Brandon Stanton, creator of the popular blog, Humans of New York (HONY), recently took to X (formerly Twitter) to share his thoughts about the India based blog of the same format, Humans of Bombay (HOB). The tweet came as a response to the copyright infringement lawsuit Karishma Mehta, founder of HOB had filed against a similar storytelling platform, People of India (POI).
HONY is a photoblog started by Brandon Stanton in 2010. As his blog grew in popularity, many seemed to follow suit. Humans of Bombay is one such blog that took inspiration from Stanton’s model. It was created in 2014 by Karishma Mehta who followed an almost identical format. While Stanton had no legal objections to this, he was unhappy when HOB filed a legal complaint against a similar page after copying from him.
Mehta’s lawyer alleged that People of India has copied HOB’s business model. “The similarities between the Infringing Content and the Plaintiff’s content not just constitutes infringement of copyright owned by the Plaintiff, but also, to passing off and unfair competition, as the Defendants have, evidently, 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,” the plea stated, according to The Indian Express.
This did not sit well with Stanton as HOB had taken inspiration from HONY without any legal complications from his end. He expressed his displeasure on X in a tweet saying, “I’ve stayed quiet on the appropriation of my work because I think Humans Of Bombay shares important stories, even if they’ve monetized far past anything I’d feel comfortable doing on HONY. But you can’t be suing people for what I’ve forgiven you for.”
In response to Stanton, the Humans of Bombay X account shared their response in a series of tweets. They expressed their sentiments, stating, “Dear Brandon, as with the hundreds of Humans of chapters around the world, we love and understand the power of storytelling. It’s therefore shocking that a cryptic assault on our efforts to protect our intellectual property is made in this manner, especially without understanding the background of the case.”
They went on to add, “Perhaps, before jumping the gun on this matter, you ought to acquaint yourself with the information about the case and also about what HOB is trying to achieve. HOB is all for the power of storytelling. But it should be done honestly and ethically. We have sent you an email, requesting a conversation to provide further details. We believe in the honourable court of India and will request patience for the law take its own course after hearing ALL parts of the matter. Best, Humans of Bombay.”
After this post, they shared another tweet with images of the legal suit, as well as this statement; “We are grateful to HONY and Brandon for starting this storytelling movement. The suit is related to the IP in our posts & not about storytelling at all. We tried to address the issue amicably before approaching the Court, as we believe in protecting our team’s hard work. PFA.”
This isn’t the first time HOB has found itself embroiled in controversy. In 2019, right before the Lok Sabha elections, the page posted a five-part interview with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The posts went viral as many social media users criticized HOB for spreading propaganda.