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 Delhi varsity photocopy kiosk wins copyright case

By Sanjiv Dube
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.

The 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 Copyright Act."

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 High Court 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.


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