the president would not be frolicking at his ranch for the entire month of August . He'd be back in Washington burning the midnight oil, trying to figure out how to get the troops out of the terrible fix he put them in."

Note: Text is slightly modified.
---------------
page 157-158 A web page said:
Copied from:
http://www.nytimes.com/...
Author: Kenneth Chang

"The proponents of intelligent design, a school of thought that some have argued should be taught alongside evolution in the nation's schools, say that the complexity and diversity of life go beyond what evolution can explain....
"


Note: A lot of text is copied verbatim.

Subnote: Kenneth Chang's article says:
"One of the rules of science is, no miracles allowed," said Douglas H. Erwin, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian Institution. "That's a fundamental presumption of what we do."


Erwin's statement is uncredited and changed to:

A scientist said, One of the rules of science and a fundamental presumption is, no miracles allowed
.

Note: When you quote someone, credit them! Why he doesn't like Chang or Erwin is beyond me.
---------------
page 160: A scientist declared:
Copied from:
http://www.nytimes.com/...
Author: Cornelia Dean

"Belief in the supernatural, especially belief in God, is not only incompatible with good science, Dr. Hauptman declared, "this kind of belief is damaging to the well-being of the human race."

This statement declared by Herbert A. Hauptman, who shared the chemistry prize in 1985 for his work on the structure of crystals. "A scientist" indeed, but why not name him, Mr. Chandrashekar?

Further in that page:
"Most scientists, who do believe in god, believe in "a God who is behind the laws of nature but who is not intervening. "

comes from

"Most scientists he knows who do believe in God, he added, believe in "a God who is behind the laws of nature but who is not intervening."

"He" is "Steven Weinberg, a physicist at the University of Texas, a member of the academy and a winner of the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his work in particle physics." (from Cornelia Dean's Article)

I do not understand how Dr. Weinberg's statement can be twisted to mean "Most scientists, who do believe in God". It ticks me off - it is a completely different meaning. Dr. Weinberg talked about most god believing scientists he knew and Chandrashekar twisted it to mean most scientists believe in god. This book should be taken out and shot.
-------------
page 178
"nagasaki news item"
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4133572.stm
Author: Unknown, but referred in tons of pages online.

Chandrashekar offers no credit, but copies text shamelessly.
-------------
page 182
"By elementary moral standards, in both Iraq and Afghanistan the US and its "spear carrier", the UK should be paying enormous reparations for the atrocities they supported or carried out.They have the company of many other countries: the skewed moral standards of the self-designated “enlightened states”."

copied from:
"By elementary moral standards, in both Iraq and Afghanistan the US and the UK should be paying enormous reparations for the atrocities they supported or carried out directly, particularly since the 1980s — joined by others as well, notably Russia, but also France, Germany, and others: the list of criminals extends well beyond. That would be one simple way to increase the likelihood that the outcome will be more or less favorable. It is, of course, unthinkable, by the moral standards of the self-designated “enlightened states”."

http://groups.msn.com/...
Author: Anuj Chopra
-------------
Oh and he's not altogether bad. He gives credit to Amartya Sen, page 186. He also credits V.S. Naipaul (of whose book a page is lifted). What did the rest of the journalists do to you that they deserve no mention, Mr. Chandrashekar?
-------------
page 186
I said "the strength of the U.S. has been its extraordinary focus on productivity. And, ultimately, productivity is doing more things with less people. Here, you have an economy that makes and destroys millions of jobs a year. Outsourcing is simply more visible. A guy in the bay area loses his job, and somebody in Bangalore gets it. When you put a face to it, it's more emotional.

Copied from:
"But the strength of the U.S. has been its extraordinary focus on productivity. And, ultimately, productivity is doing more things with less people. Here, you have an economy that makes and destroys millions of jobs a year.Outsourcing is more visible. A guy in Detroit loses his job, and somebody in India gets it. When you put a face to it, it's more emotional. "

http://www.businessweek.com/...
This statement was made by Nandan Nilekani when interviewed by Steve Hamm.
-------------
page 193
One editorial said"Hurricanes come in two waves. First comes the rainstorm, and then comes what the historian John Barry calls the "human storm" - the recriminations, the political conflict and the battle over compensation"

http://www.nytimes.com/...
Author: David Brooks
-------------
page 196
"The fact of the matter is that terrorists, those who are intent on taking the lives of innocents (as in the dictionary, not an Islamist definition that ipso facto says a non-Muslim cannot be an innocent), should be treated as beyond the pale: they have forfeited all rights and all expectation of leniency."

