NEW DELHI : In a startling case a single-judge
bench of the Delhi High Court has dismissed copyright
suits by three international publishers against the sale
of photocopied books and pages in Delhi University.
judgement delivered on
September 16 by a bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw
upheld the Delhi University contention that the use of
reproduced copyrighted books by students was a
"reasonable educational need".
Justice Endlaw also lifted a ban on the photocopier
kiosk from issuing copies of chapters from textbooks of
the three publishers to students.
The kiosk, Rameshwari
Photocopy Service near Delhi School of Economics (DSE)
in north campus, pleaded that since the university
library does not have the required number of books on
the subjects as stipulated by the university syllabi,
the students get the photocopies done for study and
reference and that he was only helping the students tide
over their problem. He said he takes a nominal charge
from the students as directed by the DSE.
In November 2012, the court had
prohibited Rameshwari Photocopy Service on a petition moved by
publishers including University Press, Cambridge
University Press and Taylor & Francis.
The publishers had alleged that
the kiosk was violating their copyright and “at the
instance of Delhi University” was causing huge financial
losses as students stopped buying their text books.
But Delhi University, defendant number 2 in the
case, supported the photocopiers,
saying the use of reproduced copyrighted books by
students was a “reasonable educational need” and should
not be treated as infringement.
The university pleaded
that "world over Universities permit students to
copy limited pages from any work for use in research and
for use in the classroom by a student or teacher and
this is recognised by Sections 52 (1)(a) & (i) of the
The university pleaded
that "the facility of photocopying limited portions of
books for educational and research purposes could have
been provided within the library if the University had
adequate space, resources and manpower at its disposal."
It said that it "has
granted the facility of photocopying to defendant No.1 (Rameshwari Photocopy Service)
keeping the interest of the students in mind."
Reacting to the
judgement, most Intellectual property right experts hailed the verdict.
“Copyright laws are meant to balance public and private
interests but in recent years, the public interest has
been eroded due to lobbying. The HC has restored that
balance,” said an expert.
“The court has actually said that copyright is not
divine and that education is an important social need.
This is a huge moment,” he added.
Students hail decision
The decision was hailed by the students, teachers
and photocopy shop owners in Delhi University.
Students can now photocopy study material from books
published by international publishing giants. Overjoyed,
they said the decision was ‘historic’, because it was
about the larger right to access resource material for
education, which was upheld by the court.
Dharmpal Singh, owner of the photocopy shop, said
although he was yet to read the order, this meant a huge
victory for the students. “Most of the books are not
available in the country and those which do, cost any
where from Rs 3,000 to 8,000 and above. It is just not
possible for students to buy these books. This made them
buy locally sourced books, most which were not up to the
mark,” he said.
Singh has been running the kiosk for 20 years.
Students enrolled in the Masters and PhD courses, in
particular, were the worse-affected by the ban.
“While there is a batch of 80-100 students in each
course, the university library has only a single copy of
the book. In this case, photocopying remained the only
option,” said Apoorva Gautum, president, Association of
Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge.
The association was formed soon after the ban was
imposed in 2012 and became a party to the case. It
includes around 200 students.