Saturday, April 21, 2018

On Writer's Rights in India

To commemorate World Book and Copyright Day, I was queried by Divya Kala Bhavani of The Hindu on contemporary copyright issues. Have reproduced our Q and A session below.



1. When you first started authoring/writing, did you have a good understanding of the contemporary copyright issues
This is not going to enhance my non - existent reputation for being a smart cookie, but the truth is as a writer and aspiring author I was so keen nay desperate to get published to ensure that all the effort, sweat, and blood expended didn't get flushed down the toilet, I tended not to look at the big picture. Which of course means that all the legalese went straight over my head. I chose to get lost in the euphoria of realizing the great dream of being a published author and merely skimmed over the particulars of the contract with the publisher, deeming it sufficient that the copyright of the work will remain with the proprietor (me!) and the publishers undertake that the name of said proprietor (aka doofus) shall appear on the title page and on the cover of every copy of the work published. Rather belatedly, I became aware that there are plenty of complicated legal issues to be taken into account when it comes to protecting your own work and making a semi - decent income that is less likely to make you want to kill yourself, while avoiding getting sued to within an inch of your life. 
2. What are some of your observances when it comes to copyright issues for writers in India? The challenges, the successes and turning points?
The objective of the copyright, universally, is to protect the rights of the creator and acknowledge their labor and intellectual contribution. In reality, however, unless you are an A - list author, and thanks to the fact that you have signed a contract giving the publisher the exclusive right to produce, print, publish, translate, market, distribute, and reproduce or license others to do the same, you realize to your horror, that you have in essence pimped out your baby. And for peanuts at that!
The good news is that publishing houses will vet the material for legally objectionable material and the author can derive a measure of solace from the fact that if there are any legal battles to be fought, on paper at least, team work can be counted upon. Moreover, publishers have decent distribution networks and the hope is you get to piggyback off the success of their big shot authors. They will even take a half - hearted stab at marketing your book if you harangue them enough with a daily email blast or go on a hunger strike outside their office. Self - published authors on the other hand have to take on the onus by themselves. The takeaway from all this heartrending drama is that painful experience has forced creative types consumed by the magic of words and caffeine to smarten up, if they don't fancy becoming the stereotype of the struggling, suicidal artiste and take care of themselves as well as their works, because nobody else is going to do it for them. 
3. What has being an author taught you about authors' rights?
Being an author, has taught me that my teachers were right. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, even if in the adult world, the price which you pay is a costly one that comes dangerously close to killing your spirit . The important thing though is to never give up, always stand up for your rights and believe in yourself, even if nobody else does. 
Creative people have a gift and it is tragic that despite being the backbone of glamorous, high paying institutions like film and television, writers don't get their due. Yet, the world needs dreamers, wordsmiths and those who can use the power of words to make the world a better place. Nobody can take this away from us, and if we persevere even as we perfect our craft, there is no limit to what can be achieved by those of us who have sworn allegiance to the mighty pen or MS Word. 

Be sure to check out her awesome article which includes quotes by yours truly right here.

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