Digitalization of State Central Library on hold

Co-authored by Ms. Zoya Nafis, LexOrbis Associate and Ms.Ishtita Sharma, fourth year student of Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

my-university-library-3-1442034Today no one wishes to take pain of going from shelf to shelf in a huge library looking for one single book. Searching for one book in a vast ocean of books without any catalogue is in no way less than standing in a maze and finding your way out. But think about accessing the entire collection of the libraries across the country at the tip of your finger, how easy it would make the lives of anyone who wishes to learn or gain knowledge. This was the dream aspired by the National Knowledge Commission while recommending the digitalization and linking of the libraries across the country to the Prime Minister.

National Knowledge Commission started its ambitious project of digitizing the libraries in 2006, which was further approved into being funded by the Ministry of Culture for some of the prestigious libraries, under its project for National Visual Library, India amounting to worth hundreds of crores.State Central Library, Bengaluru was one of the libraries included under this project, but the work there is grounded for an unspecified period of time pertaining to the Copyright laws in our country.

After covering a large number of books, the work had to be stopped when the authors and concerned publishing houses declined giving permission for digitization of their works referring to it as infringement of their copyright.

The Copyright law of India imparts copyright protection to an author under which no work during the lifetime of an author could be reproduced without his permission and this protection continues till 60 years after the death of the author. Copyright law though safeguards the rights of the creator, in this case the lawturned out to be a setback for the project which would have proved to be of greathelp for the general public.

Undoubtedly the author invests time in creating something and hence granted rights over such creation. However we must not neglect the important objective of intellectual property rights which advocates that the IP must be protected so to encourage the creator and also public to create more. In the instant case it is the rare collection of books, literature and manuscripts which is in question. It must be in the public domain so that the younger generation can inspire from these and be encouraged to create more such works, but sadly the copyright law prevents it.

In order to cope with issues like these,certain flexibility should be provided to the copyright laws in cases of libraries, as adopted in the International copyright regimes. The policy of “fair use” adopted under the US Copyright Law proves to be an apt remedy in situations like these as it allows for the copying of the copyrighted material for the educational and non- profit purposes. This would impart progressive approach to the copyright law as well as foster creativity.

After all this huge hustle over the copyrights of the authors the project is almost grounded, though today it is only about the State Central Library, Bengaluru but in the coming days other libraries can also join the league.