Zimpapers, again, accused of stealing content. And why it’s complicated.

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In November last year, we posted an article titled “Zimpapers accused of stealing content by local bloggers…again. In it we talked about the unsustainable practice of stealing content that is rampant in Zimbabwe. What triggered that article was an incident where a Zimpapers publication had copied articles without permission from a local internet publisher called SSN.

At that time Zimpapers apologised and indicated this was an isolated incident. Also around the time, Harare News, a local publication, complained that their content is stolen regularly by established media companies in Zimbabwe.

That content theft, it appears, hasn’t stopped.  Just yesterday, Harare News tweeted that Zimpapers has, in just the last week alone, stolen content from them on two occasions. Here are the tweets:

We asked Harare News for a detailed comment and below is what they sent through. They are understandably quite unhappy about it:

Plagiarism, that is, the theft of content, is an extremely low and unethical thing for any journalist, editor, publisher, or academic at any level to do. Even school children know that copying each other’s homework is morally reprehensible.

In recent months we have seen a new Zimpapers title, the Suburban, move aggressively into our space. To us this says that we have made an impact and our unique offering is worthy of replication. We welcome and relish the competition. However, we object strongly to the direct copying of an article in their pilot issue, and a photo in a more recent issue. We fear that these instances of plagiarism are likely just the tip of the iceberg, as we do not see every issue, and suspect that the Suburban team likely tweak our photos and articles (as they attempted to do most recently) to disguise their fraud. We are of course not the sole victims of this either, as Schools Sports Network will testify.

Perhaps even more aggravating however, was the use of a photo from our website (a photo that was printed in 2015), in Zimbabwe’s supposedly most important national paper, The Herald.

As a small independent media house operating in a tough economy, we work to extremely tight budgets, and publish on a shoestring. It would be so easy cut costs by copying and pasting content from the internet, but we hold fast to our editorial integrity. We pay journalists and photographers for the work they submit. It is upsetting therefore to see the work and expense that our team have invested into producing fresh and interesting local content being stolen, and being used to cut costs at other outlets.

Zimpapers, do your own homework, stop copying others.

Thanks very much to the #Twimbos out there who are sharing in our outrage.

Considering these incidents happened just this past week alone we’re sure Harare News are probably tweeting to just make a point; these are likely not isolated events. In fact, we found our image used about a week ago by The Herald, with no attribution whatsoever.

We wrote to Zimpapers for comment on the Harare News incidents but we didn’t get anything by the publishing deadline.

It’s not a simple matter

Zimpapers themselves are a victim of it every day, and have said it causes them sleepless nights. Internet publications like Nehanda Radio and Bulawayo24 steal their content all the time and this is why they’ve gone to the extent of disabling the copying mechanism on their websites, which, unfortunately does little to prevent the theft. Seeing the hopelessness of the situation, they may have gone into a “if this is how media works on the internet, we’ll just do it too” mode.

It’s a complicated weave of content theft, and for images it gets even more complicated because they are just all over the internet. That image the Herald “stole” from us for example, they may have taken from someone who took from someone who took from someone…. who “stole” from us.

It further complicates matters that it also depends on what the original creator of the work considers theft. At Techzim for example, we don’t mind the occasional use of our images (but not our articles) as long as credit and a link back to the original image are given. We however have an issue when logos are photoshopped out. But that’s just us. Other publications understandably just don’t want their content used at all, period. The problem is that those that take the content decide the rules most convenient to their objective.

Take 263chat

Earlier today for example, while gathering of information for this article, we noticed a tweet by @263chat for an article posted on their website titled “Tsvangirai back onto Twitter, gets mobbed“. The whole article was pulled whole from a South African publication called News24, and 263chat likely innocently considered it ok to just credit News24 at the bottom of the article. We presume they did this innocently because 263chat have been a very valuable voice in speaking out against content piracy locally. They wouldn’t speak against it in one moment and be stealing in the next. Just today in this current Harare News Zimpapers incident 263chat rightly asked:

Ofcourse we could be wrong about this. 263chat might actually have an agreement in place with News24. To be sure we tried to check if they realised this practice also constitutes theft and we haven’t received a response so far.

The definition of theft is clearly not clear. And it doesn’t help that there’s no easily accessible unambiguous guideline by the local media industry on this. To be fair, there’s a Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe locally that deals with such issues, and they have appealed to Harare News to lodge a complaint:

8 Comments

  1. theriskguy says:

    Copy & paste! Reminds me of varsity days. But it also paints a picture of the graduates being ‘baked’ by our education system who lack deep fundamentals of quality research & writing. And I, admittedly, being one of those graduates!

  2. Ndini says:

    I take it yu went to take that pic of Mark Zuckerberg because there is no accreditation on the pic http://www.techzim.co.zw/2016/02/mark-zuckerbergs-disappointment-indias-ban-free-basics-internets-reaction/…Yu guys need to up your game and stop mingling in other pple’s business. Did yu seek a comment from Herald…. what if the pic is theirs. (just assuming). I take it you are journalists and yu are failing to act like ones. on the Zuckerberg article yu just paraphrased things from the internet yet yu are trying to be saints. Why preach something yu dnt do imimi.

    1. I take it yu went to take that pic of Mark Zuckerberg because there is no accreditation on the pic http://www.techzim.co.zw/2016/02/mark-zuckerbergs-disappointment-indias-ban-free-basics-internets-reaction/

      that was our oversight and we are fixing the problem.

      Yu guys need to up your game and stop mingling in other pple’s business.

      Disagree. we think content piracy is a big problem that should be discussed and standards set, otherwise it’s unsustainable for the creators of content.

      Did yu seek a comment from Herald. what if the pic is theirs. (just assuming).

      Yes, and they acknowledged our reaching out but have not commented yet.

      on the Zuckerberg article yu just paraphrased things from the internet yet yu are trying to be saints.

      Not true.

      Why preach something yu dnt do imimi.

      Like we said in the article, there are no standards. We have our own standard which we keep.

  3. Media Critic says:

    Check all the newspapers and see hw they use other pples content.Do you think they are not aware of the legal consequences. But some of these guys vanogona vane ane an agreement to do so and out of no where makuti content stealing.Check all the papers from the American ones to our own H-Metro. We are living in an information age vakomana

    1. If Harare News claims the content was stolen clearly there’s no agreement between them and Zimpapers.

      Zimpapers have themselves complained about the habits of the news aggregators like Nehanda Radio & Byo24. Surely there’s no agreement there.

      Our own content has been taken a number of times and we certainly don’t have an agreement with those that take it

  4. ndini says:

    I take it yu went to take that pic of Mark Zuckerberg because there is no accreditation on the pic http://www.techzim.co.zw/2016/02/mark-zuckerbergs-disappointment-indias-ban-free-basics-internets-reaction/
    that was our oversight and we are fixing the problem.

    BUT YU AGREE KUT THAT IS CONTENT THIEF YU DID THERE

    1. ndini says:

      THEFT I MIN

    2. Totally. In that case, oversight or not, we did steal and we were part of the problem. Which is why we’re quick to fix what we are sure is not a common problem on this platform.

      That said, we will only fix to or standard, and the bigger point in the article is that everyone has their own standard they use and usually this standard just serves their immediate interests and not the wider media industry ecosystems’. This is why this needs to be discussed more, whether we are uncomfortably part of the problem or not.

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