[INDOLOGY] Copyright and authorship of critical editions

Dominik Haas dominik.haas at univie.ac.at
Tue Oct 1 08:42:53 EDT 2019

Dear colleagues,

yes, it does become more complicated, and this is the reason why Germany 
and several other countries have special copyright laws for scientific 
text editions.

In most countries, copyright does not depend on a specific formula or 
even the presence of a © symbol but, first of all, on the author. The 
rights of an author expire after a certain period (60, 70, 75 or more 
years) after the death of the (last) author or, in the case of 
scientific editions in several European countries, after 25 or 30 years 
after the first publication. So BORI could, in any case, only claim the 
copyright for a certain time (I don't know when the last author of the 
edition died) and in certain countries. The same applies to the NT 
editions mentioned by Richard Mahoney, which both mention their 
"authors" (who of course are, philologically speaking, editors).

So legally, it all depends on authorship. For all I know, the editors of 
critical editions are authors, even though the base texts are public 
domain: even if you think of critical editions only as compilations, 
they can, in my view, be copyrighted, because they involve the creative 
selection and rearrangement of preexisting material. Of course, they are 
not supposed to be "new," but how could you prove (in court) that they 
are not, as long as the archetype is not found? I would argue that this 
applies regardless of what Sukthankar or any other authority says. In 
the eyes of the world, they are new texts, created by peope who are 
legally authors. At least in Austria, you cannot even get rid of 
authorship that easily – it is attributed to you if it is clear that you 
are the author, whether you claim it or not. And with this comes and 
goes the copyright.

Best regards,
Dominik A. Haas

*Dominik A. Haas, BA MA*
PhD student, University of Vienna
dominik.haas at univie.ac.at <mailto:dominik.haas at univie.ac.at>
ORCID: 0000-0002-8505-6112 <https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8505-6112>
univie.academia.edu/DominikHaas <https://univie.academia.edu/DominikHaas>

Am 01.10.2019 um 11:55 schrieb Simon Brodbeck via INDOLOGY:
> Dear colleagues,
> I wonder if the matter might be complicated, at least in principle, by 
> the idea that the Mahabharata as critically reconstituted by the 
> editors is an approximation of a text that was produced many centuries 
> earlier? Reading Sukthankar's "Prolegomena" one has the impression 
> that his claim was not to have created a new text, but to have 
> recreated an old one. Although there may be different views on whether 
> or not that claim was justified, it might seem somewhat contradictory 
> for Sukthankar or BORI to claim copyright on the published 
> reconstituted text. And if so, wouldn't the situation be similar for 
> any number of explicitly reconstructive editions?
> Yours,
> Simon Brodbeck
> Cardiff University
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *From:* INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of 
> Dominik Haas via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info>
> *Sent:* 01 October 2019 09:45
> *To:* indology at list.indology.info <indology at list.indology.info>
> *Subject:* Re: [INDOLOGY] Highlights from the Sanskrit corpora
> Dear Jonathan and Dominik,
> I just had the very same thoughts. I'm not an expert of law either, 
> but technically speaking, the BORI Mahābhārata is not simply an 
> edition, but a new text created by its editors between 1919 and 1966. 
> The editors are, in this case, actually authors, who obviously 
> transferred their copyright to the still existing BORI. So unless an 
> ancient and complete manuscript appears which contains the very same 
> text as the BORI Mahābhārata (very unlikely, I would say), the BORI 
> holds the copyright of its text. According to German law (mentioned by 
> Dominik), however, it does not – 25 years have long gone past since 
> the publication of the original edition. The co-owned copyright of 
> Prof. Tokunaga (1994), too, would expire this year – in Germany.
> Of course, authors also have the copyright to transcriptions of their 
> text – just imagine someone would transcribe a talk you give and then 
> publish it as their own text. I would argue that creating an 
> electronic transcription of a (copyrighted) Devanāgarī text isn't much 
> different.
> Best regards,
> Dominik A. Haas
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