Amitabh Bachchan raged at the copyright laws in India, particularly in the context of his rights over father and poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s writings. In a blog post, the actor expressed incredulity that he had the sole right to his father’s work only for 60 years after the literary figure’s death, after which it would belong to the public domain and could be used without permission. The Copyright Act, 1957, lays down this criteria for all literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Harivansh Rai Bachchan died in January 2003.
“So who designed 60 years? Why 60 why not 61, or why not perpetuity?” the actor wrote. He added: “...So what gets left as natural heir by Father Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan, after his passing passed 60 years, belongs no longer to his domain or possessive copyright as willed .. but becomes for the entire Universe to tread, scratch, mutilate, use in commercial consideration on their own creative discretion .. ??? RUBBISH .. ! I OPPOSE, DISAGREE, LAMENT, DISPUTE, BE IN VARIANCE OF, IN VEHEMENT LOUD SCREAMS OF VOICE .. EVER [sic].”
Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan was a renowned poet and Hindi writer. His most famous work was Madhushaala (1935). A recipient of the Sahitya Akademi award and the Padma Bhushan, Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s contributions also include Hindi translations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Othello. In his blog, Amitabh Bachchan has argued that he has inherited his father’s work and that he will never allow its “dilution”.
“My inheritance be mine, not another’s after the passing of its stipulated time in years... I am genetically my Father’s son ... He be willed to me of all that be in asset of his... His writings be his ... His heir be me ... His writings be mine … MINE! I shall not and will not allow its dilution to general public...” he said. “I bring my inherited aesthetics to its creativity… It may be the worst ever... But it is my copyright... Another after the passage of the time recorded will use and design and perform and monetise and make diversions to it at will... BECAUSE... It now belongs to the public ..???? NEVER NEVER NEVER .. !!!!”
India is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Work, which stipulates a minimum copyright period of lifetime plus 50 years after an artist’s death. Some countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have extended this to 70 years, while Mexico upholds the copyright for 100 years after an author’s death.
The article originally appeared in scroll.in and is being reprinted under special arrangements.