Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at
Tue Mar 4 13:54:59 UTC 1997

>Therefore, all the texts discussed in Indology are in the public domain
>and simply not copyrightable.

I am sure that critical editions are copyrightable (by those preparing
them). As some of the texts involved are critical editions, the editor (or
the publisher, if the copyright has been assigned to them) would hold the
copyright to the text.

The books on copyright for non-lawyers available in US public libraries
are orinted towards authors of fiction, songwriters and composers,
and computer programmers. The situation of Indology (or any area of
philology) is very different. Unless there has been case law, which I
am inclinded to doubt due to lack of profit, I am not sure how much
right the editors of texts have. On top of that, international treaty
obligations come into play. Recently, GATT restored some of the
copyrights of foreign authors that were lost according to the 1978 US
law. The books I consulted did not elaborate this beyond saying that
lack of copyright notice in a foreign book published before 198?
does not automatically make it public domain.

With these disclaimer out of the way, it should be remembered that the
owner of copyright holds rights to >all< derived works, including
translations and expressions in other media. Simply typing some text in,
irrespective of the thought that went into devising the tranliteration,
would not qualify as adequate for copyrighting. The effort, time and
cost do not by themselves confer any legal right, as the US Supreme Court
held in denying copyright to phone listings. [An interesting question
is the right to make translations of critical editions. I asked a
Classicist; he did not know the answer either.]

Another point is one I raised several months ago and but then
dropped because I did not want to hurt people's feelings. But I am
deeply troubled by the assertions being made in this list concerning
the rights of scribes vis-a-vis the rights of the editors of the
print versions.

Copyright of a critical edition belongs to the person(s) preparing the
edition. I am very doubtful of the claim that just by typing in such
a text, a new form with independent copyright has been made. In case of
editions made in India (in case of Jaimaniiya Braahmana, for example),
the legal situation may be complicated by the date when India became
a party to the UCC or other international treaties. But it is ethically
wrong to take advantage of that to try an copyright e-texts of such
editions. While I consider selling e-texts prepared by others to be theft,
I also consider copyrighting e-texts of editions prepared by others to be
equally immoral (worse, if it is being done by scholars who should know
better). To claim copyright on the e-text of JB, without permission to
prepare and distribute it from the legal owner of the copyright of the
print edition (if it is still in copyright) is theft as much as
selling the file without permission from the typist. On the other
hand, once a text passes into public domain, simply expressing it a
new medium cannot make it copyrightable, except for new >creative<
work that goes into it: You can copyright a new tune to a song in
public domain, but you cannot copyright the songs in an
electronic version of `Mother Goose Rhymes', simply because you
took the trouble to type them in. [You can copyright the compilation
qua compilation, but not the individual songs.]

Think about how you, and especially your publisher, would react if
someone in India typed in the text of a critical edition you have
prepared and claimed copyright on it. With all the pother about
the racism behind the term `Indo-Germanic', why is it hard to
recognize the same in this matter?

Based on the above principle, it would seem that the problem raised by
Allen Thrasher should not matter most of the time. Copyright emanates
from the author, not from scribes. The owner of a manuscript possesses
only those rights the author would possess, if he/she is/were alive.
So the people to be affected would be only those interested in
modern litterature (and commentaries, if they are of interest).


Nath Rao (nathrao+ at		614-366-9341

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list