Delhi

University copying books for teaching is not copyright violation: Delhi HC

Delhi University photocopy shop allowed to resume business as court dismisses suits initiated by three international publishing giants.

The Delhi High Court on Friday held that the photocopying of course packs prepared by Delhi University comprising portions from books published by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis did not amount to infringement of copyright.

The court dismissed the suit initiated by the publishing majors, which had sued DU and Rameshwari Photocopying Services, a kiosk inside the Delhi School of Economics, claiming infringement of copyright by engaging in preparing copies of course packs with portions culled out of its books in keeping with the syllabus prescribed by the varsity.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw also lifted the stay on the kiosk from photocopying the course packs. The case had seen protest by students who backed the kiosk.

‘Not a natural right’

“Copyright, especially in literary works, is thus not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public,” said Justice Endlaw.

“Copyright is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public,”he added.

Unfortunate: publishers

In a joint statement, the publishers said, “Whilst the verdict is not what we had hoped for, we note the court’s decision on the matter. We brought this case to protect authors, publishers and students from the potential effects on the Indian academic and educational book market caused by the widespread creation and distribution of unlicensed course packs by a copy shop operating from within the premises of the University, where a legitimate and affordable licensing scheme is already in place.

“It is unfortunate that the court’s decision today could undermine the availability of original content for the benefit of students and teachers. We will be considering the full judgment when it is made available, and shall decide the next course of action after consultation with our legal teams,” they said in the statement.

The court was of the view that with the advancement of technologies, the students are not expected to be sitting in the library and taking notes.

“If the facility of photocopying were to be not available, they would instead of sitting in the comforts of their respective homes and reading from the photocopies would be spending long hours in the library and making notes thereof. When modern technology is available for comfort, it would be unfair to say that the students should not avail thereof and continue to study as in ancient era. No law can be interpreted so as to result in any regression of the evolvement of the human being for the better,” it said.

“Though I have held Section 52(1)(a) (Acts which does not constitute infringement) to be not applicable to the action of the University of making photocopies of copyrighted works but the issuance by the University of the books purchased by it and kept in its library to the students and reproduction thereof by the students for the purposes of their private or personal use, whether by way of photocopying or by way of copying the same by way of hand would indeed make the action of the student a fair dealing therewith and not constitute infringement of copyright,” said the court.

In 2012, five publishing houses Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd., Taylor & Francis Group, U.K. Taylor & Francis Books India Pvt. Ltd., initiated a suit for permanent injunction restraining Rameshwari Photocopy Service and the Delhi University from preparing and photocopying course packs from its books claiming it to be copyright infringement.

The photocopy kiosk had defended itself saying it has licence to run the business and not every student can afford to buy expensive books for only a part of syllabus prescribed by the varsity.

DU in its response said it has the books in its library but the same cannot cater to large number of students.

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