George Orwell on literature and intellectual honesty

If you find yourself saying tl;dr very often, you should probably stop reading now.

Madhu, being the awesome cousin that she is, sent me Books v. Cigarettes, a while ago. It’s an anthology of assorted George Orwell articles and musings, amongst which is The Prevention Of Literature — a powerful essay about the function of intellectual honesty in society and its impact on literature. Makes for a brilliant read and got me wondering about how this applies today.

I have no idea about the state of Chinese literature, but I can’t help but believe that exactly the sort of intellectual repression that he talks about must be playing a large part in the killing of Indian literature as well. This is, my opinion from extremely limited reading of Indian writing in English, but I hear similar complaints from friends who read Hindi literature too.

The mass media are a laugh riot of dishonesty, and I know of no real reporting counter-culture, underground or otherwise (the closest that I’m aware of is Kafila, but the authors there seem to be foaming-at-the-mouth more often than not … meh).

So what is one to do?

Footnote: Guess what turned up on Kafila today.

Copy — right?

So were chatting about copyrights and I stumbled upon the website of the Government of India's Copyright Office, and some clickety clicking later, came upon The Handbook of Copyright Law. Wanted to chronicle interesting bits for posterity.

  • Fair use: Includes standard stuff like research, private study, criticism/review, reporting current events, judicial proceeding, amateur performance to a non-paying audience and some more ambiguous stuff (“the making of sound recordings of literary, dramatic or musical works under certain conditions”)
  • You own copyright to all photos of yourself (caveat: see fair use): “In the case of a photograph taken, or a painting or portrait drawn, or an engraving or a cinematograph film made, for valuable consideration at the instance of any person, such person shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright therein.” Update: This is only true for photos you have paid for. See Joe Buck’s comment below.
  • Computer programs are about the same as literary works: With the exception that you can “sell or give on hire or offer for sale or hire, regardless of whether such a copy has been sold or given on hire on earlier occasion.”
  • Translations: Are protected by your copyright
  • Registering copyright: By default, you own the copyright to work that you have created. “However, certificate of registration of copyright and the entries made therein serve as prima facie evidence in a court of law with reference to dispute relating to ownership of copyright.”
  • Term of copyright: 60 years after death of the author for most things. 60 years from date of publication cinematograph films, photographs, posthumous publications, anonymous and pseudonymous publications, and some other stuff.

Phew! Certainly learned some new stuff today.