C. Subramania Bharati is a renowned Tamilian poet whose works spoke of nationalist sentiments and paved the way for the future of poetry in Tamil Nadu. Who Owns That Song? chronicles his journey as an artist and how his works changed hands a few times before finally being released by the government into the public domain, free of any copyright claim. A.R. Venkatachalapathy’s nonfiction also introduces us to the early stages of the media industry in India.
Having studied about copyright in class, I was really interested in understanding the role of copyright in the consumption of a piece of creative work. Divided into 4 concise chapters, this book tells us about Subramania Bharati’s life as a writer and then proceeds to recount events concerning the publication of his works. The writing style takes on the tone required in a nonfiction and yet possesses the quality of being fluid and engaging.
As I was reading this book, I often felt myself light up with pride on learning just how passionate he was about writing and how much he contributed to society with his writings. At the end, you’ll find some of his poems and I loved them! What I didn’t like much about the book is that I felt it clubbed together the stories of too many people involved in the process. Of course I understand that it is important to know the role they played in either purchasing the rights to Bharati’s works or striving to make them copyright free, but every chapter was further divided into sections about these people. At times, it felt a little textbook-ish because of the amount of details packed into a page.
That said, this book begets the question of whether an individual’s work (regardless of the subject matter and how much of an influence it has on society) should ever really be dropped into the public domain for people to make use of as they wish. And also, should any one person unrelated to the artist be allowed to own the rights to the artist’s works? Shouldn’t it naturally be passed down generation after generation as heritage? The character of Bharati as portrayed in this book is one of an intellectual man. I wonder what he would think of all the tug of wars that took place. Who Owns That Song? is definitely a very insightful read and I would recommend to all!
Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars
What do you get out of it? Knowledge about C. Subramania Bharati as a writer and how his writings underwent copyright battles before finally being declared public property.
Thank you Juggernaut Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.