Photocopying material for study is justified, DU students tell Book Fair visitors

On the penultimate day of the New Delhi World Book Fair at Pragati Maidan, two dozen students of Delhi School of Economics and Ramjas College and Department of Political Science & History tried to convince visitors that photocopying reading material by students for their course study was a justified act.

At 3.30 p.m., the Delhi University students stood outside the stalls of the Oxford University Press (OUP) and the Cambridge University Press (CUP) distributing releases “condemning attack of corporate publishers on students” to everyone entering these stalls. Around 1,000 releases were distributed to visitors, including students from universities in Rajasthan and Hyderabad.

According to Usman Javed, an M.Phil student at the Department of Sociology, OUP, CUP and Taylor and Francis Group had in August last year filed a case against a DU-licensed photocopy shop and the varsity claiming that course packs that were being distributed are in violation of copyright

“We want to tell the public that compilation of syllabus prescribed readings into course packs is not an infringement of copyrights. The Indian Copyright Act, 1957, provides an exception to infringement of copyrights in the context of educational use. Article (h) of Section 52 states that the reproduction of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work by a teacher or a pupil during the course of instruction or as part of the questions to be answered in an exam or in answers to such questions does not amount to an infringement of copyright.”

The copyright law was framed in a way to recognise the importance of ensuring access to education in a developing country like India and only then attending concerns of copyrights. Usman, who hails from Allahabad, said if a student pursuing Masters in Sociology was all purchase all his books from the publishers, then he or she would incur an exorbitant expenditure of Rs. 80,000.

“On top of it, we have to pay course fees of Rs.8,000 and pay for our accommodation.”

Arguing that it was the authors who were the brain behind these academic books, Usman said Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Nivedita Menon had convened a meeting at Delhi School of Economics in last October. “Authors, including Centre for Study of Development Societies Fellow Aditya Nigam and Sociology Department’s Satish Deshpande got their books photocopied and distributed them among students. Thereby, giving them sanctity of legal validated educational material. This clearly demonstrates that academic authors write to be read and not to earn royalties from their books.”

Speaking to The Hindu, Prof. Ashis Nandy, who turned up at the author’s corner, said some leverage should be given to students.

“We have had so many instances where students have not been able to get books of their choice. Our libraries need more books and we need a movement of sorts to strengthen local libraries. If I want to gift some of my books which library should I approach?”

Vasundhara Jairath, doing Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology, said the need of the hour was to make the book affordable for students.

“Students across the country are heavily dependant on studying from photocopies. If we have a choice we would rather study from books. But most of the books in higher education are unaffordable. Why cannot academic authors get their books published from the DU press, which is reduced to printing question papers? Royalty earned from books published from big publishing houses is pittance. Academic authors are employed by the DU which pays them salaries for the intellectual labour and also provides them resources and environment for the production of academic texts.”