Centre for Internet & Society

Contents will now be available in Wikisource for use by everyone.

The article was published in Bangalore Mirror on September 29, 2014.

Kannada book lovers will now be able to legally download more than 100 books that have been released by the state government under the Creative Commons licence. The treasure trove, which includes a good mix of classics and rhythmic writings, have been digitised by the Department of Kannada and Culture and some of them put up on Wikisource, the website from where details for Wikipedia pages are sourced.

The licence entitles anyone "to use the work in a commercial product or otherwise, and to modify it according to their needs." The licence is not limited to use in Wikipedia.

The initiative, which aims to enrich Kannada language and culture, is the brainchild of UB Pavanaja, a Bangalore-based writer. Pavanaja, along with some other Wikipedia contributors, approached the department to digitise and re-release Kannada classics. The department then decided to give CC licence to 105 books last month. With this licence, the source copy (soft copy) of the books will be made available.

The books released by the department include 35 volumes of the Samagra Dasa Sahitya (complete Dasa literature), 15 volumes of Samagra Vachana Samputa (complete Vachana literature), 36 volumes of Rigveda Samhita, Kumaravyasa Bharata, Jaimini Bharata, Nalacharitre and Mohana Tarangini. Soon, all these will be available for anyone who wants to read them online.

"According to India's copyright laws, any book will be out of copyright after 60 years. So technically, classics are out of copyright but this applies to the text only. But when someone publishes even a classic, they hold the copyright to the information they have keyed in and edited," said Pavanaja who is also a member of the advisory committee to the state government of Kannada software development. "What the department has given is rights to re-published versions of the classics and also the commentary, criticism, essays on these classics they have published. Any information that is out of copyright is uploaded to wikisource.org. They have given us soft copies of some of the books. The rest of the books for which CC licence is provided will have to be typed again and uploaded to Wikisource."

Pavanaja, who is also a popular contributor of Kannada information on Wikipedia, feels the 'free and open' knowledge movement in Kannada and especially Wikipedia is hampered by lack of contributors.

"Malayalam Wikipedia has nearly 1,000 editors. Kannada also has 600 registered editors, but only about 22 are active. So while the number of Wikipedia articles in other languages are increasing in leaps and bounds, there are only about 18,000 Kannada articles. This is a very small number considering there are around 18 lakh hits for Kannada every day."

Director of the Department Kannada and Culture KA Dayanand told Bangalore Mirror that they are currently only uploading books to which the department holds the copyright.

"I have also written to the writers who hold copyrights of books published by us. If they give permission, more books will be released. If more Kannada books are available online, it can only boost Kannada on the Internet."

In another related development, Mysore University has released six of the 14 volumes of its encyclopedia. Four of these will be available for anyone to read online, modify and use it. The Hampi Kannada University has a huge 29-volume encyclopedia. Sources say the university is in the initial stage making this available on Creative Commons.