Imagine you are a shop-owner visited by a menacingly muscular person who informs you that he has been providing security for your shop by patrolling around it.

Needless to say, you are shocked, as this is the first time you’ve ever laid eyes on this person! He continues to pester you and then takes the matter to court claiming that you owe him Rs.500 per month for his services.

He proposes that since the amount claimed is equivalent to the cost of a dinner at the local restaurant, you ought to simply pay up without wasting the time of the court.

Should the court fall for this beguiling solution and effectively legalise what is commonly called “hafta” in the underworld? Or should the court first adjudicate whether or not there is a legal obligation to pay in the first place?

Although the IRRO and their foreign counterparts are respectable organisations, the alluring offer of an allegedly cheap fee smacks of a blatant disregard for the rule of law and an adjudicatory process where the very issue before the court is whether or not universities ought to pay in the first place.

A plain reading of the educational exception within our Copyright Act suggests a firm no! Accepting the IRRO’s preposterous solution is tantamount to gutting an important public policy exception aimed at furthering access to education.

(Shamnad Basheer is chair professor for Intellectual Property at the National University of Juridical Sciences.)

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