Sunday, February 19, 2012

Copycats & Smelly Rats

It all started with an innocent tweet

"What a boring weekend...", I thought, while aimlessly surfing the internet yesterday. I had just started getting active on Twitter a couple of weeks back and so was into exploring more about it. Since last week I had started "following" Ameera Al Hakawati, the author of the book Desperate In Dubai, which I had reviewed on this blog earlier this week. She tweeted that her book review was published in one of the leading national newspapers of the UAE, namely Khaleej Times(KT) and I decided to check it out. I started reading the review - and couldn't believe my eyes!! I ran my eyes over it again - and again - but no matter how many times I read it, I still couldn't believe it. What couldn't I believe you ask? The words. They were mine.

Wait a minute! That look familiar!

Was I imagining things? I quickly called my husband and asked him to read both the review on my blog and the one on that newspaper. He did and confirmed my suspicions. The writer had shamelessly lifted half of my review and coolly passed it off as her's! I was so shocked that I immediately replied to Ameera's tweet saying that the review has been copied and she responded saying

@annejwrites I noticed that! I thought u two were the same person that's how similar they were! What are u going to do about it?!
Smelling something fishy, I decided to comb the internet for other reviews of the book and voila! What do I find? The writer had cleverly copied a few lines from several other sources - a paragraph from here and a paragraph from there - and there you have it! A full article which you can proudly announce as written by you. I did a quick search on Copyscape for my blog review page and it promptly threw up the other review. Here is a snapshot

 Whatever happened to ethics & standards?

I have heard so much about plagiarism but never thought that I would be a victim of it. Much less, to a well-known national newspaper!! What is worse is that the writer is actually an award winning journalist! I just cannot understand why an award-winning and experienced journalist had to indulge in such deplorable practices. I was not asked permission nor was I given credit, at the least I wasn't even notified. I immediately wrote to both the editor as well as the writer, a Ms.Raziqueh Hussain, but unfortunately neither have bothered to respond, nor has the offensive review been changed or taken down. I too am part of the media industry and I know how much I have sacrificed and struggled to be where I am. Apart from being disappointed with the total lack of journalistic ethics, it is also deeply painful to see my work being misused in such a way.

I did not want anyone accusing me of telling tall stories and spreading false claims and so I took screenshots of the original article as well as the sources from which they have been plagiarized from. Note the lines circled in red - those are the lines that have been specifically copied with a few words possibly changed here and there.

The evidence speaks for itself

The plagiarized article:

The copied introduction:

 A few more copied lines:

And finally the major chunk of copied content: 

I know that it is quite difficult to make things out from the above snapshots. So here is a clearer picture:

