Facilitating Access to Indian Cultural Heritage: Copyright, Permission Rights and Ownership Issues vis-à-vis IGNCA Collections

Facilitating Access to Indian Cultural Heritage: Copyright, Permission Rights and Ownership Issues vis-à-vis IGNCA Collections

Ramesh C Gaur (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2136-7.ch038
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It is estimated that India possesses more than five million manuscripts on varied subjects lying scattered or fragmented in India and foreign collections. This invaluable and unique pool of knowledge is under threat. Recognizing the need to encompass and preserve this knowledge resource and to make these accessible to scholars and researchers, Kala Nidhi Division of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) initiated a microfilming of manuscripts programme of private and public institutions in 1989. IGNCA has, so far, microfilmed over 250000 manuscripts in 20,600 microfilm rolls, out of that 14,400 rolls have been digitized. National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) established in February 2003 seeks to unearth and preserve the vast manuscript wealth of India. The digitization of over 25000 manuscripts under NMM, IGNCA and also under project mode by Cultural Informatics Laboratory (CIL), IGNCA makes largest repository of copies of manuscripts at IGNCA. Besides, IGNCA is also having a unique collection of 2500 rare books, about 1,0,5000 slides, 2000 paintings, 3000 photographs, more than 3000 hours of video recordings, art objects, 10 personal collections of eminent scholars such as Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, Prof. Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan and Prof. Maheswar Neog, photo documentation work on Rock Art, and various museums in India etc. Many of these collections such as rare books, photographs etc are well covered and some are not covered under copyright laws. However, there are issues such as ownership rights, permission rights and access rights etc, which do not allow open access to these collections. As per the existing arrangements, consultation to all collections at IGNCA is allowed to all, 25% copies of the material are also allowed on cost basis. However, to get a copy of the material, user need to approach the concerned library (from where the copies have been obtained) to seek permission. This chapter attempts to describe factors considered as hindrance to providing access to Indian cultural heritage material. Lack of proper policy guidelines especially on copyright issues and intellectual property rights concerning both cultural heritage materials in original as well as in digital form are an obstacle. Open access initiatives worldwide are advocating access to even current information. Cultural heritage belongs to the humanity worldwide, therefore, access should be given to all. These issues, which may not be solved at individual level or institutional level, require debate, deliberations and formulation of policy framework at the highest level.
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Indian Cultural Heritage

The glorious past of Indian culture lies in ancient manuscripts. These are the basic historical evidence and have great research value, which led to recognize its need and importance internationally. It is estimated that India possesses more than five million manuscripts, making her the largest repository of manuscript wealth in the world. They are written on different kinds of material like birch bark, palm leaf, cloth and paper. These manuscripts are in the custody of different institutions like libraries, museum, mutts and individuals.

An estimate of heritage wealth of India is shown in Table 1.

Table 1.
Heritage wealth of India
Total number of manuscripts in India5,000,0000
Indian manuscripts available in European countries60,000
Indian manuscripts in South Asia and Asian countries1,50,000
Number of manuscripts recorded in catalogue1,000,0000(approx.)
Percentage of manuscripts recorded in catalogue67%
Other Indian languages25%


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