In 2012, international publishers from the Oxford and Cambridge University presses sought to clamp a case of copyright infringement on the Rameshwari Photocopy shop and University of Delhi under the Indian Copyright Act 1957. The case was actively defended by the University and pursued by the international publishers. On the 9th of March, 2017, three of the publishers withdrew their lawsuit thus marking a win for the University. Our correspondent reiterates why this win is important.
In 2012, a consortium of international publishing giants sought to restrain the Rameshwari Photocopy Service from supplying photocopied material to students on the grounds that the photocopy shop was violating the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, by selling copyrighted excerpts from their books. In response to this, students and teachers rallied against the suit and challenged it on the grounds that exceptions within the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 have provisions that allow the copying of chapters within books for the purpose of education.
The case was expected to be a long legal battle but the withdrawal brought an end to the five-year-old tussle.
Why this win matters
Delhi University students have to cite multiple books in the course of their study, which makes it only reasonable for them to get the relevant portions photocopied from the related books. If one goes on to buy every referred book in the University syllabus, the cost of books itself will run in thousands of rupees. Now if we start exercising an uncompromising copyright law that restricts photocopy, then higher education in India will become almost unaffordable and will gravely hurt those who come from economically deprived backgrounds.
The publishers also oppose photocopying on the grounds that it reduces their market. But since the original books are exorbitantly priced, their market is actually the institutional buyer instead of a normal student. Besides, providing portions of course material available to students favours the publishers as it allows for wider distribution of the latter’s content and in many cases prompts students to actually buy the book.
The move to withdraw the lawsuit is appreciable on the part of the publishing houses. In wake of this positive development one can hope that the coming years will see a more progressive partnership between publishers and students, as well as academics as a whole, that will lead to newer and equitable models of production and content distribution.
Image Credits: Mint