Sahiyo infringing copyright privilege of Anjuman-e-Burhani Trust of Sydney or an instance of online harassment and limiting blogging rights- A case of Sahiyo VS the Trust

  • Just in case you are wondering how the page on the resolutions banning FGC (Khatna) in Australia, United Kingdom and United States vanished from our website – read on

Since 2015, Sahiyo has been operating a website to inform the public about female genital cutting (FGC) or khatna occurring amongst Dawoodi Bohra communities in India and many other countries around the globe. Our website was created with the intention to have it act as educational tool regarding the traumatic and harmful consequences of performing FGC. We also understood the importance of storytelling in engaging in social change, and allowed our blog to be a healing platform in which others can voice their own experiences of from  FGC. There is strength in numbers, and we were dedicated to empowering others to be agents of social change.

The website was also a resource where the general community could come to find out the latest news regarding FGC in the Bohra community, including country legislation banning FGC, human rights doctrines condemning FGC, research studies speaking on the harmful effects of FGC,interventions used to stop FGC, as well as media reports regarding the practice of FGC in various parts of the world.

On February 8th, 2016, the Anjuman-e-Burhani Trust of Sydney released a notice to all members of the Dawoodi Bohra community in their jurisdiction to honor the laws of the land in which they reside and, accordingly, instructed them to refrain from carrying out the practice of ‘khafd’ or ‘khanta’ on their daughters. To see more, click here. Soon after, many additional Dawoodi Bohra jamaats in different cities around the world began issuing letters to their members, asking them to stop practicing FGC because it was against the law in those countries.

Receiving these resolutions seemed like a tremendous victory, and showed that religious leaders were finally acknowledging that FGC was a harmful practice. To support the religious leaders and show the positive steps being taken by the community, Sahiyo made a page on our website to share all of the public resolutions that we were receiving from various Dawoodi Bohra jammats (congregations) throughout the world.

However, in March 2016, Sahiyo received a cease and desist letter, a threat to serve legal notice to WordPress (under which is registered) and to sue all the five co-founders individually under the breach of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for publishing resolution by the Anjuman-e-Burhani Trust of Sydney on banning Khatna in Australia, the letter stated that it was a copyright infringement on Sahiyo’s part to publish this resolution on our website

Even though the letters did not refute Sahiyo and it’s co-founders’ right to free speech, specifically mentioning that we may go ahead and summarise the contents of the resolution, it clearly stated that we must take the letter down as it was an infringement of copyright protected by the DMCA:

“The Letter is an original work, copyright in which subsists and belongs to the Trust and the contents of which are non-trivial.”

The DMCA has been notoriously famous for being used against blogger rights and restricting their content. Many respectable organizations of international repute have fought the threat to serve DMCA or the DMCA notice in their own capacity. (Read about one such case OPG VS Diebold  won by Electronic Frontier Foundation safeguarding blogger’s interest) .

Receiving the letter was of course concerning for us, as we were only sharing what materials had been shared with us and continues to be shared through social media channels both in private (Whatsapp groups and e-mail) and public (Facebook, Twitter). What was more concerning was the question regarding why the religious authorities issuing these resolution letters would be concerned with sharing the good progress in ending FGC publicly?

Unfortunately in April 2016, we received our informal answer. Sadly, the comments by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin in his most recent wa’az (sermon) in Mumbai showed that perhaps the issuing of such letters was not made in the most sincere of efforts to end FGC. The Syenda’s pro-khatna remarks indicated that the public resolutions letters were applicable to the diaspora Dawoodi Bohras in Australia, United Kingdom, and United States, only on paper. Read more here. With Sahiyo receiving the  Cease and Desist Notice, an attempt to re-silence the practice of khatna had been made.

While our content is what could be termed as within terms of Fair Use Policy, meant for non-commercial, educational purposes only; circumventing any legal exchange any further, we took the page consisting of the letters down. Perhaps, it was indeed something that we couldn’t legally publish on our website. Perhaps, Sahiyo had a window through WordPress’s fair use policy. The matter was not such to press further as the all pervasive social media had already guaranteed outreach of the resolutions.

By shedding light on what our tiny/fledgling organization has faced, we hope to bring up other questions as well. Is this a copyright infringement or an example of limiting blogger rights? Why is it okay to have these letters widely published on the social media and not okay to have them consolidated on our website? This may be a legal conundrum that Sahiyo has accidentally stumbled into, but it is an important question for all of us to learn from.

12 thoughts on “Sahiyo infringing copyright privilege of Anjuman-e-Burhani Trust of Sydney or an instance of online harassment and limiting blogging rights- A case of Sahiyo VS the Trust

  1. Zehra Patwa

    Very interesting situation. It almost seems like it was a knee jerk reaction by the Sydney jamaat. Like closing the gate after the horse has bolted…….

    Kudos to Sahiyo for being brave and confronting the issue head on. Whether the letters are published on the Sahiyo website or not, the word is definitely out there!

  2. Mubina Jamdar

    It’s a bitter sweat moment. It makes you angry. You should also feel proud that you are popular enough to be a threat to them.

  3. Saifee 'Bawa'

    In the very first place the letters/resolutions which they had issued to local community members were more of a political and legal obligation and their tails between their legs reaction. It was never an honest intention for change. Expecting the same from them.. was and is to be extremely naive. They will always be trying to wiggle their way out from such situations where major egos are also involved. So my advise will be not get alarmed by their any such actions or be concerned with their actions through which they will keep trying to distract us all from our real objective for change.

