Friday, September 16, 2016

Copyright is not a divine right: Delhi HC

Full Judgement

Observing that "copyright is not a divine right", the Delhi high court on Friday allowed Delhi University to issue photocopies of major textbooks published by leading publishers.

The Justice held that the act of students getting books copied from DU's library or its authorised photocopy shop enjoys protection under Section 52 of the Copyright Act, which exempts education from copyright infringement.

In a 94-page order, the court essentially concluded that if DU can photocopy content within its library to impart education to students, then similar protection is enjoyed by the contractor, Rameshwari Photocopy Service.

The modest shop in North Campus was thrust at the heart of the case by international publishers who sued it for copyright infringement in 2012, resulting in Friday's landmark verdict on intellectual property rights.

"Copyright, specially 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," the Justice observed.

A group of publishers, including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis, had objected in their suit to the photocopy shop selling course packs, that is, compilations of photocopied portions of different books prescribed by DU as suggested reading in its syllabus.

The HC held that when texts are used by DU for imparting education and not commercial sale, it can't infringe on copyright of the publishers. The Justice recalled his own experience and noted, "In the times when I was studying law, the facility available of photocopying was limited, time consuming and costly. The students then used to take turns to sit in the library and copy by hand pages after pages of chapters in the books suggested for reading and subsequently either make carbon copies thereof or having the same photocopied."

The court further noted that DU's action may be guided by the limited numbers of each book available in its library, the limited number of days of the academic session, the large number of students requiring the said book, and the fear of the costly books being damaged on being subjected to repeated photocopying. Therefore, it could not be dubbed a copyright violation. The court pointed out that if the facility of photocopying wasn't available, students "instead of sitting in the comforts of their respective homes...would be spending long hours in the library and making notes thereof".

Responding to the verdict, the publishers in a joint statement said, "It is unfortunate that the court's decision today could undermine the availability of original content for the benefit of students and teachers."

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