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Pakistani channels are lifting my content. And that includes Aaj, 92, Samaa and Dunya

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Many times in life we face certain situations that question our moral core. Do I gain an advantage by taking the path that is easy yet unethical or do I stay on the honest, hard and difficult road; keeping my head high and my feet clean?

In an industry rampant with creative differences, cutthroat competition and preferences surrounding individual gain rather than the collective, it is difficult to be honest to your work and yourself. I have lived my entire life in the hustle and bustle of Lahore city, where my family reinforced hard work, honesty and good old fashioned sweat as the crux of success.

As I grew up I have been no stranger to people “doing whatever it takes”, but what does it really take? For me, it takes: trial and error, sleepless nights, dedication, financial stress, heartbreak, zero support and the constant undermining gaze of the general public. These factors certainly can drive a man to find quicker, dishonest means to an end – but I chose the honest hard road.

My filmmaking career has spun many short documentaries, films and digital debates regarding the human condition within Paksitan. I have been working as an exclusive documentarian for approximately four years. Never in my professional career have I entertained a handout, side-track or under-table-deals. Why? Because I value my work and my ideas as an individual and as a creator, not as a person looking for financial gain. Many of my peers are also victim to having their own blood, sweat and tears swept from under their feet unknowingly or unwillingly.

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My documentary – Kartarpur – was created in late 2017 and published on YouTube in early 2018. In the beginning it did not entertain many views, nonetheless I soldiered on with pride in my own work. It was showcased in public screenings and granted me an honest, humble recognition in the community I wholeheartedly wanted to give back to.

In November 2018 I was greeted to a phone call I hoped I would never receive, my content had been stolen. Big news organizations had stumbled upon it in their attempts to snatch “STOCK FOOTAGE” for their presentations. It was on the TV I saw my work being broadcast on AAJ NEWS’. Headline and was a part of their bulletin as well. No credit, no money, no name and no contact. Finder’s keepers I guess. My concern is not why they used my work for themselves, but why must they brand themselves and take the credit for my many months of physical and emotional labour? The East India Company also came, they liked it and they took it – and because a little Indian didn’t raise his voice, we now spew chants of “TABDEELI”.’

During my horrific revelation, many of my friends and family contacted me – informing me of the fact that my work was being blatantly used and abused by major news agencies across the country. It was plastered across social media without remorse.

And here’s the original documentary:

The filmmaking industry as any other creative industry in Pakistan has been seeing a crisis of infringement, intellectual property. Just like any other business, corners need to be cut in order to gain an advantage – if you cannot generate your own ideas or content, just “borrow” someone else’s. The little guy is usually the one to bear the brunt of this scheme which is orchestrated by larger organizations that have a great influence and backing.

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I worked my entire life, navigating through the trials and tribulations of being a filmmaker in such a society. Financial loss, relationships lost, time lost – all for what? To have my content lost as well?

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1 Comment

  1. Umair Khawaja is rightfully concerned about his creative works lifted without his consent. He is very articulate about the lost his works and way it has been used by the media. It was a theft of his intellectual property which can be classified as a highway robbery of great magnitude. All persons involved in this illegal act, must be brought to justice. Umair deserves full compensations for his loss and the thieves must be punished. There will be no justice without the due compensations including a letter of an apology from these offending media organizations.

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