KT’s Article Extract: At first, the title Desperate in Dubai is quite deceptive. It appears to be one of those yet-another-chick-lit type of book, which it isn’t. Writing under a nom de plume Ameera Al Hakawati’s story is about four women; however it isn’t Sex and the City (which again you might be tempted to think).
On initial sight, the book’s title is quite deceptive. It appears to be one of those yet-again-another-chick-lit type of book, which it isn’t. Desperate in Dubai, well it is about four women, however it isn’t Sex and the City (which some of you might be tempted to think). 
KT’s Article Extract: The novel is a tale similar in structure to the bestselling novel Girls Of Riyadh. There are four central female characters, chosen “because they represent the kinds of people living in Dubai”.
The novel is a tale similar in structure to the bestselling novel Girls Of Riyadh. There are four central female characters, chosen "because they represent the kinds of people living in Dubai". 
KT’s Article Extract: The dilemmas of the women are mostly to do with matters of the heart more than anything else — but still this is hardly a romance novel. These four women, seemingly have everything in life, be it money or beauty, and their weaknesses, vulnerabilities as well as their darker sides are exposed.
Somehow you can’t relate to them, even though you might meet some like them. Most of these women spend their time driving flashy cars, flaunting designer clothes and club-hopping, leading extravagant lifestyles, which quite simply, I (and I suspect you too) can’t afford. Having said that, one area that you will find true is when the author speaks of the social hierarchy that exists where the locals are placed above all (understandable, as it’s their country after all), followed by white-skinned people and only then do Asians and the rest of the world come into the picture.
Also, the names of characters are unimpressive. While Leila and Nadia are okay, but Sugar? Who names anyone Sugar, anyway? It sounds more like a candy than a name! Lady Luxe is weird although thankfully, we come to know that it is only a pseudonym.
The book also speaks a lot about the famous locales of Dubai — not from a touristy perspective, but from an insider’s.
It was good to read a book which spoke so much about the locales of Dubai – not from a touristy perspective, but from an insider’s. I am not really an expert of Dubai landmarks, but still it was nice to follow the characters around familiar places. Also I liked the observations that the writer has made about general life in Dubai, as I could very well relate to it. For example, she explains how the social hierarchy is structured – Arabs are the all important ones (which is kinda understandable, this being their country and all), followed by white-skinned people and only then do we Indians and the rest of the world including Filipinos and Africans come into the picture. So true! One can almost feel the stigma and this favouritism is quite evident even with employers who specifically state, “Only Western educated candidates will be considered”!
But that is where the similarity ends. My life is in no way similar to any of the main protagonists, who spend their time driving flashy cars, flaunting designer clothes and club-hopping at expensive discs, in short leading a totally extravagant lifestyle, which quite simply, I (and I suspect you too) can’t afford. Having said that, I found the book quite intriguing and the drama involved, pretty racy. The way the author has inter-connected the stories of the four leading ladies and inter-woven their lives is quite appealing. 
The dilemmas of the women, are mostly to do with matters of the heart more than anything else – but still Desperate In Dubai, is hardly a romance novel. It goes into the lives of four women, who seemingly have everything in life, be it money or beauty, and exposes their weaknesses, vulnerabilities as well as the darker side of their characters.
If there was one thing that I wasn’t too impressed with, it is the names of the main characters. While Leila and Nadia are okay, Lady Luxe is weird although thankfully, we come to know that it is only a pseudonym; but Sugar?? Who names anyone Sugar anyway!? It sounds more like an endearment than a name.
The dates in each of the other sources clearly indicate which of these were published first. As a friend told me, Imitation is the best form of flattery and I thank the distinguished Ms.Hussain for flattering me and for making me realize my true worth.  

Quoting a well-known blogger, Shail, "...what makes people not even try to have an opinion, a liking of their own? What’s so great about copying someone else’s work and being praised for it? Even if you aren’t caught by others, doesn’t your own heart know the truth?!"

I don't think I need say more. I rest my  case.

EDITED on 20/02/2012 TO ADD: Good news people! So I finally got a mail from the Editor saying, "...the person in question has been relieved of her services and is no longer with us."
If that is true, then wow! I mean all I expected was them to take down the plagiarized article (which they have done) or give me credit and maybe an apology. Didn't expect someone to lose their job - although I am sure that with her credentials and experience, not to mention the awards, she can easily land a job elsewhere. Anyway so this is how the story ends! 

EDITED on 21/02/2012 TO ADD: This is becoming one never-ending post! Just wanted to say that today the journalist replied to me saying that she had already quit the newspaper and that the article was published by someone else under her name in a bid to tarnish her image. Now, what does one believe!?


  1. WTF? thats my first thought Anne? how did they think they can get away with it? the least they could have done is credit you. which raises a doubt in me - are our blog posts public property or do we own any rights to our writings? can you fibd out and let us all dumb-ass bloggers know? so we wont have a similar shock someday? by the way, what comes next? what are you gonna do?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. It will be certainly irritating to see someone stealing our works !

  4. How frustrating and annoying!! Plagiarism angers me to no end! I am tempted to search my own reviews, but I want to save myself of the frustration. I hope the editor and the "journalist" show some modicum of decency and ethics and take down the article.

    1. Thanks for the support Neeru! Apparently they didn't have a class on ethics in their Journalism course I guess - the article is still up. Fed up!

  5. Omigod!! Really you should something more about this. We need to spread the word about this!! Dont have many followers but will try to link this to my blog! Put that on FB, somewhere!
    And you have done some research there!

