As 2008 gives way to the New Year, it will take away an era with it. All copyright on the works of Mahatma Gandhi will end on January 1, 2009.
According to Section 22 of the Copyright Act, 1957, works of a person go into the public domain 60 calendar years after his or her death.
It means any publisher can publish the Mahatma’s works — running into run into over two lakh pages — without seeking permission of or paying royalty to the Navajivan Trust, the sole custodian of Gandhiji’s writings and speeches.
Keeping with the Mahatma’s spirit, the Gandhian community is not perturbed over the possibility. “Gandhiji himself never wanted copyright law, but later accepted it following some misrepresentations of his writings,” recalled Amrut Modi, Managing Trustee of the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust.
Since its inception in 1919, the Navajivan Trust has published over 300 volumes of compilations of his articles, letters and speeches apart from translations of his autobiography. Unfazed by the likelihood of publishers picking up Gandhiji’s works for a profit, Managing Trustee Jitendra Desai reasons: “Even in profiteering, they would propagate Gandhian thought”
The Trust would continue to sell Gandhian works at subsidised prices, he said.
Desai said the Trust would “place before readers Bapu’s views on various issues as and when it arises.”
For example, he said, when deliberations on global warming hot up, the trust would dig out the Mahatma’s writings on human settlement and its linkages with environment to publish an anthology on the subject. So, the Mahatma would remain relevant forever, even if the copyright has gone.