Brandon Stanton’s Response to India Copyright Row

In a surprising turn of events, Brandon Stanton, the founder of the popular photo blog Humans of New York, has weighed in on a copyright dispute between two similar platforms in India. Humans of Bombay (HOB), a Mumbai-based platform, recently filed a lawsuit against People of India (POI) for alleged copyright infringement. Both platforms follow the same format as Stanton’s New York blog, sharing stories of people through interviews and photos.

The case gained significant attention when Stanton commented on it on social media, expressing his forgiveness towards the alleged infringing platform and criticizing HOB for their monetization practices. This sparked a public debate about intellectual property rights, storytelling, and the ethics of content creation.

Stanton’s comment brought to light the issue of “the appropriation of [his] work” by Humans of Bombay, which he claimed had “monetized their work far past anything [he’d] feel comfortable doing on HONY.” This statement raised questions about the extent to which content creators can profit from the stories and images of others.

Humans of Bombay, in response, expressed shock at Stanton’s comments, calling them a “cryptic assault” and accusing him of speaking without understanding the background of the case. They emphasized the importance of protecting their intellectual property and clarified that the lawsuit was about the posts’ ownership, not storytelling itself.

The controversy surrounding Humans of Bombay’s lawsuit garnered mixed reactions from the Indian public. Some criticized the platform’s alleged hypocrisy, pointing out similarities in their tagline with Humans of New York. Others questioned the copyright laws HOB adhered to while using the stories of the people they interviewed.

Stanton further complicated the situation by revealing that he had not received any monetary compensation for his work on Humans of New York for the past 13 years, despite substantial offers. He maintained that he welcomed others using the concept to express truth and beauty about their communities but disassociated himself from those using it to create a certain lifestyle.

In contrast, Humans of Bombay’s founder, Karishma Mehta, acknowledged that her platform operated as a business, relying on ads and collaborations with brands for campaigns. She highlighted partnerships with Amazon, WhatsApp, and Unilever. This revelation raised questions about the motivations behind storytelling platforms and their interactions with corporate interests.

The Humans of New York project and Stanton have garnered immense popularity and praise for their philanthropic efforts. The platform has supported various causes, including raising funds for hurricane victims in the US and Rohingya refugees. Stanton’s work has been featured in popular books and media outlets, solidifying his reputation as a one-man philanthropy machine.

Stanton’s commentary also brought attention to other similar storytelling projects worldwide. He specifically praised Humans of Amsterdam, run by Debra Barraud, for staying true to the art and not treating the stories as a front end for a business.

While this copyright dispute may seem specific to India, it raises broader questions about intellectual property, content creation ethics, and the commercialization of personal narratives. The outcome of the lawsuit could set a precedent for future cases involving similar platforms and signal how storytelling and intellectual property intersect in the digital age.