Brandon Stanton, from Humans of New York, wades into the copyright dispute in India

A disagreement has arisen because the creator of the widely read photo blog Humans of New York was critical of the approach that a comparable site in India took toward copyright.

In 2014, the city of Mumbai became the birthplace of the blog known as Humans of Bombay, which is organized in the same manner as Brandon Stanton’s New York blog.

It just recently initiated legal action against People of India, which began operations a few years after it did, for allegedly infringing upon its copyright.

All three present the lives of individuals through interviews or blogs that are accompanied by photographs of them.

Humans of Bombay (HOB) filed a case against People of India (POI) earlier this month in the Delhi High Court, claiming that POI was a “identical portal/service” that “replicated a large number of images and videos” from HOB’s website. The 11th of October has been set aside for the hearing to which People of India has been invited.

POI was established in 2019 by Drishti Saxena, and it currently has more over two million followers across its many social media platforms. In the court documents, HOB has included screengrabs of postings made by People of India, stating that these posts are virtually identical to those that it has made.

POI has not made any comments regarding the lawsuit that have been made public, but they have continued to share posts on Instagram. Additionally, on Saturday, it registered for an account with X.

Following Stanton’s post on X (formerly known as Twitter) regarding the matter on Saturday, which read, “you can’t be suing people for what I’ve forgiven you for,” the subject became a topic of conversation in India.

Stanton explained that he had not spoken up about “the appropriation of my work” by Humans of Bombay because the organization “shares important stories.” In addition to this, he brought up the fact that HOB had monetized their work “far beyond anything I’d feel comfortable doing on HONY [Humans of New York]”.

In its response to Stanton’s tweet, HOB expressed surprise at what it called a “cryptic assault” on its efforts to safeguard its intellectual property, despite the fact that the company was unaware of the context of the dispute. It was also said there that before making his comment, Stanton “ought to have equipped” himself with information.

The Indian platform came under fire from many people in the country who criticized it for being hypocritical in its lawsuit. On the X page, one user noticed that HOB had used the slogan “one story at a time,” which is also the motto used by HONY.

Others questioned whether or not HOB complied with applicable copyright rules while using the accounts of individuals it had interviewed for its platform.

In 2019, HOB came under fire for publishing a five-part interview of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that was seen as being overly complimentary just before the country’s general election.

In a message published on X on Sunday, HOB expressed its “gratitude” to HONY and Stanton for “starting this storytelling movement” and thanked them for their contributions.

Additionally, it wanted to make clear that its action was about the intellectual property of its posts and “not at all about storytelling.”

But on Monday, Stanton issued a statement in which she said: “Despite the many millions of dollars that have been offered to me, I have not received a single penny for any of the stories that I have shared on Humans of New York over the past 13 years.”

He claimed that he was happy for anyone to use the concept “to express something true and beautiful about their community,” but that he did not identify with anyone who used it “to create a certain lifestyle for themselves.”

In an interview given earlier this year to an Indian YouTube channel, HOB creator Karishma Mehta stated that the platform operated as a company that was supported by advertisements and that it also partnered with brands such as Amazon, WhatsApp, and Unilever for the purposes of their own marketing efforts.

Stanton’s Humans of New York (HONY) has more than 20 million followers across social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and its work has been featured in best-selling books such as Humans of New York: Stories.

It is well known that the project and Stanton use the platform to generate money for some of the people he profiles as well as for causes such as providing aid to Rohingya refugees and victims of hurricanes in the United States.

In 2022, New York Magazine referred to him as a “one-man philanthropy machine” in their article about him.

This project has served as an inspiration for the creation of comparable platforms in a variety of different cities and nations. Stanton praised Debra Barraud’s Humans of Amsterdam initiative in a piece he published on Saturday, praising her for “staying so true to the art” and claiming that she has “never viewed the stories that she shares as the ‘front end’ of a business.” Barraud is the founder of the project.

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