India Public Domain 2015: 13 Indian authors whose works entered public domain in 2015

Cross Posted on InstaScribe Blog

In keeping with our our tradition  (2012,2013, 2014), we have compiled a list of Indian authors whose work has entered public domain at the beginning of this year. The criteria for a particular work to enter public domain this year is for the author to have died in calendar year 1954 and the work to have been published before his death. If the work has been published after the author’s death, it will only come out of copyright after 60 years from date of publication.

We collected the data from various sources including Wikipedia, books on the history of Indian literature (brought out by the Sahitya Academy) and other online sources. While the sources for individual photos and pieces of information have not been attributed, we would like to acknowledge all these sources here. Many of the sources are linked below.

There are bound to be mistakes in this data. So please point out anything you notice. If you know of more Indian authors who died in 1954 and hence have entered public domain this year, do let us know and we will add it to the list with your reference.

Why should you as a writer or someone who loves books care? An author entering public domain means that most of his works are now free to be republished, translated, and converted to different formats and introduced to a new audience in any way you can imagine. It is possible to digitize these works and conserve them forever. So dig into the list and find some gems. And when you find one, let the whole world know.

Cornelia Sorabji(1864-1954)



She was India’s first woman lawyer. Born to a Christian, Parsi family in Nasik in 1866, Cornelia Sorabji had an illustrious career that spanned nearly sixty years. Sorabji’s writing reflects colonial India and her life as a woman and as a lawyer. Her stories like those in Love and Life behind Purdah (1902)  deal with the lives of women in the zenana and draw on the need for engagement and social reform. She was an active advocate of children and women as is evident in her books Sun-Babies: Studies in the child life of India and Between the Twilights : Being studies of India women by one of themselves (1908).

V.V. Srinivasa Aiyangar (b.1871-1954) This doyen of the Madras Bar used his expertise in writing the farcical to create a book called Dramatic Divertissements(2 volumes were published by 1921). This work is a series of playlets that exposes the weaknesses of the urban South Indian middle class: Blessed in a wife, The Point of View, The Surgeon General’s Presumption, Vichu’s Wife.

Lalcand Amard’inomal Jagatiani (1885-1954) At the age of 26, this versatile Sindhi author was the first Hindu to write a biography of Hazrat Muhammad entitled Muhammad Rasul Allah (1911), a work which won critical acclaim. Along with Bherumal Mahrichand and Jethmal Parsrum, he was a formidable doyen of Sindhi literature. He taught for a while at the Sind Madrasatul Islam where he studied Islam. His knowledge had no barriers- he was adept at the Vedas, Upanishad, Islamic philosphy, Theosophical Society literature, the Sindhi Sufi mystic thought (his work Sunharo Sacal published in 1916 deals with the work of Sacal Sharmast, a Sindhi Sufi poet) besides the poetic works of Tagore and the philosophies of Marx and Lenin as well as Gandhian ideals. He wrote sixty books including novels, essays, short stories and plays. His fiction Coth Jo Candu (1909) is well-known.

Kota Venkatachalam (1885-1954): A Telugu scholar, he is most known for his work Brahmanda Srsti Vijnanam(1949), an analysis of the Sanskrit puranas in nationalistic terms.
kota venkatachalam 1


Garuda Sadashiva Rao (1874-1954): He was a popular Kannada playwright.  This actor and supporter of the freedom movement wrote a new chapter in the history of professional theatre in India. He founded Sivasuta Prasadika Nataka Mandali (1907) and Dauatreya Nataka Mandali (1916). Garuda Sadashiva Rao has a famous story associated with him – he wrote a play about Jesus Christ and discussed it with his veteran friends- Karanth and Padukone Ramanand Rao. Although they were unable to stage it initially on religious grounds, it was a Christian scholar from Dharwad called Uttangi Channappa who supported the play, which later on went to become a success. The veteran dramatist also wrote many other plays including Sri Rama Paduka Pattabhisheka (1929) and Yaccama Nayaka (1949).

Rayasam Venkata Sivudu (1874?- 1954?): He was a writer and social reformer. He was most well known for his Telugu short stories titled under Cithrakta manjari.He wrote novels and biographies, and was the editor of Zanana Patrika, a magazine for women.

Lala Dhani Ram Chatrik (1876-1954): Known as the founder of Punjabi poetry.this much revered poet was the first to standardize the typeset for Gurumukhi script. He is famous for the use of traditional Punjabi poetic genre Kissa- famous works include Kaser Kiari(1940) and  Navam Jahan(1945). His work rings of realism and imagery straight out of the Punjabi countryside.



