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Saudi Arabia: Where Plagiarism is a Crime

Saudi bloggers are rallying to the support of a fellow blogger who claims that a newspaper had lifted photographs and copy from his blog without permission.

Saudi Jeans‘ Ahmed Al Omran has little praise for the paper being accused of plagiarism:

Although al-Yaum newspaper has enjoyed a monopoly in the Eastern Province (EP) for a very long time, it remains one of the weakest publications in the country. I was born and raised in the EP, and I used to read Ashraq al-Awsat, al-Hayat and al-Watan but not al-Yaum.

Al Omran's distaste was further fueled after Saudi Aggie, a student named Nathan at the newly opened King Abdulla University of Science and Technology (KAUST) raised the alarm that the paper had used his photographs and coverage of the recent students elections. He posts a copy of the clipping from the paper and asks his readers:

I can't believe this! Look at this article that was published recently in the major Saudi Arabian newspaper, Al Yaum. Do those pictures look familiar? How about the words? If you can't read Arabic, this was taken almost verbatim from my blog post “Elections” published October 7th, 2009. This can't be legal, not even in Saudi Arabia!

The American student further adds:

If I was in the USA I would file an intellectual property rights case against Al Yaum. If it was the New York Times that plagiarized my blog I would be rich right now. Do intellectual rights to published thoughts and photos have any value here?

Al Omran notes:

Nathan is thinking about suing them, which would be awesome, but probably they have already embarrassed themselves enough.

Commentators on Nathan's blog are sympathetic to the blogger's plight.

Mazoo writes:

I'm sorry to see that happening to you ..
however , it's a common thing here in KSA :D ..

I heard about many many cases in which my friends content ( blog entries , pictures and ideas ) have been stolen by some lazy journalists. They complained about it and some wrote to the chief editor – some of them post an apology and some of them fired the person who stole the content

Al Hanouf, who describes herself as a law student,  is seeking justice:

If this action considered under a computer-related crimes , then he – the journalist – should be in jail for more than 6 months and he should pay to you not less than 250,000 SR .
You should go to a lawyer , and please don't end this by emailing the newspaper!
there is a law , and it wouldn't be able to correct the mistakes if we end the issues in our lazy way !

And Chiara advises:

I share in the revulsion for plagiarism, and the common tactic of translating and plariagizing is no better. You can copyright your whole blog as other bloggers have done, and have your name embedded on the photos.

In a follow up post, Nathan writes:

In Saudi Arabia, gossip spreads like the plague. This blog has received tens of thousands of new visitors in one week alone.

[…]

I came to Saudi Arabia to build bridges, not to make enemies. I came to study and research at a university which is striving with all of its might to be one of the best research universities in the world, not to get money from people or organizations.

I do want accountability. What Al Yaum did was wrong, but the tone of the discussion is also wrong.

And his final words to his readers are:

If you want to borrow something from my blog, please ask first. Nobody, myself included, enjoys misunderstandings.

Using a translation tool, the journalist concerned writes to Nathan stating his case.

4 comments

  • Excellent post! Plagiarism is – and should be – a crime, and I hope the paper is punished for this.

  • of course this episode is despicable, unprofessional, lame, etc. – but honestly, do we actually want to punish anyone (newspapers and mainstream media included) copying, using, re-editing some citizen media material openly available online? how are going to accomplish that? by finding out each single case in any newspaper/media across the world and suing each author/newspaper? or asking local authorities in every country to pass a national bill for that? is this even remotely possible or even realistic?

    but we have (great) powers too, let’s use them effectively: expose at length those cases online, pestering them with letters and comments, inviting people to stop buy/follow such media, write our own stories, sharing personal/direct accounts of true events, pushing mainstream media to include and work with citizen journalists, promoting/helping GVO and similar projects, and so on…

  • This is very common in Saudi Arabia. I have had this happen to me a few times as well. I feel optimistic that Saudi Arabia does recognize IPR and is beginning to crack done more on individuals who are IPR abusers.

    Although one can legally copyright their material, given the global reach of the data on the web it is a challenging issue to control and prevent violations.

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