Copyright assures the supply of quality educational material worldwide. The world and India need well-educated graduates and university students need access to high quality educational material. Students often need to copy pages and chapters easily, quickly, inexpensively and legally but their copying activity must not cut off future Indian students from a steady stream of great educational content: today’s graduates are tomorrow’s authors and publishers.

No one wants to block students’ access to copyright works. Quite the contrary! A practical solution is offered all over the globe by Reproduction Rights Organisations (RROs), such as IRRO in India, which licence universities for some of the students’ copying of copyright works and collect reasonable fees per student to pay the authors and publishers. Typically the cost for all the copying during a year will be less than what students spend on an evening in a student café.

The small amount of money that publishing houses and their authors receive is a welcome secondary income that helps assure the future publishing programme, in particular for titles that are popular among students. It contributes significantly to the creation of new works and helps the business of publishers. This is particularly important for local publishers whose business depends on local students and universities.

Legal access to secondary use is handled through licensing by RROs in some 80 countries, including in many developing countries from Indonesia, Philippines and Barbados to Burkina Faso and Malawi, and is a vital element in ensuring that universities and other educational institutions get the quantity and quality of the material that they need.

The author’s exclusive right to authorise or refuse reproduction of their works is recognised by international law in the Berne Convention, reiterated in the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Copyright Treaty, the Agreement of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the European Union Copyright Directive. These conventions and treaties also enable limitations and exceptions to the exclusive rights in national legislation to meet particular user needs.

However the Convention sets out the 3 step test, which dictates that such exceptions and limitations must also respect the rights of step test the right-holder. Allowing large-scale copying, whether of portions, such as a chapter or 10-15% of a text, substantial parts or complete works, without express consent of the copyright-holders usually conflicts with the normal exploitation of the work and prejudices the legitimate interest of the author. The E.U. Copyright Directive adds that exceptions and limitations through photocopying and similar reproduction and private uses should be dependent on “fair compensation” for creators and publishers.

“Fair use” is a complex concept and the law looks at whether the amount of copying is substantial and qualitatively significant. Also, the fair use guidelines for education allow much shorter fragments than the 10% of a publication. Copyright is a fundamental human right that provides authors with a living and enables them to create new works. A recent U.K. study by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers found that authors and publishers depend heavily on income from secondary uses for their continued production and publication of text books.

For publishers, the secondary income represents a significant proportion of the funds publishers use to invest in content development and the development of new digital learning resources.

The Indian creative sectors and publishing industry could be among the strongest in the world. Healthy copyright and collective management helps create wealth, employment and economic growth. Studies have shown positive correlations between the strength of the copyright sector and, for instance, innovation, competitiveness, economic freedom, freedom from corruption and GDP per capita.

The International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) also disputes that, for instance, course packs can legally be made at universities under India’s international legal obligations. Licencing agreements with RROs such as IRRO meet dynamic and changing user needs.

Educational publishing is the largest publishing sector accounting for 40% worldwide. Publishers are well-placed to act as agents for seamless access, tailoring their supply to the local market by making sure that their product is affordable through differential pricing.

For example the “Oxford Handbook of Emergency Medicine Fourth Edition” is priced €33.97 in Europe and €5.94 in Pakistan. So texts that are sold at a standard price in developed countries are typically made available at lower, more affordable prices in developing countries.

There is a balance of interests between the rights of rightholders and user demands. Neither Indian universities nor their students will benefit in the long run from the evaporation of their sources of learning. It is important to consider how to enable copyright works to be shared on a sustainable basis. In this vein, IFRRO, the International Authors Forum and and the International Publishers Association strongly urge that the universities quickly come to an agreement with the IRRO for the use of copyright material that can be covered by the licenses they offer.

This article is submitted by (Olav Stokkmo is , CEO, of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO);. Owen Atkinson is , CEO, the of the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS )(UK) on behalf of the International Authors Forum (IAF);. and Jens Bammel is , Secretary General, IPA. of International Publishers Association (IPA)

Shamnad Basheer responds.

More In: Comment | Opinion