  4. Rashida Rangwala

    This shows the fear and insecurity of the clergy. Instead of demonstrating their stand on FGM in crystal clear, they are showing their murky colors. Ridiculous attempt to silence a movement that will not pause.

  5. Jaria

    I think we can all agree that this is subtle attempt to deter us from working on ending khatna within the community. If the bhora clefgy are looking at suing sahiyo for sharing a letter which was in the public domain the n can the clergy not be held to account for promoting khatna of young girls? You need not let this deter you from what you do ie information sharing and raising awareness of the practise .

  6. Your Big Brother

    I am quite surprised that Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat from Sydney has the funds collected from its members, without their consent of members, and do the dirty work of Sayedna Mufadal go harassing NGO and activists.

    Let them be reminded that the case and documents used in the case are now public information, protected by Freedom of Information Act. The documents can be obtained from the Supreme Court of NSW.

    Do not be frightened and the Guardian media group is ready to assist. Please post the legal letter notice your group has received from the trustees to name and shame the sender.

    Your Big Brother OZD from Melbourne is ready to protect and defend you. In my tradition passed on from my grandmother that was unpolluted by the recent Surat Diais, we don’t bully women, girls and sisters. Physically (FGM)or vebally (legal notices ). Happy Mothers Day

    If you need further documents contact me .

  7. This well-wisher seconds OZD – Your Big Brother’s advice and opinion as posted above.

    Clearly, the true intent and motive behind the Sydney’s “Anjuman-e-Burhani Trust” resolution dated February 9, 2016 was NOT TO CREATE A COPYRIGHTABLE WORK but write a resolution or notice that was meant and intended for publication among their jamaat members, and for the general public.

    The Trustees THEMSELVES published their resolution in the following manner:

    – by publishing and distributing their resolution through an unsecured server via email to all its members, as well as, posting the letter on its website, and later pulling it down;

    – then, by submitting their resolution to the trial/sentencing judge as part of the 3 accuseds’ sentencing briefs, in order to show the judge that they (the Sydney trustees) were publicly taking steps to stamp out the practice of FGM (Khatna/khafd) from the Dawoodi Bohra community in Australia and elsewhere.

    – hence, by their own lawyers’ submitting and filing the Sydney trust’s resolution, and all other cities/countries resolutions, all have now become a permanent part of the public record of the New South Wales – Superior Criminal Court, and can/will be accessible by a simple search of the court file, and copyable by any member of the public as per the rules and procedures of that court.

    – by submitting and filing in court, and then by publishing this resolution themselves to members of the jamaat via email, the Sydney trustees have provided their implied consent to the fair use by the public of any alleged copyrightable content of its resolutions (which, btw, should be denied), and therefore, they are now estopped from claiming any alleged copyright infringement by Sahiyo.

    By doing so, they have acquiesced to the publication and distribution by the worldwide public of their resolution or so called “edict”.

    Since they have now threatened to sue Sahiyo for copyright infringement of their resolution, it can be adversely inferred that the main motive and objective behind passing and submission of the resolution to the court might have been to secure leniency in the sentence for the convicted clergy – the Sydney Amil and ors.

    Once the sentencing decision was passed, and there was a likelihood of that the 15-month jail sentences of each of the three convicted FGM offenders may be served through home detention, these Sydney trustees decided to flex their (non-existent) muscles, by intimidating and harassing Sahiyo with their frivolous copyright notice, for reasons best known to them.

    Bad move by the Sydney trustees to threaten and harass Sahiyo in this manner.

    It should also be noted that it is a well-known aspect of copyright law that it only protect expressions and not facts, theories, opinions and ideas contained in published or unpublished writings which are not protected. Copyright protection is limited to only the expression of a work, but not the underlying facts, opinion or ideas.

    There are no expression(s) in the Sydney resolution, just facts, the quoting of the hadith “hubbul watan minal iman”, the opinion and finding of the Australian court that khatna/khafd as Female Genital Mutilation and a warning to the jamaat members not to commit the crime of khafd (FGM).

    If one compares some of the other resolutions passed by different jamaats from other parts of the world – Melbourne, London, etc.; they all have all copied and verbatim used the same language as the Sydney trust`s resolution, and then published and distributed their resolutions.

    And lastly, no warning copyright notice was placed on this publicly distributed resolution that these Sydney trustees are now seeking to protect.

    So there goes their bullshit claims to any alleged copyright infringement by Sahiyo.

    There is also nothing creative about the contents of the Sydney Trust’s resolution.

    Sahiyo’s sharing on its website of the Sydney Trust’s resolution was meant to serve a non-profit, social welfare function, for educational purposes and for benefit to the public. As such, it can be argued that this does not qualify as copyright infringement.

    So, Sahiyo, keep up your good work.

    Don’t let strong-arm bullying and harassing tactics by a bunch of men with vested interests stop you from speaking out and fighting FGM, child abuse and genital violence towards vulnerable girl children and women belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community.

    By threatening Sahiyo and its five co-founders with a cease and desist notice, these Sydney trustees have dug a deeper hole for each of themselves.


  8. Open minded

    Our society wants to control women and they start at young age so they lose control of their desires they are not likely to leave the sect, and they are so traumatized they live under control of the religious leaders and when they have children they keep cycle of slavery go on . If we break the cycle women will be independent allow children to be independent and the religious leaders will have less fools. Now for men their women will be more pleasurable and will stay more in bed and perform, if not their women will seek better men.. They will try to be attractive and smart to fulfill their wives needs and less running behind priests as modern day slaves, chains of command and control if broken then flow of power and money stopped. I have covered complex social agenda in a sarcastic way.

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