(rest of the page also)
http://in.rediff.com/news/2005/aug/11rajeev.htm and
http://in.rediff.com/news/2005/aug/10rajeev.htm
Author: Rajeev Srinivasan
-------------
page 43
"Key to the vulture mortalities is a condition known as visceral gout."
And so on..

http://www.peregrinefund.org/...
Asian Vulture Crisis-2002 Report - (28 Jul 03)
-------------
page 49-50-51
ends with:
" Unfortunately, many senior executives busy travelling the world, signing new deals and developing a vision for the company, have little idea of what may be going on at home. That deep within an organisation that otherwise does all the right things, one man could be driving its best people away"

http://fecolumnists.expressindia.com/full_column.php?content_id=21825
Author: Simran Bhargava
This further quotes from "First break all the rules" - Marcus Buckingham,Curt Coffman.
--------------

That's just the first set. I'm willing to bet that I'm going to find twice this on a more detailed search. It's terribly disgusting that his web page contains no credits either.

Update 24/04/06
More juice:
Page 72:
"One serious misunderstanding amongst the elitist Indians has been their confused interpretation of secularism. The USA is a good nation with which to compare India in matters of secularism. USA does not define secularism as alienation from its traditions. Even though tracing back AMerican civilization to the Greeks is a big stretch, this link and continuity is emphasized. Certainly, the Judeo-Christian foundation of Americanism is made loud and clear."

copied from:

"
One serious misunderstanding amongst this milieu of elitist Indians has been their confused interpretation of secularism. The USA is a good nation with which to compare India in matters of secularism. It does
not define secularism as alienation from its traditions. Even though tracing back American civilization to the Greeks is a big stretch, this link and continuity is emphasized. Certainly, the Judeo-Christian foundation of Americanism is made loud and clear. "

Link: http://www.sulekha.com/blogs/blogdisplay.aspx?contributor=Rajiv%20Malhotra...
Author: Rajiv Malhotra
Note: Nearly all of Rajiv's article is cut up and sentences juxtaposed in random order in pages 72 to 74. But the sentences are clearly lifted from Rajiv's article.
----
Update 25/04/06:
An anonymous commenter has said that perhaps I was being a bit too harsh. Perhaps I was. Perhaps I should have just said "I wish the author had acknowledged the authors", and left it at that.

But this is not just about acknowledgement, you must understand. This is about theft - he doesn't just QUOTE the authors, he copies ENTIRE ARTICLES. There's a difference.

Quoting is like taking a small part of a cake I made with a lot effort. I don't mind, because if you like it, you'll spread the word, and more people will come to eat my cakes and I'll get recognition and fame and money and whatever.

What Chandrashekar did is like taking the entire cake and pretending it is his own. (And saying "I got a cake from someone in Bangalore. Thanks, Bangalore")

If an author takes the time to research and write an article, re-reading and editing till she has done it right, that time is paid for partly by the money she earns, and partly by the recognition of her writing. The former provides a living, the latter ensures that living will be easier tomorrow.

When someone shamelessly copies this author verbatim, with minor text modifications, he is essentially taking away from both the money and recognition the original author worked hard to earn.

Chandrashekar has denied all the individual authors the recognition they deserve.

And in selling his book, Chandrashekar has earned money from this exercise. I'm willing to bet the authors don't get a naya paisa. That is cheating them out of what should rightfully be theirs, is it not?

Note: Some authors may not mind a complete lift, if they are duly credited. But then some may not. And you simply cannot lift verbatim and not provide credit.

On another note, Kaavya Viswanathan was exposed by Harvard Crimson recently for copying content from Megan F. McCafferty's novels. The copied text may seem inconsequential - it does, at first sight - but it is blatant copying. She is being called a cheat, an embarrassment to Harvard and a frauster. The literary scandal d'jour?

Like Oliver says:
On that note, what is even more astounding is that Viswanathan - or anyone - would want to plagiarize prose so banal to begin with. No offense to McCafferty but I'm pretty sure her two novels were not in the running for the Pulitzer. Viswanathan couldn't come up with anything better than this on her own: " “Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart."
----
Update 2 May 2006:
The author has now acknowledged sources on his web site. This is commendable, as a first step. I still feel that copying stuff verbatim is wrong - the author should either quote or rephrase.

Note: Still not credited: Anuj Chopra.

----
Voice your opinion
You can Write to K.R.Chandrashekar. This is worse than blopycats. This is theft.

25 Comments:

Blogger V. Kamat said...

Excellent analysis. I share your anger and disgust.
-Vikas Kamat

3:58 AM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Minkey Chief said...

Good work ole chap! You need more people reading this. Who is the publisher? They are also responsible.

