Do Not Steal my Content

I will come straight to the point. It is not ok to reproduce questions from one website and post it on another forum and pretend that nothing is wrong. Under no circumstance is this ok. Specifically, it is not ok to take questions from 2IIM and claim it is your own in some other forum.

  1. It is not ok if the original content had been put for free. It is free for users. It is not free for reproduction. If you found your face selling roadside dharu at a wine shop, would it be alright? I am happy if lots of students come and study at my website for free. I am a teacher. I welcome the idea that students land at my website and study. But it is absurd to assume that it is free for any Tom, Dick and Harry to reproduce on his/her forum. To give an analogy – your friend might have a beautiful wife. He might post a lot of pictures of her on FB. It is very creepy if you posted even two photographs of her.
  1. It is not ok if you are posting “just” the questions. If it were “just” questions, create your own. You do not get to unbundle my content. I treat my questionbank with a lot of respect. I add questions to each topic after a lot of deliberation. I have a rule of not adding any question without solutions. I want to teach, and not merely give a question dump. I have gazillion questions with me that I have not posted because I have not compiled detailed solutions. Now I see that these questions being merrily re-distributed without as much as cursory nod to the original author, I feel like my questionbank has been defiled. If you have not binned 10 questions because the solutions were not exhaustive enough, you cannot understand my pain.
  1. It is not ok if you are posting the question in “only a public forum”. It is not yours to distribute, period. How would you feel if someone auctioned a part of your furniture for charity and told you it was only for charity. I will decide my charity. Not someone else. All my questions are freely available on my website anyway. All public forum merchants can post links.
  1. It is not ok to ‘help’ out people who are preparing for CAT: Again, the questionbank on our website is free. If the Good Samaritan in you just cannot be contained, post the links to the questionbank on multiple forums. Copying questions and posting to get street-cred is an act of a cheapskate, not a Good Samaritan. You are doing this because it makes you look good, rather undeservedly. For the love of God, do not pretend it is anything else.
  1. It is not ok if you run a website and a public forum and someone else is posting this. It is particularly not ok if you continue to condone this after it has been pointed out. In our Country, public forums hide behind the idea that “someone else” does the actual posting. You have generated the crowd, you aggressively monitor content that looks even remotely like marketing, you sell the publicly generated content for ad revenue. If you cannot do the least bit to prevent copyright violation, you are just looking the other way. One look at forums and you can find gazillion photos of questions from books on these. I know bugger all about tech, but I can imagine it being very easy to spot and highlight these posts.

A public forum can ban 3 users and this behaviour will stop. But that is inconvenient. If students cannot post question from books and other websites, then many of our “independent” forums would amount to Nada. So, these forums do not care much about moderation.

You might not think content is that important. I do. So, next time aggressively distribute your content

You would have noticed that I have used the first person possessive a lot. I have talked about “my questions”, “my questionbank”. I am very particular about the content with which I teach and very particular about the solutions I outline. I create questions to isolate ideas aggressively. I create questions that will have one tough method and an alternative juicy conceptually sound method just to highlight how the juicy method is useful and important.

Call me shallow, but I am deeply attached to my content. I know there are a great many in our Country who think of content as just a necessity to have to run the teaching business. I am not like that. I like to plant an idea for a tough 23rd question in easy questions number 4, 7 and 11 and bring them together. I think a question is useless without a solution. I published a book on Quantitative Aptitude with a publisher and practically the only thing I negotiated with him was on having almost all the questions with solutions. As authors and content generators, we care passionately about building the right ideas. At least, I do.

The forums in our Country are peddling this delicious mix of Good Samaritanism and peer-based education with not a moment’s thought given to originality, all the while hiding under the umbrella provided by “user-generated” content. User-generated content is Indian-speak for user-peddled content that was originally created by someone else.

I am tired of this, but am not throwing in the towel

We built our website by publishing gazillion high quality free questions with detailed solutions, and I will be damned if we turned our back on the idea of providing free content for students. A few jokers are not going to prevent us from reaching the student community. The guys who copy our content cannot keep pace with the speed at which we refurbish our content. I promise to double the free content on our website in the next 6 months. Sooner or later, students will see that there is more value in coming to our website to see the questions with solutions rather than see some second-hand version.

It is just that I have reached out to moderators of every stripe and it drives me crazy that they all pretend to be surprised by this. Some moderators/ group owners have themselves engaged in printing our content. I am getting tired of seeing them act coy and holier-than-thou about this. I am peeved at the extent to which this issue is given the short shrift in our Country. I thought if no one else was saying it, at least I should mention in. So, here it is –

Many forums and groups engage in unethical behaviour almost all the time

Nothing will come out of my rant (I do not expect to see any tangible output), but I felt that someone had to finally, unequivocally state that what our forums and groups do is unethical. A lot of content that they distribute for free is not theirs to distribute for free. This is one of the dirtier secrets of our education sector.

India’s forums and groups peddle stolen content and hide behind the anonymity and group huddle the internet offers.

I can do nothing to prevent this. I can do little to prevent people from visiting these forums. I have now reconciled to the fact that once in 2 weeks; I will try to Google an old question of mine in a bid to locate where it is on the 2IIM website and realize that 3 other websites host the same question. I need to learn to not seethe and rage at this. I will progressively get less angry at this kind of stealing. I do not want the moderators of these kinds of groups and forums to pretend that what they are doing is not unethical. I want it on record on the internet that someone has pointed out that this is unethical.

Disclaimer: We tie up with a few conscientious websites like Jagranjosh, and MBAtious who reproduce our content after attributing credit to us, which we’re totally on-board with.

 

 

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9 comments

  1. I love the sentence “I promise to double the content in six months” If possible, let us do it in 4 months. It will be useful for aspirants and we will be conveying the point that this type of stealing does not get to us.

    1. Yes, Bharathwaj. Let us definitely do this. The value of originality is not to be underestimated. We will stick our neck out and be original.

  2. Just out of curiosity, what is the copyright value of a question? A standard question reads “How many factors does the number 420 have?” Do you mean to say if your blog has this, no one else should ask any question on factors.

    1. What is the legal action you can take? you seem to be pretty pissed. Perhaps you should just take the first 2 steps of legal action just to convey a point. That way you wont feel bad that you did not do this.

  3. Even I face this a lot Rajesh. it is extremely annoying to have someone treat your content shabbily. The only input I can give is to ask you to keep going. If you keep churning out high quality content relentlessly, it usually tells in the end. Sooner or later users will figure out which one is the mother ship.

    Importantly, it is very beneficial to students.

    As a show of solidarity, I also promise to expand the 4GMAT questionbank in the next 6 months.

    Cheers,
    Baskar

  4. It is the big bad internet world. Everything is free. That is how the internet has become so useful. Do not wind the clock back. Accept this 21st century rule.

  5. I can feel your pain Rajesh, and the dejection that must have driven you to be more aggressive than I’ve ever seen you before. I can certainly relate to your anger – I would not want my content to be reproduced anywhere without my knowledge, let alone my permission. This is especially reprehensible when the forum moderators themselves do this.

    But, practically speaking, I don’t think there is much we can do to prevent this theft of ideas. Especially when the vast majority of people do not consider it theft in the first place.

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