Tagore rights lost

January 11, 2002

Viswabharati University founded by India's pre-eminent poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, in Shantiniketan near Calcutta, has lost its copyright over his works after clinging on to them for 60 years.

Last month, the education ministry rejected the university's request to retain the copyright for another ten years. It said an extension would be in breach of the Berne Convention that allows copyright protection for only 50 years. The university was granted an extension in 1991.

"If Shakespeare, Tolstoy and (the Sanskrit scholar) Kalidas are treated in a certain way, we cannot make an exception for Tagore," said education secretary Maharaj Krishen Kaw. He said that no institution could claim perpetual copyright protection.

The university, backed by several prominent Bengali academics, had argued that to "maintain standards and conserve the legacy of Tagore" it was important that it continued to exercise control over its translation and publication rights.

Critics accused the university of "getting fat" on the royalties.

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