CIS-A2K/Events/Re-licensing in Maharashtra (January 2018 to June 2020)

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Story of Re-licensing in Maharashtra

This story is about the journey of various stakeholders involved in content donation to free knowledge sources in the state of Maharashtra in India. The authors, heirs of writers, copyright holders as well as organisations have generously re-licensed valuable reference value content in the last two and half years. The literature covers wide range of subjects - social issues, women empowerment, legal aid, culture, short stories, essays, agricultural issues, critiques, mental health, national conflicts, philosophy, biodiversity, education, thematic encyclopedias etc. The integration and searchability of Wikimedia projects attracted the attention of the stakeholders. The initiative taken by eminent and influential personalities for re-licensing their works also provided impetus to the movement. As a result, 20 authors or copyright holders and five organisations have re-licensed 148 books/works till June 2020.


The state of Maharashtra in India and Marathi language has a great legacy of literature right from the 13th century. The saints Dnyaneshwar, Chakradhar, Eknath, Tukaram, Ramdas etc. created literature for the masses. This was mainly cultural, devotional, religious and mythological literature. Under the support of dynasties, literature on astrology, astronomy, ayurveda, vedanta flourished till the 15th century. In the first half of the 19th century, due to the arrival of printing machinery, the standardised Marathi dictionaries were composed by William Carey[1] and Molesworth-Candy[2][3].They were widely used in administration as well as to promote missionary literature. In the second half of the 19th century, publishing of grammar books, progressive literature, modern prose-poetry and newspapers started with more outreach. The 20th century saw renaissance in Marathi language with creation of books on scientific subjects, history, critiques, thesaurus’ (कोशवाङ्‍मय) on various topics, natioanlistic literature, dictionaries, encyclopedias, classical literature and translations.


In spite of this glorious history, in 2017 while analysing the content on Wikimedia Commons, it was realised that there are only 10+ books in Marathi uploaded under free license. The similar case is with other archives on the internet. Some of the organisations and government agencies have digitised the books and uploaded them in non-searchable formats. But comparatively, it is very less in number. This situation impacted the participation of Wikimedians in the Marathi Wikisource project also. In the discussions, volunteers expressed their willingness to contribute if there are good reference value books, classic literature made available.


CIS-A2K has been able to build digitisation and content donation process in the last three years in the state of Maharashtra. Various multi-pronged approaches were adopted to reach out to authors, copyright holders and the organisations. All the content was released in CC-BY-SA. The stepwise manual for OTRS process was developed.

First author to re-license was Prof. Jayant Narlikar, astrophysicist and founder of IUCAA in Pune. He was the chief guest for the event for science writers coorganised by CIS-A2K in October 2017. After the event, he realised the need to donate content on Wikimedia projects. He appealed to the writers as well as set the precedent of re-licensing. Prof. Jayant Narlikar, Prof. Mangala Narlikar and Prof. Madhav Gadgil re-licensed one book each on Mathematics and Ecology. The books were uploaded on Wikimedia Commons after digitisation.

After this, daughter of anthropologist Iravati Karve, Dr. Jai Nimbkar generously donated Iravati Karve’s very popular 6 books under free license. The grand daughter of Irawati Karve, herself a scientist in animal husbandry - Dr. Chanda Nimbkar facilitated the process. These books are milestones in Marathi literature and still sold on the stands. Thus total 8 books were re-licensed in the programme year 2017-2018.

In the programme year 2018-2019, more concerted efforts were taken to address writers, copyright holders, publishers, libraries and thematic organisations. The collaborations with the State level literary body of Marathi authors, All India Marathi Publishers’ Consortium, and Government departments were made to organise these events. During the discussions on free knowledge movement, the basic issues like Unicode system, FOSS for publishing and designing, issues with fonts while printing were raised by all these stakeholders. Considering these requirements, two hands-on workshops were conducted. The mutually beneficial relationships were built due to these workshops.

To emphasize the free knowledge and content donation, the occasions such as Marathi language day, Women’s History Month were focused for promotion. The feature articles and special editorial columns[4] were published in Diwali magazines and leading Marathi newspapers. Some special articles were developed with eminent personalities as co-author[5].  

As a result of this comprehensive approach, a positive atmosphere towards content donation in free knowledge sources and Wikimedia projects was created in Maharashtra. A simple manual on OTRS process for re-licensing was developed in Marathi to make the procedure convenient for the copyright holders. In the programme year 2018-2019, 7 notable authors and one leading organisation on Women’s issues re-licensed 36 books on Wikimedia Commons. This donation was well recognised and projected by leading newspapers in the state[6][7]. The discussions started in  various literary events and knowledge outreach programmes around this which triggered curiosity among copyright holders/heirs of notable authors. Now the situation came where, CIS-A2K and Marathi Community members were approached for content donation enquiries and clues on regular basis. The organisations which have developed knowledge repositories over the years on various thematic areas, also came forward to understand the process of re-licensing.

To digitise the re-licensed content, a scanning center was established at Pabal near Pune in collaboration with Vigyan Ashram. The dedicated cell of rural women trainees is developed for scanning and processing of books. The organisation gradually integrated the knowledge creation activity with their skill building courses. The volunteers from Vigyan Ashram have generated content in Wikimedia projects along with the digitisation activity. The short documentary - Savitrichya Online Leki (Savitri’s Online Daughters)[8] - was made on the process of scanning & processing and further uploading on Wikimedia Commons as well as Wikisource by the volunteers of Vigyan Ashram, Pabal. The film is also being used in promotion of content donation drives.

The content donation drive gained momentum in the programme year 2019-2020. It has become a self-propelled process supported by the community, individuals and organisations. The archive projects with two organisations were evolved in the course of time. These will be unique projects in India. CIS-A2K entered into MoU for these projects with Vigyan Ashram and Shetkari Sanghatana Trust.

In 2019-2020, the response for content donation was overwhelming. Till June 2020, 10 authors or copyright holders have re-licensed 63 books and five organisations have re-licensed 41 books. All these 104 books are uploaded on Wikimedia Commons under various categories[9]. The content on women’s legal & social issues released by organisation Lek Ladki Abhiyan is being used by many organisations[10]. This has motivated other gender issues related organisations. CIS-A2K is planning a broader project of free knowledge repository on women with them. Another non-profit organisation Jnana Prabodhini has uploaded their content on Women empowerment[11]. The publishing house, Saptahik Vivek Hindustan Prakashan Sanstha released their series of 8 encyclopedias[12] which are recently published and are being sold at high prices in the market. Vigyan Ashram re-licensed their 4 skill training manuals[13]. Another non-profit organisation from Vidarbh region of Maharashtra, Vrikshamitra re-licensed valuable reference books on biodiversity, community forest management and forest acts[14]. Shetkari Sanghatana Trust has taken initiative to upload first batch of 13 books by Sharad Joshi[15].

To summarise, CIS-A2K facilitated re-licensing of total 148 books in the last 2.5 years. It contains 115 Marathi books, 32 English books and one Hindi book in Maharashtra. CIS-A2K also digitised 90 books. All these books were uploaded on Wikimedia Commons in Marathi books category. So the status as on June 2020 is - total 228 Marathi books are available under free license on Wikimedia Commons, out of which uploading of 205 books was facilitated by CIS-A2K. The re-licensing is now owned up by the society in Maharashtra, which will foster growth in freely accessible content in the coming years. CIS-A2K has started replicating this process and model in other states of India as well.


  2. Molesworth, J. T. (James Thomas); Candy, T. (Thomas) (1989), Molesworth's Marathi and English dictionary (2nd ed. rev. and enl ed.), Asian Educational Services, retrieved 6 July 2020