Saturday, 1 October 2016

Delhi University Photocopy Case- “Copyright is not a divine right”.

In a landmark Judgement the Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition filed by a group of international publishers against a bookseller in the Delhi  University's north campus. A plea was  filed by a group of international publishers who argued against the sale of photocopies of their textbooks.

The Delhi High Court's verdict pronounced that- photocopying portions of academic publications to make course packs for students does not amount to copyright infringement. This  has been considered by many as  a victory for the wider community interest .This will  further ensure affordable access to quality educational material.

 The   instant Question of Law held  in the suit filed by  the plaintiff (Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis)  was whether the making of course packs by the Delhi University by authorising a photocopying store to make numerous copies of course material drawn from different books amounts to copyright infringement.

The court says copyright is not a natural or common law right in India, but is subject to statute. It proceeds to hold that photocopying for academic purposes is not an infringement as" Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act permits the making of copies of literary works by a teacher or pupil ‘in the course of instruction’, a phrase interpreted to cover whole academic sessions, from the preparation of syllabus onwards."

The above judgement of the High Court clearly reflects the  judiciary's efforts to balance copyright protection with the public interest -access for all, given that the law contains provisions barring infringement of copyright and listing acts that do not constitute infringement. The plaintiff had cited  the clauses and articles of  the Berne Convention and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which provide for domestic legislation to permit reproductions for specific purposes. However the judge held  this is as "No-infringement' as these above mentioned clauses clearly mention -'as  long as they do not conflict with normal exploitation of the works or unreasonably prejudice the rights-holder.'It was thus held by the court that such photocopying doesn't lead to unreasonble prejudice or exploitation of the publishers.

The publishers had argued  that universities should not allow unrestricted photocopying, but instead apply for licences through the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation, a registered copyright society.
This judgement raises few important questions about good of the public versus the claims of the publishers regarding unrestricted copyright protection.

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