8:01 AM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Deepak Shenoy said...

Vikas: Thanks. Do write to the author.

Minkey chief: Thanks, chief! Publisher is "kanasu" publications. I can't find a web site but here is the address:

Kanasu Publications,
45, 3rd Main, Basaveshwara Layout,
Vijayanagar,
Bangalore 560 040.

Ph: 080-23217569

11:03 AM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Minkey Chief said...

I forwarded your post to a journalist friend (let's call him T), who called the mobile number listed on the site. Apparently, it goes straight to the author. T spoke to him and asked for his reaction to this post. He hadn't read it, so T gave him the URL and called later.

The author's reaction was that he has acknowledged the sources. When asked about the specifics you mention (quoting text in entirety, making money) he said, "I have checked with my lawyer and news stories can be used."

He said that in this day of the web, these things are open.

T said that he was open and seemed surprised at this reaction - he thought that his acknowledgment was enough. He said, "If many people feel this way, I am ready to acknowledge [each author]. I am not hiding anything."

T is little unsure about how to take this forward. He's "pinged" me back and I said I'd post what we had so far and see what the comments suggested.

2:40 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Deepak Shenoy said...

Wow. Cool stuff, Minkey Chief! Looks like we haven't had too many comments yet - just Vikas and you have commented on this page.

I'm a little surprised to see the author's reaction - acknowledging a source does not mean saying "A web page said" - it means putting down the author's name and the source (in a bibliography perhaps).

Also the "In this day of the web, these things are open" is a ridiculous statement. That's like saying "Oh there's a motorbike on the street, so stealing it is legal". Just because it's copiable does not mean copying is allowed. The "Copyright" statements mean that you cannot copy an article verbatim without permission.

From T's perspective: If he wants to publish an article about this, in the mainstream press/media, I'm willing to help.

3:20 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Minkey Chief said...

For now I've also tipped off Desi Pundit. If they pick up the story, you'd better turn comment moderation off for a while!

3:34 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Anuja said...

Appalling! The author and the publisher are both quite shameless, perhaps as a result of their ineptidude.

8:11 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Minkey Chief said...

I've asked around a little, and apparently a lot of people have this idea that if it's on the internet, then it's pretty much yours to take - a token acknowledgement is fine.

These people don't think that copyright law is as stringent on the net.

Even so, publishing a whole book around these stolen bits is in a different league altogether!

9:00 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Minkey Chief said...

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512948

On this sad note...

9:14 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Minkey Chief said...

Sorry - let me make it a link.

We sad sad Indians.

On this sad note...

9:17 PM, April 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deepak has brought out a good point. Facts first: I have read the book and liked it. I am from Bangalore and work in the IT industry. I was able to relate to many things the author writes. I have to state that I have read a few things that have come up in the book earlier. I think the author has nicely used some of them even though I think it could have been a much better book. Especially the pages where he writes about disappearing sparrows from the Bangalore landscape. I used to wonder and here he has written about the subject nicely.

Regarding English, being a techie with apalling English I couldn't identify the errors, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the book.

Regarding Deepak's comments regarding copy write, I think he could have said, 'buddy you have acknowledged in the begining, but that is just not enough. You got to mention each and every source'. That could have been enough. But I think the reaction is a little harsh because as T states the author is not denying. I haven't heard about the publisher so far. It could be a rag-tag publishing source.

The bottom line is here is a book and the author has used lot of material from the internet. He has acknowledged but should have done more.

8:51 AM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger Shilpa said...

Plagiarism, Plagiarism everywhere! sigh.

2:37 PM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger Gary said...

Hey i think he has blatantly plagiarised and copied from peter sellers too who had enacted the role of an Indian in the cult hit "Party"...

Is there a word for this type of behaviour, something like Kleptomania...."Blogomania" how about it?

3:54 PM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger Raghav said...

Its quite apalling that this book was published without a thorough investigation by the publishers into all the sources cited by the author. In reply to a comment earlier that claimed that only "further acknowledgement" was required: putting ones ideas into print form takes a lot of effort. Originality has a price that, and unfortunately the author chose not to pay it. He should be brought to book.

7:09 AM, April 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 2 cents…
I spoke to the author yesterday. He was open and said that he will acknowledge ‘all the sources’ in his web site shortly (in addition to his already published acknowledgements) and will add the same when the book goes for a 2nd edition. He said he was misled and regretted for not having done it earlier.
He also thanked people who brought out this issue and requested them to use the internet/blogs to exchange info/ideas in good spirit and refrain from angry outbursts.

9:13 AM, April 26, 2006  
Blogger Deepak Shenoy said...

