In another article I had written that honesty is applicable in all aspects of life, not just the financial matters and had very briefly touched upon using someone’s write up from Internet without permission and publishing as own work. In this article I wish to talk more about this malpractice.
I have come across the concept that everything on Internet is free and that there is nothing wrong with using someone else’s articles, pictures and other write up. NO, this is wrong; neither everything is free on Internet nor copying without permission is legal. Only those things are free that are offered as free by the owners. It is possible to use material from Internet but in that case, explicit permission must be taken from original writer. Alternately, in case getting permission is not practicable for some reason, the work must contain clickable reference to original website or page from where the stuff has been taken. If none of the two is done, it will be considered as violation of copyrights, theft, breach of ethics and intellectual dishonesty. Those who copy, have perhaps very little or no ability to write their own stuff. They find it easier to steal, present it as their own work and impress others (whom?) and don’t even feel that it is wrong. People make websites, take the trouble of writing by putting in effort and time not to just let anyone copy and use it as his/her stuff. Unfortunately, lot of people steal from Internet.
Role of Web designer
In many cases, new website owners tell the web designer to copy from anywhere. It is probably due to incompetence and inability of the person to write himself. He/She finds it easier to copy. Many web designers also don’t bother to tell them that it would be stealing and unethical. In fact they are morally bound to tell the owner not to insist on such intellectual dishonesty but all that some of them care for is their money. Some of them also resort to willful stealing, which is highly unethical.
My both websites have been the victim of theft. Several homeopathic doctors (both male and female) have been especially kind to my homeopathy website. In few cases, they downloaded the whole website, only changed my name, address, phone number and colors and used it as their website. Everything else remained the same up to comma and full stop. They didn’t feel it necessary to modify the language even on contact page. When I found and pointed out to the website owners, majority immediately deleted that material and apologized (wise of them), however, few were reluctant but in one case, the worst thing happened. One Lahore based homeopathic lady doctor had got her website made on blogspot.com and copied many pages from my homeopathic website. When I called and told her what her web designer had done, she right away said, "it happens on Internet and that I should not take tension". How funny and ridiculous! Rather than understanding that she and her web designer had been unethical, she was telling me not to be tense. She used this word "tension" so many times that I wondered if she at all knew any other word of English. After exchange of few dialogues I realized that stealing and being unethical was no issue for her and she had no concept of copyright at all. Ultimately she agreed to delete copied pages but finally (as of today) she is still keeping few including some of my actual testimonials (cheating her visitors?). I am omitting her name and website address just as mark of respect to a woman. Similarly, several articles and pictures from this Reiki website have also been used without my permission, which I didn’t expect from Reiki practitioners at least.
I want to emphasize that the act of copying and using articles from Internet without permission or reference, irrespective of who and where the owner is, is wrong by any standard. Anyone worth his/her name should refrain from doing so and be ethical not only in this matter but also in all the other matters of life. Keenness to have own website should not lead a person to unethical practice. In case of inability to write, one could hire a content writer, which is easy and simple, no theft involved. Don’t forget that laws about copyright protection are very strict.
Muhammad Akram Khan, Reiki Master/Teacher