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High Court lets DU shop photocopy textbooks, but copyright battle isn't over yet

Praneta Jha | Updated on: 9 December 2016, 23:44 IST

Photocopying for educational purposes does not amount to copyright infringement under the Indian Copyright Act, the Delhi High Court said Friday, even as it restored the copyright suit against a Delhi University photocopy shop filed by a group of international publishers.

The division bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Yogesh Khanna directed that the copyright case against Rameshwari Photocopy Services, dismissed earlier by a single-judge bench, go to trial to determine whether "course packs" - photocopied compilations from textbooks sold to students - were being used "in the course of instruction".

Also Read: Copyright: why selling photocopied books to students isn't exactly a social service

The court allowed the licensed DU shop to continue selling the copyrighted material to students, but ordered it to maintain a record of these course packs and file statements regarding them every six months.

The judgment came on an appeal by the publishers - Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group - against a 16 September ruling by the single HC bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw.

The publishers had claimed that the sale of their copyrighted material by the shop for "commercial gains" was illegal and violated the Indian Copyright Act, 1957.

But Justice Endlaw had dismissed their plea, citing exceptions to copyright infringement as specified in Section 52 of the Act.

He had observed that "copyright in a literary work is not an inevitable, divine or natural right", in a verdict that was hailed as a landmark one by the student and academic community.

The students and academics have welcomed the division bench's judgment that interprets the Indian Copyright Act in the context of the "importance of education". Photocopies of steeply priced academic books are known to be a lifeline for college students.

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"We may loosely call them textbooks. We may loosely call them guide books. We may loosely call them reference books. We may loosely call them course packs. So fundamental is education to a society - it warrants the promotion of equitable access to knowledge to all segments of the society, irrespective of their caste, creed and financial position. Of course, the more indigent the learner, the greater the responsibility to ensure equitable access," the court noted.

The court ruled that the tests of "fair use" or "fair dealing" as understood in international copyright law did not apply to copying for the "purpose of education" under Section 52 of the Indian Copyright Act.

The only relevant test, it said, was whether copying is "in the course of instruction", which could be determined by "considering whether the inclusion of the copyrighted work in the course pack was justified by the purpose of the course pack i.e. for instructional use by the teacher to the class".

The Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge called the judgment "a fair, balanced determination of the rights of copyright owners and users".

The suit will be heard on 4 January 2017.

In 2012, the court, on a petition moved by the same publishers, had passed an interim order staying the sale of course packs by the shop.

Also Read: DU students retain their photocopied texts, as HC rules against publishers

First published: 9 December 2016, 23:44 IST