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Content theft by Tuko News has now forced other media to ‘laminate’ websites

By Media Critic Kenya correspondent

Before Tuko News entered the scene, there used to be something called pride in carrying original content among Kenyan websites.

Writers would feel very ashamed if they so much as copied a word from a 700-word article that had been run by their competitor. People feared plagiarism. People feared being called copycats. Media was media.

Not any more.

Nowadays, as soon as one site posts something that captures public attention, Tuko News writers — who I assume to be a bunch of guys idling away on social media in wait for the next juicy post — steal it from the website, re-word a few phrases, place a headline to pretend they own the news then run it.

And because their money comes from Russia and word on the street is that the money is provided in plenty, Tuko uses their vast resources to get more people to read the second-hand article, starving the original writer of clicks that are nowadays a currency in the media circles.

To Tuko News owners, stating “according to [website so and so]” is enough to recognise where the article first appeared.

Fair enough.

But I often wonder: why is it that when a certain channel has no rights to air a football match it is not allowed to air even a repeat of the match for a certain period of time after the match runs?

I’m no copyright lawyer but I think Tuko should be limited, at the very least, on how long it should take before “stealing” content from another site.

Those in the know say Tuko has received numerous complaints from the big boys in the media industry, notably the Nation Media Group, and that a lawsuit is not very far away.

As the rivals continue to seethe with anger, Tuko’s recent antics have now made plagiarism a norm in the media industry. It is not strange to find recycled news running in very respected sites after first appearing from one media house.

It is not uncommon nowadays to have a story lifted in a newspaper, reworded with a headline that has “shocking” or “you won’t believe” then circulated as original reporting.

To address piracy from websites, media houses are now restricting the copying of text from their websites.  Visit Nairobi News, Standard Media and Business Daily online and you will realise that it is nowadays impossible copy text to paste it elsewhere.

Citizen TV’s sister website, eDaily, decided not to bar copying but at the end of every article, it warns that if someone lifts their content, they must place a link back to the site, something most of the new-age content bandits like Tuko and Hivi Sasa rarely do.

Let’s see which website restricts its copying next (I call it laminating) and whether there will be a court case to put copycats to their place.

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