The Copyright Controversy about Seshendra’s Books
Commercial advertisements cannot replace facts. This time justice will win in a court of law.
It appears that the copyright of books of the noted poet, Gunturu Seshendra Sarma who passed away in May 2007, has become a subject of controversy.
On December 2, 1989, Sri Seshendra transferred completely, in a will, the copyright of his corpus of entire works to his second and youngest son, Satyaki, in his own handwriting.
When Sri Seshendra was alive, Satyaki reprinted seven books from the collection of his newspaper writings, Enta kalam Ee Endamavulu? (How long are these Mirages?) in June 1995 to Oohalo (In Imagination) in 2001. Within six months after Sri Seshendra passed away, Satayaki re-printed the modern classic, My Country, My People.
The book-launching was organized on November 16. On 19-1-2001 (Monday) there appeared an advertisement given by an advocate in a newspaper. It was stated in the commercial that Sri Seshendra, suspending all his previous wills, delegated the copyrights of his books to Indira Dhanarajgir on 5-1-2006. That way she has subjected the issue of copyrights of Sri Seshendra’s books to controversy. In this background, here is an interview with Satyaki who owned the copyright of Sri Seshendra’s books for 17 years.
Q: What must be the reason for the release of this commercial ad, now?
Satyaki: I was taken aback by this advertisement. She knows well that my father has bequeathed the copyrights of all his books to me in his own handwriting and based on that I re-printed a few of his books. If my father has transferred the copyright to Indira Dhanarajgir on 5-1-2006 as she claims he would have informed me. He was hale and healthy at the age of 62 when he gave the copyright to me. There was no need for him to change the copyrights in his old age which had been given to me when he was sound in his health. This betrays the conspiracy of Indira Dhanrajgir. This is a palace intrigue. That she is resorting to such things when she crossed the age of 82 brings to focus her scruples and moral stature.
Q: Did you discuss the issue of copyrights with legal experts?
Satyaki: I discussed this issue with a few legal experts. They expressed their considered opinion that the paper that she holds is of no value and that it will not stand in a court of law.
I didn’t go further into details as the need did not arise. In contemporary literary scenario there are a few instances where the copyrights of poets and writers belonged to their children. Sri Chalam’s copyright went to his daughter Sourees, that of Sri Sri to his son, Ramana. Maqdoom’s copyrights went to his son, Susrat. On many occasions, the poets did not write a will. But n my case, there is a clear will written by my father and also its implementation during his lifetime.
Q. After Seshendra’s death, his did she become Indira Seshendra?
Satyaki: In the last 30, 40 years, she was not consistent in the use of her name. Around 1961 in Maqdoom Mohiuddn’s poetry anthology at the end of two poems her name appeared as Ms. Indira Dhanaragir. In 1967, in the poetry collection, Pakshulu (Birds) published by my father, she appeared as ‘Indira Devi Dhanarajgir.’ In November 2006, when she published a novel, Kamotsav, originally written by Chandrasekhar Rao but published in my father’s name, she included her name as ‘Rajkumari Indira Dhanarajgir’ as copyright owner. After the death of Seshendra on May 30, when Telugu University and State Culture ministry together organised a meeting in his memory she gave commercial advertisements to the newspapers, Eenadu, and The Hindu. Here she published her name as ‘Indiradevi Seshendra Sarma.’ Again, within a few months, in another commercial advertisement that appeared on 19-11-07 in a daily newspaper, and the one on 26-11-07 she appeared as ‘Rajkumari Indiradevi Dhanarajgir.’ Thus, there is no consistency in the use of her name. It is changed based on the need and context.
Q. Will you give a counter to it?
Satyaki: Indira Dhanarajgir means enormous money power, and it is a well-known fact. I don’t have the financial capacity to compete with her in issuing newspaper advertisements each time. This is also well-known. But as soon as I read the ad on 26-11-07, I sent my response through an advocate by registered post. I also received the receipt for the same. I will continue the publication programme depending on the financial assistance I get. I firmly believe that copyrights are not like movable and immovable properties to be enjoyed, but an onerous responsibility to be carried out. In fact, since the year 2000, whenever contacted on phone, my father would say, “I am waiting for my train to come” or “I am sitting on the platform and waiting for my train.”
Ever since 2002, whenever contacted between 11 and 12, the response we got was ‘He is sleeping.’ Whenever I visited him at about 11 am he used to wake up around 12/12.30, wash himself and then sit on a chair. In half-an-hour he would say that his back is aching and that he needed rest. When he is in such a semi conscious state, what papers he would have signed? Fully aware? It is for the learned people to decide.
‘Visalandhra’ daily (literary supplement)