Nalappatu Narayana Menon(1887-1954)- He was a noted Malayalam poet and translator, famous for his  elegy to his wife titled Kunnunirthulli(1924). It was so popular a poem that many fans were disheartened when he did marry a second time fifteen years after the death of his first wife. Nalapat was a formidable writer alongside his companion Vallathol.

His best known work includes Paavangal, a translation of Victor Hugo‘s Les Misérables.It has been said that Mahatma Gandhi advised this stalwart to rewrite Les Miserables as a transliteration, supplanting the characters and the plot in the Kerala milieu.  Yet, it was not to be and Nalapat created a translation that triggered off a social revolution in the the Southern state of Kerala.



Ramanlal Vasantlal Desai (1892-1954): He was a very popular Gujarati writer in the 1930s and his writing primarily dealt with middle class life in Gujarat. He was influenced by Gandhian ideals and communism. His well-known novels are Divyacaksu(1932), Purnima(1932),Bharelo Agni(1935), Gramalakshmi in four volumes( astory of rural resurgence), Apsara(1933-1949)and Gai Kal(1950) ( a part of his autobiographical writing). Desai’s plays such as Samyukta (1915) were successful.

Teja Singh (1894-1954). A major Punjabi prose writer and educator, he introduced the litewrary essay in Punjabi on western models. Navian Socan(1949) and Sabiacar(1952) are his collections of essays. His autobiography Arsi is considered his best work and his Anglo-Punjabi dictionary is still considered useful.



Jibananda Das(1899-1954): Considered to be the most significant poet of the subcontinent after Tagore, Jibananda Das was often called the loneliest poet. He was a recluse and true to his introvert behavior, his poetry resonated with pain, seriousness and an interesting mix of the self-absorption leading to the knowledge of experience. He taught in various colleges in Kolkata. His poetic career began with Jhara Palak (Fallen feathers) in 1928. In his subsequent volumes of poetry, he cast off tradition and delved into complex metaphors and striking language that the more contemporary audience enjoyed.

Besides poetry, Jibananda Das has written essays, short stories and novels as well. Although he initially started his career with descriptions of the rural world, the later part of his short life was spent in analysing depression and loneliness, and the complexities of relationships.


Some of his works include  Dharsar Pandulip(The Faded Manuscript-1936), Mahaprathibi(The Great Earth-1944), Satti Tarar Timir(The darkness of the seven stars-1948), Banalata Sen(1952) and Satti Tarar Timir(1954).

Prabhat Chandra Adhikari (1900-1954) An Assamese poet famous for his collection called Dohavali.

Harinder Singh Rup (1907-1954). A major Punjabi poet, he wrote in neo-classical style.  His Vars or collections were traditional poems imbued with a modern world view. His famed works include Nave Pandh (1945), Dunghe Vahin (1947) Punjab dian varam(1942) and Manukh di var(1952).

Copyright O’ Copyright! (Part II)

You may want to read the first part on this topic before reading this one: Copyright O’ Copyright (Part I)

In the previous post, we have seen what copyright and copyright law mean to an author. Now let us look at some of the common queries people have in mind.

Should I register a copyright?

As mentioned in the previous post

  • Copyright registration is optional. Copyright comes into existence as soon as the work is penned down. Whether or not copyright has been registered, the protection under copyright law in available.
  • Registration is a prima facie evidence in case of a dispute, but it does not guarantee that the dispute will always be in your favour.

Give the above, there isn’t a strong case for registering copyright. However, if you have either the time for paperwork or the money for an Intellectual Property (IP) lawyer to do the work on your behalf and you absolutely want to do everything in your power to protect your copyright, you can go for registration. If you are doing in yourself, the details are available on Copyright Office’s website. Otherwise you may want to contact a local IP lawyer. Typically you may have to spend upwards of Rs. 10,000 for a lawyer’s services.

Is it necessary to register a copyright before publishing a book?

No. The copyright protection comes into affect as soon as you have penned down the work. Hence, it is not necessary to register a copyright.

Is it necessary to register a copyright before publishing a book on


But wouldn’t it be a proof that the book is indeed mine?

Not really. Copyright office does not go around scouting for whether the work has been written/published by anyone else originally. They only give around 30 days for someone to raise objection and then go ahead with registration process. That is hardly a guarantee that only original work passes the process. In fact, it is probably for the same reason that in a court case, a copyright registration is not a conclusive proof and other proofs can actually take the decision of the court against the registration.

Would the name of my book be protected under copyright?

No, title, sub-title, short phrases would not generally be covered under copyright.

