Writer Arpi Voskanyan vs. 1in.am

Anna Barseghyan


Local author Arpi Voskanyan has filed a complaint with the police against local news outlet 1in.am.

Voskanyan finds that 1in.am committed a copyright violation by using her poem “Qaghaqakan Haneluk” (“political conundrum”), which was initially published in the Dec. 6, 2012 issue of daily Haykakan Zhamanak (“Armenian Times”), without informing her.

1in.am republished the poem, announcing a contest to create a song using the poem as the lyrics to the song.

“I had given the poem to Haykakan Zhamanak with the permission to publish it, but 1in.am without asking, informing, or coming to an agreement with me republished it, changing the context, misrepresenting the meaning, and adding the photo of a particular person [in this case, Prosperous Armenia party leader and notorious tycoon Gagik Tsarukyan (pictured)], which contradicted the concept of my poem, which represented a political conundrum,” she says. 

The writer asked 1in.am editors to immediately remove the poem from the website or pay her for it; however, in her words, her requests were left unmet. Voskanyan was unable to speak with 1in.am’s chief editor, Arman Babajanyan. According to her, the editor responded to neither her calls nor her letters. 

“I spoke with 1in.am staff, who from the day one told me that removing the conundrum [from the website] is ruled out, and there can be no talk of payment because they cited [the source] Haykakan Zhamanak and that’s sufficient, forgetting that they’re dealing with artistic work, which doesn’t have anything to do with the daily news or material that has scientific or educational value, which can be circulated online only by citing [the source],” she says. 

According to 1in.am chief editor Arman Babajanyan, they were prepared to pay for the poem from the beginning. 


“That person wanted an honorarium: first, she wanted 20 000 [drams; about $49 USD], then she said 30 000 [about $74]; I said decide, make a decision on what you want. I received her letters on Facebook and left them unanswered. I only got in contact with my lawyer; sent the material to him, so that we can see if there’s an issue of rights here, solve the matter though law and order — I don’t see a problem,” he says. 

Voskanyan, however, is ready to take the matter also to court — to demand compensation for material and moral losses she has incurred.

Lawyer Gevorg Hayrapetyan finds that the news outlet violated the author’s copyright.

“When an artistic work or a substantial part of it is used unlawfully — without the copyright holder’s permission — it is considered an act of copyright violation. And by the way, not only published, but also unpublished artistic works are items of copyright. This means, if an artistic work has been published it doesn’t mean that it can be used without permission,” he says.

In the lawyer’s words, according to the law on copyright and adjacent rights, however, there exists the doctrine of fair use when use of the work without the author’s consent or without payment is not considered a copyright violation. 

“But in such cases there are several mandatory conditions — the author’s name and the original source of the work must be noted, and the publication must not contradict the requirement of normal use of the work. 1in.am wants to create a song based on this work. [Voskanyan’s poem] wasn’t written to be used as song lyrics. That is, this type of use doesn’t comply with the requirement of normal use of the work,” he says. 

The lawyer notes that also established by law are requirements on use without consent or payment according to which an article related to economic, political, or social issues published in the press through lawful means or artistic work published in such a manner can be republished if the author has not prohibited such use previously. 

“It’s assumed that the author has not banned such use; therefore, republication in this respect is permitted, but this work was not republished; it was taken and used in a different manner. In this case, the news outlet wanted to have completely different use of a work of copyrighted material,” Hayrapetyan says. 

According to Article 158 of the RA Criminal Code, breach of copyright and adjacent rights is punishable with a fine of 500 times the minimum salary [which amounts to 500 000 AMD or about $1,227 USD], 1–2 months correctional labor, or imprisonment of up to 1 year.

Anna Barseghyan

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