Copyright: meta questions

Vidhyanath K. Rao vidynath at
Mon Oct 21 17:22:27 UTC 1996

The recent flurry of messages raise, in my mind, two questions. Note that
these are not questions about etiquette of ackonwledging others work
that we use, but legal rights.

First: In US at least, it is not supposed to be possible to copyright
material whose expression is unique. The usual examples are formulas
and ``laws of nature''. Now would samhita and pada texts of Rgveda be
copyrightable? Even if I happen to the first one to type them in?
Should they be?

Second: Due to changes in laws, when various countries signed some
treaty or other, or even fortuens in wars (Germany after world wars),
editions published at various times in various places may not be
in copyright. Does that mean that by typing them in, I can claim
legal copyright on it?

To be specific, can anyone except BORI claim copyright on the critical
edition of the Mahabharata?

It seems to me etiquette should be enfored by the community of
scholars, without bringing in lawyers and courts. What would happen
if people get facsimiles of manuscripts and then copyright them without
the consent of the manusript owner? We in the West may be able to get
away with it, but that would be at best unethical and likely to lead
to illwill and lessened availabilty of manuscripts.

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