If there is a book already published under a name and I give the same name to my book, would I be violating somebody’s copyright?

In general, the name of the book is not protected by copyright and if you browse through a book store, you will see several books with the same name, especially non-fiction ones. So, just because a book with the same name has been published earlier, does not mean that your book can’t have the name.

But you should keep in mind that the name could be trademarked (especially famous ones) and if that is the case, it should not be used without proper permissions.

Also, you should avoid using the names of famous books. Because it not only about copyrights or trademarks all the time. Other laws also have to be taken in to account. If you use a very famous name or refer to a very famous name somehow, the originator of that name may sue you for trying to mislead people. Copyright may or may not have been violated, but consumer protection laws may come in to play!

So, the safe thing to do is not to bother too much about the name being used earlier, but definitely stand clear off the famous ones.

Somebody told me I should not use content from Internet. It will be a violation of copyright. Why? Aren’t they in public domain?

No. Public availability of content does not mean it is in public domain. Unless some content is clearly declared to be in public domain, you should assume that you can not use it without permission. A lot of content is available on the Internet, where the copyright and licensing information may not be available. In such cases, make it a point to get proper permission from the content owner to reproduce the content or use it in other ways. If you can’t get the permission, do not use it.

I have used images from the Internet in my book. Is that a problem?

Most likely it IS a problem. Like with written content, just because images are available publicly, it does not mean that they can be used freely by anyone. You must check the licensing information or get explicit permission from the owner before using images from Internet.

I have an ISBN for my book? Does it mean my copyright is protected?

This is a surprisingly common confusion people have. So, to clarify, ISBN has nothing to do with copyright. ISBN is only a cataloging system for books and it makes no statement whatsoever about copyright. Your literary work is protected by copyright laws irrespective of whether or not your book has an ISBN. If you want to register a copyright, you can do so, but getting an ISBN is not equivalent to registering a copyright.

Where do I read more about the copyright and related laws in India?

Copyright office has a fairly comprehensive website. While reading through the laws and rules might be infeasible for normal mortals (read non-lawyers), the handbook of copyright law explains things in a language that can be followed even by the novices.

Copyright O’ Copyright! (Part I)

I consider myself fairly good with spotting patterns and categorizing things. But the number of angles from which people can get confused about the copyrights confounds me. In general, it is not possible to give a quick, short, satisfying answer to copyright related queries. Because this is after all a legal issue and “if”s and “but”s are endless before you can make any statement.

So, if you have a query about copyright, I request you to read this blog post (and others to come on this) first, even if it is slightly longish and even if it does not come to the point you have in mind immediately. Because most likely, your point has to come through several “if”s and “but”s!

Since we are touching on a legal topic – a big and important disclaimer. This article is not written by a qualified legal expert. This is just our understanding of the copyright issues and should not be taken as a legal advice. If copyright questions are really worrying you, you should consult an Intellectual Property lawyer. Also, all the circumstances, examples, cases used in the article are completely hypothetical – and work of imagination. They may or may not stand a proper legal scrutiny. They are mentioned just to illustrate the idea and are not supposed to be actual legal cases.

So now, on to the real stuff.

A big nuance of law in general

Before we start on the copyright relates issues, there is something about law in general that we need to understand. There are always two aspects of law. One aspect talks about what should happen. The other governs, how do you go about enforcing that law. For simplicity let’s call them the theoretical and practical aspects of the law.And “theoretical” and “practical” should not be taken in the sense that “theoretical” is just that – the theory and “practical” is the main thing. No! Its just a nomenclature and does not carry any such loaded meaning.

  • Theoretical aspect will talk about what should happen. If X has murdered Y under ABC circumstances, then X should be punished with a life imprisonment. That’s what the theoretical law says.
  • Practical aspect is concerned with ascertaining what actually happened and which part of theoretical law is applicable. Did Y get murdered or did Y commit suicide? If it was indeed a murder, was it X who did it. If so, was X provoked in any way or did X do it for self defense and so on… How will these things be ascertained? Based on evidences. So, the law will say that a postmortem report from a government hospital can be an evidence to ascertain what was the cause of death and whether it is more likely to be a murder or a suicide. The law can say that the weapon of death being found in X’s house is not an evidence enough for claiming that X is the murderer and so on.

So, given the practical aspects of the law, whether or not the theoretical aspect gets observed in the end can never be predicted in advance. If in reality X was murdered under ABC circumstances, then he should have gotten life imprisonment. But with all the evidences and other nittigritties related to ascertaining the situation, it is a possibility that X gets away free because the circumstances could not be ascertained definitely. There is also a chance that X was not really guilty, but evidences got framed up in a way that he was punished.

