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Mahatma Gandhi's works to go public 60 years after his death

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters Life!) - The thought-provoking literary works of Mahatma Gandhi, India’s iconic freedom fighter, are set to go public after the copyright on his writings and speeches lapses this month.

Prisoners from the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CCDRC) are seen holding a picture of Mahatma Gandhi as they dance to Bonnie Tyler's "I Need a Hero" at the prison in Cebu City, south of Manila, in this April 26, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside/Files

Anyone will now be able to publish the writings and speeches of the legendary leader, often referred to as the Father of the Nation, since the copyright on these works expires 60 years after his death.

Gandhi, who pioneered the philosophy of non-violent resistance to the British occupation of India, was assassinated on January 30, 1948 in New Delhi by a Hindu radical.

Gandhi had given his works to the Gujarat-based Navajivan Trust which he founded, but according to the Copyright Act of 1957, works of a person go into the public domain 60 years after their death.

Trust authorities said they did not want to ask the government for an extension of the copyright, based on the leader’s philosophies.

“If you consider the spirit of Gandhian thought, one should not ask for such extension. And we have considered this issue and we are not going to ask for such extension,” Jitendra Desai, managing trustee of the Navajivan Trust, told Reuters Television.

Since its inception, the Navajivan Trust has published some 300 volumes of Gandhi’s works including articles, letters and speeches, as well as translations of his autobiography.

And although Gandhi entrusted the copyright of his works with the Navajivan Trust, he never subscribed to the idea.

“Gandhi never supported the idea of copyright. But due to some instances, where his thoughts were misinterpreted, he was forced to give into the insistence of his well-wishers urging him to get his works copyrighted,” said trustee Amrut Modi.

Gandhi scholars, however, want the copyright to be revived by the government, as they fear free use of his works would lead to misinterpretation of his texts by other publishers.

“Once the copyright ends, prices of the works are sure to shoot up. The task of taking Gandhi’s thoughts to the people might also be affected. The government should immediately do something about it and entrust the copyrights back to Navajivan Trust,” said Dhimant Badiya, a Gandhi scholar in Ahmedabad.

The Navajivan Trust will however continue to publish Gandhi’s works at subsidised prices, even after the copyright lapsed.