The Case of Who Gets Periyar


Periyar, a great visionary and social justice leader never believed in copywriting his work and in fact had them printed on cheap paper so they could be distributed free. His manuscripts were held by Periyar Self Respect Propaganda Institution (PSRP). After his demise, the PSRP filed a copyright infringement suit to restrain Periyar Dravida Kazhagam (PDK) from publishing his works.

PSRP: Only we own Periyar's works.
PDK: But Periyar believed in free thought!
Court: Case dismissed! In this fratricidal dispute, Periyar’s ideas should not be submerged in court dockets. It is the hope of this court that reason will prevail. Our motto should be ‘Let hundred flowers bloom and thousand thoughts contend.’


Does the author have a right to relinquish copyright? The Indian Copyright law allows the author to relinquish her work – either partially or totally.

What should an author do to give up copyright? Notice should be given to the Registrar of Copyrights in a particular form. This will ensure that the work will be freely available.

Spotlight on Theatre:

The entire oeuvre of an artist maybe inadvertently lost by falling into the wrong hands, or worse still being stored in an attic! When there is no will, simple possession may be enough to enjoy copyright.

Best Practices or Quick, Tell Me How to Avoid Conflict!

If you wish your work to be available to all, you can choose to make it free work, by relinquishing some or all rights. Make it clear that you want your work to be available to all, even after your lifetime. You could also publish under various options, like non copyright, copyleft or creative commons, where you can tailor licenses according to your needs. If your work is a derivative of freely available work or copyleft work, you could make your work available on similar terms.


Madras High Court -The Periyar Self Respect Propaganda Institution Vs. Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam and K.Ramakrishnan. To read the full text of the above judgement follow the link.

Also read Section 21 of the Copyright Act, 1957