Justification Behind The Ban: The Complete Story

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18th August, 2012 an association of three publishing companies namely, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis sued Rameshwari and other such photocopy shops for selling the Xeroxed version of foreign authors’ books or “readings” without payment of Royalty. Following this incident, the readings at North Campus were banned which led to massive protests from students all across Delhi University. The students and these shops maintained that readings are sold to reduce the financial burden of the students. Where a student can get the “readings” at Rs 200 to 300 a foreign authors’ book costs around Rs 1000 to 2000, and most of the times a student needs just a chapter from the entire book.

Thus the students’ protest is partially justified. But if we examine the true scenario, we’ll find that the publishers did nothing wrong or “immoral” by banning the readings. Authors write books to communicate their idea or knowledge and in return expect a Royalty income. Similarly publishers, publish, distribute and sell books for making a profit. When the content of these books is photocopied beyond a “fair” limit, Copyright law is broken. The point is “photocopying” is not illegal, but in order to do so the sellers must get the permission or “licence” from the “Indian Copyright Collection Society” or the “Indian Reprographic Rights Organization” (IRRO) .The IRRO has set tariff (or rates) for licenses for different Institutions and Organizations for the purpose of copying. Normal rate of photocopying is Rs 12000 per institution per annum. This tariff has the approval of the Registrar of Copyright and is the Lowest in the World.

However “Readings” are not “normal photocopying”. They consist of the entire course in a semester and are generally content taken from several books which may be published by various Publishers. Where such “Course Packs” are made available, the Publishers books stop selling. Even the libraries stop buying multiple copies of the textbooks. Therefore the sale of the books is reduced affecting the income expectations of the Author and the expected return on investment for the Publishers. While a course pack may cost 300 to 400 Rupees, the value of the textbooks that the student would otherwise have to buy would be as much as Rs. 2000 to 3000. So it is a huge saving for the student at the cost of the Authors and Publishers.

Hence there is a “Course Pack” rate for Delhi University which is 50 paisa per page. That is the lowest rate for course packs in the world. If the readings are sold legally the cost of a course pack may go up a bit but still it will be lesser than having to buy 6-7 textbooks. A Rs. 200 course pack can become Rs. 300. If the University feels that this copyright fee is too much for the student, then they can subsidize by paying the IRRO directly.

In countries like UK and USA every time a library photocopies these books a little amount of the total cost is set aside for Copyright Collection Centre in the USA and the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) in U.K. Publishers and Authors have a right to protect their Copyright. All they are asking the Academic and Student community to do is to pay a small license fee to make photocopies. “There will always be some people who’ll want everything free but that is not sustainable. Surely the Academic and Student community does not expect a subsidy from Authors and Publishers? Without proper IRRO licensing that is what illegal photocopying amounts to” says Cambridge University Press. The “readings” are still banned in the North Campus and those shops selling the readings are doing it illegally. Their claim that they have got the licence from the publishers is absolutely false.

Aishwarya Chaurasia
[email protected]

Read the initial report here,

Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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