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Copyright on Mahatma Gandhi's literary works to end
by Ami Sharma

          Ahmedabad: With the copyright restrictions on Mahatma Gandhi's literary works expiring on January 1, 2009, publishers other than the previously authorized Navjivan Trust may be able to publish his writings and speeches. In 1940, Gandhiji made a will. In 1944, he signed an assignment deed where he assigned the copyright of his writings to Navjivan trust. But according to Section 22, Copyright Act, 1957, the copyright with Navjivan Trust ends on January 1, 2009. According to the Copyright Act of 1957, the works of a person go into the public domain after 60 calendar years of his or her death. And, by this clause the Navjivan Trust loses the copyright on Gandhi works in 2009. Navjivan Trust is unwilling to ask the Government of India to extend the copyright. Navajivan Trust, since its inception, has published some 300 volumes of Mahatma Gandhi's works including articles, letters and speeches, apart from translations of his autobiography.

          In 1940, Mahatma Gandhi, the legendary nationalist leader and freedom fighter, through a will had entrusted the copyrights of his works with Navajivan Trust. In 1944, he signed an assignment deed in which he assigned his copyright of his write ups to Navjivan trust. Authorities with the Navajivan Trust say that the Mahatma never subscribed to the idea of copyright despite authorizing them for his works. "Gandhiji never supported the idea of copyright. But due to some instances, where his thoughts were misinterpreted, he was forced to give into the insistence of his well wishers urging him to get his works copyrighted. So he decided to entrust the copyright of his works with Navajivan Trust, which was founded by him," opined Amrut Modi, Managing Trustee, Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. "If you consider the spirit of Gandhian thought, one should not ask for such extension. And we have considered this issue and we are not going to ask for such extension," said Jitendra Desai, Managing Trustee, Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad. But scholars in Gandhian thoughts and admirers of his philosophy, however, want the copyright to be revived by the government. The dominant fear among them being an unrestricted use of his works in future could lead to misinterpretation of his texts and concepts by other publishers. "Once the copyright ends, the prices of the works are sure to shoot up. Besides, the task of taking the Gandhi's thoughts to the people might also be affected. The Government should immediately take steps to do something about it and entrust the copyrights back to Navajivan Trust," said Dhimant Badiya, a Gandhian in Ahmedabad. The Navjivan Trust will, however, continue to publish Gandhi's works at subsidised prices so that his writings and thoughts would continue to be propagated even after the copyright has ceased.
-Jan 1, 2009

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