indological digital library

Bindu Bhatt bb145 at COLUMBIA.EDU
Thu Apr 5 15:03:03 UTC 2007

Copyright acts in India is available at:
Bindu Bhatt
Columbia University

--On Thursday, April 05, 2007 10:52 AM -0400 David Magier 
<magier at> wrote:

> Colleagues,
> I wouldn't want to ignite a controversy, but I do disagree with the
> thrust of Mr. Ferreira-Jardim's note below. The argument seems to be that
> while republishing copyrighted books on the web may be illegal, it is ok
> because:
> a) the books are several decades old
> b) the books are "now completely inaccessible" otherwise
> c) it might be hard for a legal copyright owner of the works to obtain a
> legal remedy for breach of copyright
>      1. because Indian law in such cases might not be clear (?)
>      2. because the some of the works are being published online by the
> government of India
> d) making "rare, out-of-print materials", "precious MSS" and critical
> source works available freely on the web is a good thing to do
> As a scholar and a librarian, I cannot disagree with the *desire* for
> broadest possible access to important and hard-to-get research materials.
> But I do have to disagree with this attempt to sweep the legal realities
> under the rug. To take the points above in order:
> a) The books are old, but age itself does not determine copyright status.
> I am not a lawyer, but I believe there are explicit copyright laws in
> India, and any given work published in India (or anywhere else) either IS
> subject to copyright or IS NOT.
> b) Most of these books are not inaccessible. It may be difficult to
> purchase private copies for one's own bookshelf, but these books do
> reside in (many) libraries around the world, where they are well
> preserved and are available for local consultation or interlibrary loan.
> But even if there were no copies around where one would want them, that
> still would not affect the legality of republishing them without
> permission of the copyright holder.
> c) Enforcement of a law (or lack of it) is a separate matter from the law
> itself. If violating someone's copyright protections is illegal, that
> fact that he or she may not easily be able to do anything about it
> doesn't change the situation: it was a violation of law. (Also, looking
> at the headlines each day, I would hate to base any judgments about the
> merit of doing something upon whether or not it is possible to prosecute
> the government for doing it!)
> d) We should not confuse "precious MSS" with modern copyrighted published
> works. The owner of any ancient manuscript certainly has the right to
> republish that work (in print or online) without having to secure
> permission from the author(!) or anyone else. Similarly, a published work
> that has passed out of copyright and into the public domain can be
> republished. But a copyrighted published book that is, say, 40 years old,
> and is still under copyright, BELONGS to its copyright owner, and, as far
> as law is concerned, cannot be republished without permission of that
> owner. (I am certain that I am oversimplifying legal complexities here,
> but you all understand the basic point I am making).
> I don't deny that the "source works" in question may be precious to
> scholars, many of whom may indeed have a hard time getting their hands on
> copies of many of them. And obviously the scholarly uses to which these
> sources are put are all to the good and have little in common with
> commercial piracy for profit and other examples of intentional abuse of
> intellectual property. But I am not comfortable with a view of copyright
> that says, basically, "Hey, we are good people doing good work and we
> need this stuff, so it is ok for us to ignore the laws that apply". As
> someone whose writings have occasionally been republished online without
> permission or citation, I can tell you that such arguments don't look
> quite so convincing to the injured party, even if he can't take anyone to
> court over it.
> Am I saying that the DLI or other online digital libraries should stop
> the great service they are providing to scholars? No. I am only saying
> that there IS a proper and legal way to go about it, and many libraries
> around the world are developing online materials following such
> responsible approaches. It involves making clear distinctions between
> public domain and in-copyright material. In the case of the latter, one
> should make serious, good-faith efforts to secure permission from the
> copyright holder, and document those efforts. Sometimes the best efforts
> fail to locate a living copyright holder, and many countries (I believe
> India is among them) are now moving towards recognizing a new more open
> legal status for such "orphan works". (See
> <
> ks.cfm>). Sometimes the owners are located, and are more than happy to
> allow their works to have a new life online, especially where there is no
> intention to bring out another print edition. Sometimes the party doing
