The fact that a work is available on the internet does not take away the fact that someone owns it. It is appalling when people resort to stealing something that they could have obtained for free with permission. My name is Tunde Leye and I’m a writer. What this means is that the greatest property I currently possess is the intellectual property I create. For the last seventeen months, I have toiled (yes toiled) to post fiction every week on my blog www.tlsplace.wordpress.com without fail. I post them as series and I have completed three, with two ongoing now. The first of the online series was Finding Hubby and it built a massive following, garnering over 500,000views. A lot of people have wondered why I put out fiction for free on the blog, but there’s a purpose – to build my personal brand and writing muscle. Thankfully, this is being achieved, as I’ve gone on to publish three books that have done quite well.
I got a call from another writer, Dimeji Ojo on Tuesday 9th of September. His friend had brought it to his attention that she saw Finding Hubby posted on a Facebook group. Now, when I put out work on the internet, I know that it will get copied and used by people. In fact, there are some platforms like 360nobs and NaijaStories where I syndicate my work. Also, some people reach out to me to seek permission to use my stories on their blog and in every case, I have said yes, provided that they do not alter it and they give credit to me as the writer. There were some that copied and used without permission and once this was brought to my attention, I would engage them and warn them. In all cases, the work was attributed to me as the creator. Most of these platforms weren’t money making, so it didn’t make sense to request payment from them.
However, the case that Dimeji reported to me was very different from all these. The group on Facebook, Imo State Youths, with 113 thousand likes, went ahead to copy Finding Hubby (I’ve found Episodes One to Seven so far on the group). They however didn’t merely paste it. They changed the title to Chronicles of the Search and didn’t put any credits to me as the author. Clearly, this was a wilful misrepresentation of things, a theft of my intellectual property and representing it as theirs. They had posted the first episode April this year, a full one year after I had posted the same episode on my blog. They did a plain copy and paste, not even bothering to change character or anything – no creativity whatsoever!
Of course, a few people who knew it wasn’t their work had called them out in the comments even before I got to know, but they chose to ignore these calls and kept on plagiarizing Finding Hubby.
I was incensed. I take my intellectual property rights very seriously. I reached out to them, commenting on the first episode they posted and posting a call on their wall to remove the post. They again ignored the calls. By this time, I was extremely angry. The moment my blog readers and followers and fellow writers on twitter got wind of the matter, there was a concerted effort to bombard their page with calls to apologize and take down the posts, yet they refused.
I reported the first episode post to Facebook for intellectual property theft, furnishing them with the Imo State Youths link and the link to the original on my blog. Within thirty minutes, Facebook had shut the post on their group down, apologizing and asking if I had other such links to report. This is the link that was shutdown https://m.facebook.com/ImoStateYouths/posts/514083411986599
I decided not to report the links to the other episodes yet, to make one of the links available to you and then make available the original on my blog for you to compare. Here is the link to the third episode of Finding Hubby on my blog http://tlsplace.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/finding-hubby-episode-3/ and here’s the link to episode three of their Chronicles of the Search https://www.facebook.com/ImoStateYouths/posts/514738938587713
I’m sure you see that this is a direct copy and paste.
I have decided to call them out publicly to let people understand that theft of intellectual property is no joke. Someone said writing is not difficult – it is only sitting before a computer and bleeding into it. Something that requires that kind of work to create shout not be taken with levity. I have put a lot work, along with other Nigerian writers online into creating great and diverse Nigerian writing on the internet for Nigerians at home and abroad to read and building respect for online writing. More and more writers are encouraged because of this to begin to express their craft, grow in it and eventually publish book. I will not allow some unscrupulous people to make nonsense of the work by stealing it and maybe end up discouraging others who want to begin writing online.
As for Imo State Youths, I will shut not just the posts down but the whole group if they do not apologize and take down all my work on their pages. Facebook has been cooperative and my lawyers are waiting in the wings to take this up. We, writers do not joke with our work.