  6. Hi Jenny! Thanks for dropping by!

    Yes I have put it up on FB and I also wrote to another newspaper (from which a couple of lines have been lifted). They got back to me saying something on the lines of thanks for bringing this to our attention... Don't think they are going to do anything abt it but atleast they had the basic courtesy to respond!

  7. That's so bad Anne. That too you say, it's a leading newspaper, with an award winning "Journalist". And they did not have the courtesy to even give you credit for copying your work.
    At least Good that the Editor had decided to Terminate the services of the employee who had shamelessly done this.

    1. Yep. Although I feel a bit bad tht someone had to lose their job partly due to me!

  8. I'm glad you (kind of) got justice for this - but gutted I've lost my exposure in Khaleej Times!!!

    1. I knw! So sorry that you/your book got caught in the mess! But don't worry, you are already quite famous :-)
      And btw ur the first celebrity to comment at my blog! Yay ;-)

  9. Anne

    This is happening all over the world and the ignorance of the offenders is so funny. They think that it's impossible to find but dunno about the tools that are available. The Times of India guys are so famous for this - flicking flickr photos, movie reviews and articles. And just now I found that my reviews have been copied by some user in IMBD :(

    1. Hi Sylvian,

      Welcome to my blog - even though we meet over some unfortunate incidents!

  10. So you are the latest victim...It is the greatest threat that creative people are facing today and internet just serves as the right pool for some useless people to do fishing. :P

  11. WTH!!! Losers of first order. How I wish,we had a strong legal system to sue them!

  12. So justice does prevail in the end :). Was pleasantly surprised to find the updates! Good for you! :)

    1. Yep! And u have really come back to blogging with a vengeance!!i just see the updates-haven't read all your new posts yet. Hoping to get to it (and to my blog) soon (I knw I keep saying this!)

  13. Sheesh! This is really pathetic, looks like the writer was simply DESPERATE!! Good that you stumbled upon it and published it here ..

    Came across your blog through Women's Web. Some great writing Anne! :)
    Will add you to my blog roll!
    ps: I am getting a copyscape banner too!

  14. Anne, I am sorry and I can understand how your feelings could be! I read your book review as well.As stated there the system of hierarchy does exists.
    My husband works in Dubai and fortunately or unfortunately I quit my well paid IT job in 2008 and went to join him Got an offer with a well known Telecom company there as one of Technology Manager.
    They paid me well, and I along with other team mate well structured and brought the process under control by setting out well written instructions for the team to be followed. Obviously the process was to be presented to the Director of the program.The Project Manager an Indian falls only under him and we still subordinates fall very low in hierarchy.The Director a Pakistan born UK brought up London resident.But except his "shit" words knew hardly any technology or management stuff.

    Once the process were well written and flowing smooth, he send out a mail to all that he wants to make some real changes to the team.

    Shamelessly he copies all the process changes I had suggested as from his wonderful brain and forwarded it to all.

    My colleague she was also 26 by age we both equally agitated, but she reacted , by just forwarding a copy of the original email I send him to all on meeting invite that, Please find process changes suggested by Defect Manager attached.

    Both of us were out of that project in less than a week following the incident.I stopped by the Director spoke few words to him personally before I left.We Indians are never less to him, I proved him that.

    Not only in IT industry you would find mostly any eligible person in any eligible position over there.

    Hard work by Indians in team, while credit goes to US and UK passport holders.

    And just as curry leaves we would be thrown out.

    Others who capable of surviving the hit to self respect would have positions there.

    1. So true! Am sorry to hear about your experience too. And welcome to my blog :-)

  15. I suppose you haven't heard the update on this issue. Looks like you were as much a part of this conspiracy as the writer was. She had left the organisation and this happened to her! Being a part of the media you would also know to what level people would fall to tarnish other people's opportunities and image. I think she's in the US now but the case has reached the ministry also. I think you should take this page off as your comments on the UAE system wouldn't go down well, with the govt honchos... (just a thought... if you are living there, since I know how dictatorial some govts are in regard to dissent.) I'm an avid reader myself and love books so I wouldn't want your blog to go kaput becoz of this page.


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