The founder of the popular photoblog Humans of New York has hit out at an Indian version of his concept – Humans of Bombay – as it becomes embroiled in a copyright battle.
Humans of Bombay, which follows a similar format to Humans of New York (HONY), has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against a rival platform.
Weighing in on the dispute, Humans of New York founder Brandon Stanton slammed Humans of Bombay, accusing it of appropriating his own work first.
“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 ever feel comfortable doing on HONY.
“But you can’t be suing people for what I’ve forgiven you for.”
HONY features portraits of New Yorkers alongside quotes or short stories from their lives.
It became an online sensation after it launched in 2010, claiming to provide a “worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers on the streets of New York City”.
The photoblog now boasts an online following of over 20 million.
Humans of Bombay was launched four years later in 2014 by founder Karishma Mehta. It has since amassed some 3.2 million followers.
Like Humans of New York it accompanies portraits of “strangers” with quotes and stories with the stated aim of telling “inspirational and relatable stories of individuals from all walks of life”.
‘We tried to address the issue amicably’
In its lawsuit it is now alleging that People of India (POI) – another India-based storytelling account – has not only replicated its style, but has also been passing off its material as their own.
Responding to Mr Stanton’s accusation, Humans of Bombay said the lawsuit wasn’t just a matter of storytelling.
“We are grateful to HONY & 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.”
A back and forth between the two on X, formerly known as Twitter, has since ensued, with Mr Stanton accusing Humans of Bombay of monetising his concept.
Claiming he hadn’t profited from a single story told on Humans of New York, he wrote “when art begins with a profit motive, it ceases to become art”.
He pointed people to the @HumansofAdam – a similar concept running in the Netherlands – as an example of a “true artist who had done beautiful things”.
A ‘cryptic assault on our efforts’
Once again Humans of Bombay hit back, this time accusing Stanton of “jumping the gun” in issuing a “cryptic assault on our efforts”.
Mr Stanton’s photoblog features stories from over 20 different countries. His portraits are also the subject of two bestselling books.
He is known for using his work to fundraise for some of the subjects he features.
In December 2013, he was named one of Time magazine’s “30 Under 30 People Changing The World”.