Humans of Bombay (HoB), a social media platform founded in 2014, filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court against "People of India" (PoI), a similar online storytelling portal, over copyright infringement.
HoB accused Instagram handle PoI of "completely replicating its business model and even the stories themselves". They alleged that the PoI approached the same individuals featured on their website to create an "imitative platform".
HoB further alleged that PoI copied its content, logo, tagline, and the format it uses for its stories.
HoB filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court, seeking damages and an injunction to prevent PoI from using its content. On September 18, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to PoI expressing concern over allegations of imitation.
Advocate Abhishek Malhotra, appearing for HoB, alleged that the defendant has copied his client's business model.
The plea stated: "…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."
Regarding HoB's copyright infringement suit, the court issued a summons to PoI. In the order shared by HoB, the court observed: "Prima facie, there is substantial imitation, and in fact, in some cases, the photographs/images are identical or imitative."
HoB said: The suit is related to the IP in our posts and not about storytelling. We tried to address the issue amicably before approaching the court, as we believe in protecting our team's hard work."
HoB released this clarification after users on X (formerly Twitter) criticised HoB that they have been themed on the US-based Humans of New York while pursuing copyright infringement against PoI.
Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York (HoNY), took to social media to express his disappointment.
Brandon tweeted on X: "I've stayed quiet on the appropriation of my work because I think @HumansOfBombay shares important stories, even if they've monetised far past anything I'd feel comfortable doing on HONY. But you can't be suing people for what I've forgiven you for."
I've stayed quiet on the appropriation of my work because I think @HumansOfBombay 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. https://t.co/0jZM05YyTt— Brandon Stanton (@humansofny) September 23, 2023
Following Stanton's statement, HOB, in an open letter, urged him to understand the full background of the case before making a "cryptic assault" on their efforts to protect their intellectual property rights.
The letter stated, "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."
The letter further stated: "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..."