> the digitization work makes a deal with the owner for non-commercial
> republication online, in exchange for giving the owner digital copies of
> their materials. (See, for example, some of the online texts and
> dictionaries published on the Digital South Asia Library at
> <>). Sometimes, it is even necessary for a
> library to give a token payment to a publisher to secure a perpetual
> General Public License (<>) allowing
> them to put the material online for non-commercial use. And sometimes,
> the owner just says "no", and we have to live with that.
> I know that copyright restrictions are indeed "vexatious" for scholars,
> and that sometimes commercial publishers use these legal regimens to
> seriously exploit academe. But I feel that as scholars we should
> recognize the value of intellectual property as a concept, and put it use
> to our greater benefit. We should neither ignore copyright, nor attempt
> to sweep it under the rug for our convenience, as those approaches tend
> to weaken our cause. We should face it directly, lobby to eliminate or
> modify unfair regulations (e.g. promoting open access approaches to
> scholarly publishing, working towards appropriate fair-use laws,
> recognizing the status of orphan works, etc.), and demonstrate by our
> actions that while commercial ventures can often be exploitive, as
> scholars we try not to be.
> David Magier
> Columbia University
> --On Thursday, April 5, 2007 11:18 PM +1000 Antonio Ferreira-Jardim
> <antonio.jardim at> wrote:
>> Dear colleagues,
>> I am not aware of a digital library of specifically indological pdf-s,
>> however I equally agree that it would be an excellent idea.
>> As far as I can see, most of the scanned texts in the DLI are from
>> books published in India at least 40 years ago. Most of the pdfs of
>> books published in Europe or the USA are more than 60 years old. Many
>> (if not most?) of the total amount of pdfs are of printed works which
>> are now completely inaccessible on both the antiquarian and in-print
>> market. I also note that the DLI pledges to remove a pdf from
>> circulation upon the payment of a fee from the original publisher.
>> Given these circumstances, I am not aware of any case law precedent or
>> legislative requirement in the Indian jurisdiction which would prevent
>> source materials of this nature being made public on the grounds of
>> copyright breach. That said, India may be party to various
>> international agreements relating to intellectual copyright that may
>> preclude certain public access to these texts. However, given that the
>> project seems (unless I am mistaken) to be almost entirely GOI-funded
>> and supported, I would be interested to see what legal remedies in
>> which legal jurisdictions would even be available to a publisher
>> alleging copyright breach!
>> The DLI intends to digitise a vast mass of precious MSS and literature
>> previously unavailable to scholars. I would personally hope that
>> vexatious issues of copyright for rare, out-of-print materials do not
>> hinder this excellent endeavour or other efforts akin thereto.
>> Perhaps a statement of support by scholars is in order?
>> Yours sincerely,
>> Antonio Ferreira-Jardim
>> University of Queensland
>> On 4/5/07, JN <jneuss at> wrote:
>>> Dear list,
>>> on Wed, 04 Apr 2007 10:46:51 +0200 Dominik Wujastyk <ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK>
>>> wrote:
>>> [snip...]
>>> >  I have a growing personal digital library of valuable books as PDF
>>> > files.
>>> [snip...]
>>> is there any platform where scholars could share their pdf-files? I have
>>> an ever growing library of valuable indological source books in
>>> pdf-format too. if there was a platform to share such resources, the
>>> effort of scanning etc. would be reduced and everyone could contribute
>>> his or her pdfs. and everybody else could share the fruit of the
>>> individual effort. i suppose that it is evident to everyone that
>>> computer readable (or rather viewable) versions of works which are
>>> otherwise available only in printed form are desirable as you can have
>>> your library (or at least important portions of it) with you on the
>>> laptop etc., everywhere you go.
>>> but then the question arises: what about copyright laws?
>>> we all know the gretil archive; many of the texts listed there have also
>>> been extracted from printed editions subject to copyrigth laws. i
>>> suppose that pdf-files prepared from printed books make a big
>>> difference in legal terms, don't they?
>>> any chance to overcome this problem, anybody concerned with the question
>>> of a (centralized) indological digital library?
>>> cheers
>>> jn
>>> ________________________________________
>>> Jürgen Neuß, M.A.
>>> Freie Universität Berlin
>>> Institut für die Sprachen und Kulturen Südasiens
>>> Königin-Luise-Str. 34 a
>>> D-14195 Berlin
>>> Germany

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list