Google to Digitize Ancient Scriptures in Mysore
Mysore University has announced that Google has been entrusted with the task of digitizing 8 lakh ancient records in the form of books and palm leaves in the library of the University. Most of these are of historic and scientific significance and will be of immense value.
While the effort to digitize the books is welcome, there are certain reservations which need to be expressed
a) Was there a need for the US based Google to digitize the scripts? Could it not have been entrusted to an indigenous firm?..
There is a likelihood of Google commercially misusing the information and it would have been better if the information in digital form was handled by an indigenous firm under secure conditions. It may be recalled that many of India's information treasures have been looted by the British and scripts taken away from Tanjore area containing important scientific information from "Atharvana Veda" are now in the hands of Germans and other Europeans. Similar things can be expected now of the information at Mysore and Google may make important parts of the information available for commercial exploitation against the interest of our country.
b) Protection of IPR
It has been reported in Indian Express that the University has stated that "....before the publishing of the scriptures, the University would be taking Patents where possible.."
We may however remember that the scriptures may only reveal certain previously known traditional knowledge and are not themselves subject to Patents or Copyright. However, the ingenuity of some in US who have got patents on "Yoga" make one believe that the knowledge to be released to the global market may come back to haunt us in the form of restrictive patents.
It is also feared that Google may try technical and non technical measures to exercise exclusive control on the "Digitized Version" of the scripts and appropriate measures have to be built into the contract to prevent hijacking of rights.
We therefore urge the Mysore University to ensure that traditional knowledge is not lost due to mismanagement of security of the scripts. The release of the information for the digitization process should be covered by a "Techno Legal Security Blanket". Preferably the University has to form a committee of Information Security Experts to ensure that Google does not create exclusive rights for itself on the material.
May 22, 2007
Star of Mysore