Depressing as it may sound, it is a reality. The law is after all a human system and can not be fool-proof. (However, to practically compensate for that, most modern laws – specially criminal laws – follow the principle of letting the accused go if there is even the slightest doubt about the crime. Let go of a thousand guilty people to save even one innocent person).

The outcome of civil and business related legal conflicts are usually less fatal to individuals (we are normally not talking about murders and violence here). But the theoretical and practical aspects of the law are still there. So, the theoretical law may say that if company X has violated the patent of company Y, then they should compensate for the losses incurred and immediately pull their product out from the market. But the practical law has to go through the exercise of ascertaining a bunch of things here. Did Y have that patent? Has the patent really been violated? If so, how do we calculate the losses incurred (different parties would definitely have different calculations!)? What would pulling the product out mean? Can company X provide support to their existing customers and charge for it? Or would the customer also have to suffer? And so on…

Apart from unpredictability caused by the practical aspect of the law, there might be issues in the theoretical aspect of the law too. There may be laws that contradict with each other (legal systems are vast, complicated human systems, after all). Law may be vague about certain definitions. Certain concepts may just elude strict definitions and law has to depend on its interpreter to take a call on those. So, unpredictability reins all through!

The same nuance for copyright law

Similar situation exists for the copyright law as well. Law says certain things about what is copyright, in what circumstances is it violated, what is the punishment for violating the copyright and so on.

But if there is a practical conflict, the outcome can not predicted because the process of ascertaining the claims is not predictable. Just like in the murder case example taken earlier, someone might actually have violated the copyright and may still get away with it because the court could not ascertain whether or not the copyright belonged to the other person in the first place!

We should look at the remaining discussion, keeping the above in mind.

But let’s not be overly pessimistic. While the outcome is not quite predictable in case of an actual conflict, it does not mean that totally arbitrary things can happen to us. If we understand the important aspects of the law correctly, and follow some good practices, we should be fairly safe on copyright grounds.

The theoretical part of the copyright law

  • Copyright in actually a bundle of rights given to the creator of creative work – normally the works of literature, art, drama, music etc. The bundle of rights include things like right of reproduction, right of adaptation, right of translation etc. Given’s business, we will restrict our discussions to the copyright of literary works (computer code is also treated as literary work for the purpose of copyright, but we’d not include that in our discussions).
  • The copyright law grants certain protection to the owner of copyright. Typically for literary work, it means that all the rights from the bundle can not be exercised by anyone other than the copyright owner, unless there is an explicit permission or a right transfer has happened.
  • There is a provision for registering the copyright. However, it is not necessary to register the copyright to claim protection under it. Copyright and protection under copyright law comes into existence as soon as the work is penned down. Registration is optional. Registration serves as prima facie evidence, if there is a dispute in court. This means that it can be basis to file the case, but it does not mean conclusively that the case will be decided in favour of the person having registration. The other party can present other proofs, which can put the case in their favour.
  • In Indian copyright law, the copyright protection for literary work is available for up to 60-year period counted from the year following the death of the author. If the publication is done anonymously or with a pseudonym, the protection is available for 60 years from the date of publication.
  • Copyright mostly works like any other property you own. You can assign a copyright to someone else in a lifetime, you can assign it to someone starting from a future date (like after your death). If there is no explicit assignment, then like any other property, the copyright passes on to your legal heir after your death.
  • You can assign individual rights from the bundle of rights copyright law protects to other people/organizations while keeping the remaining with you. So for an English work of yours, you can give Spanish translation rights to one company, Hindi translation rights to a relative of yours and movie adaptation rights to a bollywood producer. The remaining rights will still remain with you. None of these assignments will entitle them to print and sell the copies of your original work.

Practical Parts to remember

  • Recall the theoretical and practical aspects of the law and apply it here. The law grants the protection, but that does not mean that someone who wants to, will not be able to violate your copyright. They may violate it and you have to keep track of them and take the legal recourse, if they don’t agree to stop the violation. Once the case starts, you will have to go through the process of proving that the copyright was yours and it was violated. You will have to produce evidence to this effect and so on. The outcome is not completely predictable.
  • The law does not say that any government body will actively monitor copyright violation irrespective of whether or not you have registered the copyright. That is something you will have to do on your own. There is no copyright police anywhere to actively monitor and stop illegal copyright violations!

In the next blog post on copyrights, we’d get into some of the practical things a self publishing author should look for while dealing with copyright issues.