Everything You Need To Know About ‘Humans of Bombay’ Copyright Case & The Ongoing Controversy

Vasudha Sabharwal

Over the weekend, ‘Humans Of Bombay‘, a renowned online storytelling platform, got embroiled in a heated controversy after it sued ‘People of India’, another storytelling platform with a similar initiative, for copyright infringement. One thing led to another, and now there’s a growing backlash against the HOB’s business model, the very nature of which contradicts their case. 

Here’s all that has happened till now:

Humans of Bombay sues People of India

Earlier this month, ‘Humans of Bombay’ (HOB) filed a lawsuit seeking ‘injunction restraining infringement of copyright of its copyrighted content‘ against ‘People of India’ (POI) for replicating their business model and stories.

Advocate Abhishek Malhotra, representing the case of Humans of Bombay, claimed People of India did not just copy HOB’s content but also “knowingly and deliberately, published content that is identical or substantially similar to the popular Content comprised of Plaintiffs Works in an attempt to ride on goodwill that has been painstakingly built by the Plaintiff”, reports The Indian Express.

The imitative claims also include the appropriation of HOB’s images and videos on POI’s social media platforms.

A single-judge bench of Justice Prathiba Singh from Delhi High Court took action on the plea and issued a notice to POI.

Humans of New York‘s creator’s reaction

Humans of New York’s (HONY) creator Brandon Stanton then reacted to the news, expressing his shock at HOB for suing another portal for appropriation when their business model itself is a replica of HONY. 

Now, this tweet is particularly relevant given Humans of Bombay basically appears like an Indian edition of Humans of New York and has largely remained uncredited. While HONY has stayed true to its purpose, the nature of the content on HOB has gradually become a subject of concern amongst its readers.

Public backlash against Humans of Bombay

Naturally, Brandon’s tweet was quick to go viral, and people online criticised HOB for the hypocritical nature of their case, for frequently promoting glossed-over commercialised stories, and in turn, taking away from the essence of storytelling as an art in a bid to mint money.

Here are some of the things people pointed out:

Humans of Bombay calls Brandon’s tweet a ‘cryptic assault’

After Brandon’s tweet went viral, HOB released a statement stating they were shocked at his “cryptic assault” without the background knowledge of the case.

The statement, naturally, left many unimpressed and further added to the outrage against HOB.

HOB founder’s old comments on ‘privilege’ re-surface

A few months back, in an interview with Raj Shamani, HOB Founder Karishma Mehta talked about people tying her ‘self-made’ journey to her privilege.

“I am privileged”, she said. “I come from a family that invested a lot in my education. But beyond that, I’m fully self-made. Humans Of Bombay started with a ₹1 Lakh loan from my father, which has been repaid, and we’re bootstrapped.”

“I didn’t piss away the degree, and I didn’t piss away what was invested into me and the values that were given to me that you have to make something of your own. I work really hard, so you can’t use that tag against me.”

She was called out for failing to account for how her generational wealth, caste privilege, and social capital profoundly benefited her education and ‘self-made’ journey.

In the midst of online chaos, HOB publishes legal documents regarding the case, claiming they’re fighting against appropriation of their IP and not against storytelling as an art.

However, people are not convinced of HOB’s motivation behind the case. The popular opinion is that stories sourced from the public shouldn’t have to be anybody else’s IP apart from the person themselves. And to call out Brandon for speaking the right thing only worsens their stance.

Amid the controversy, the HOB founder has also made her Instagram account private. The next hearing is scheduled for October 11.

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