Anonymous, (who spoke to the author yesterday)

Unfortunately, I have to wait till the author does this "acknowledgement". I don't know who you are, so it's imperative I wait till the author responds in person.

Secondly, I hope the author realizes that he cannot copy my blog entry while doing this acknowledgement.

Remember, lifting web sites, verbatim, is still cheating, even if acknowledged. I cannot photocopy an entire book and distribute it, even if I acknowledge the book's name and author, right? In the same vein, you can't copy a blog entry verbatim (minor word modifications are still copy, because the sentence structure is not changed and it's obvious it is a copy)

10:50 AM, April 26, 2006  
Anonymous Vikram Jha said...

You took a lot of trouble to do this analysis on a book that is in no way a best seller. It doesnt even deserve a second reading. So help me understand as to why you went through the trouble of doing such a detailed analysis?

1:09 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger Deepak Shenoy said...

vikram,

It doesn't need to be a best seller for all this analysis. I paid Rs. 200 for the book and then realised I'd read this material elsewhere; what ticked me off was that I paid good money for original prose that was not at all original.

Perhaps it's not worth investigating; after all K.R.Chandrashekar does not have a %500,000 advance like a Kaavya Viswanathan. But this is not schadenfreude: it's plain "person angry at blatant plagiarization".

2:28 PM, April 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This motherfucker thinks he can steal whatever he wants, from whereever because it is all the 'internet' and 'web'...?

If you quote someone, you cite the source, ask permission and then reproduce. Has he done that?

Stealing from everywhere and then making a list of it doesnt cut, you idiot.

Note the language of this fellow: "I took things from the Internet..."

Internet yen nim appun mane na?

It consists of websites where actual living people have put in effort to write material, and put it up for perusal. Not for copy and paste instant publishing.

And he even managed to get U.R Ananthmurthy to speak for him. The same U.R Ananthmurthy who is so much against English literature of any kind has to choose this one book to endorse...!

If you cut yourself off from reality, it will surely extract its revenge one day.

9:48 PM, April 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all those who are barking on copyrights… do you assholes understand how the Christian west is hijacking yoga, kamasutra, neem, haldi, basmati, etc. etc. ?

The west conveniently steals and brands it as theirs.

Why don’t you dogs bark at that? Do you bark only at browns?

One asshole writes a book and tens of assholes harp on him on as stupid a matter as copy write.

This guy Deefuck spends time to do R & D and submits a stupid report.

Give me a break you crazy morons.

10:37 AM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Deepak Shenoy said...

Anonymous, (The barking one)
Yoga, basmati etc. are "patents", not copyrights. That's a completely different ball game and I don't necessarily support patents. Definitely not in haldi, basmati etc. and these patents do get objected and rejected because of the press and government efforts.

And as for your acerbic comments, I suggest you go back into the hole you came from. You sound like you're bitter because you wanted to copy something and all this became a big issue. Anyway, it's all really brave to give gaalis as "Anonymous", isn't it?

11:00 AM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Minkey Chief said...

The other point is that we browns always come up with a "why this instead of that?" If you are upset with the traffic, somebody will say, "There are children dying in Bangladesh." If you are upset with the children dying in Bangladesh, somebody will say, "There are thousands of villagers about to be flooded by dam waters in your own country."

Why can't one harp about something without somebody else telling one that they should be harping about something else instead? Instead of taking time posting comments on blogs Oh Great Brave Anonymous Barking One, why aren't you vaccinating children against polio in the villages of Bihar? They need you more than we do...

11:33 AM, May 04, 2006  
Blogger Minkey Chief said...

Dai Deepak! Can you put your updates on separate blog entries? I didn't realise for ages that you'd made updates (and made a fool of myself by posting links to the Opalgate story when you'd already mentioned it). Just saw the updates on the web site.

I was reading your post again and I'm curious. Were all or some of these ripped-off passages an integral part of the book? In the sense, was it, "He picked up a newspaper and read: Ripped off passage."? Or are there places where they are just there as part of the text or speech?

2:29 PM, May 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One has to be creative and not compiler from copying from internet. I am amazed as how U.R.AnanthMurthi releized the book. Any way it is first attempt of author. Better effort next time. Try to write simething original and in syncronity. I think LIE concept also taken staight from Internet.

2:43 PM, May 05, 2006  
Anonymous Rao said...

I have also read the book. Excellent analysis by Deepak. Waiting to read Deepak's analysis on other management issues addressed in the book. Author only talks about problems/issues which everyone knows about it without giving solutions.

8:02 AM, May 06, 2006  

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