Urdu Publishing is Up, But Copyright Problems Persist

In News by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

IndiaAt, Rauf Parekh writes that despite the usual gloom and doom complaints from publishers of Urdu books, “What I want to say is that during the year 2013 most of the publishers of Urdu books kept on churning out new as well as old titles despite their never-ending albeit fake pessimism.”

One problem though with the publication of older titles is the reluctance of many publishers to pay royalties or to respect copyright laws. “They not only reproduce old titles,” he says, “especially the ones that are always are in demand and sell well, but they themselves claim the copyrights of the works they have published illegally.”

One example Parekh points it out is that of the late Indian lexicographer Yaqoob Meeran Mujtahidi: one Pakistani publisher not only published a pirated version of this three-volume Urdu-English dictionary, but went the extra step by printing “All rights reserved” on the cover.

In a similar case, publisher from Lahore issued a reprint of Maulana Jafer Thanesari’s autobiography Kaala paani, which was first published in 1884, and then “promptly warned the readers of legal action if any part is copied or reproduced in any form, conveniently forgetting that the copyright ends 50 years after author’s death (Jafer Thanesari died in 1905) and that the publisher did not have any rights whatsoever to the work in the first place.”

Another issue? “Unscrupulous” publishers who reprint and rename non-fiction titles in Urdu (especially on history, philosophy and religious history) without bothering to “mention the title of the previous edition.”

Even so, Parekh reckoned that 2013 was a good one for Urdu literature, for critics and readers as well as for publishers and booksellers.

Among the year’s highlights: Mustansar Husain Tarar’s new novel Ay ghazaal-e-shab has received strong reviews. Oxford’s publications of classic works from Saadat Hasan Manto and Ghulam Abbas. (Of which Parekh notes that “It is heartening to note that Oxford has now regularly been coming up with new Urdu titles and selections from Urdu verse and short stories.”)

Also attracting notice were short story collections from Muhammad Hameed Sharid (Adami), Raeese Fatima (Be chera log) and Fehmida Riaz (Ham log).

And of particular interest perhaps was Peerzada Aashiq Kirvani’s book Aik ghazal. The book is made up of one single ghazal made up of 30,000 couplets. Over 1,150 pages long, the work “speaks volumes for the poet’s talents.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.