Delhi High Court Verdict
The Delhi High Court verdict that photocopying portions of academic publications to make course packs for students does not amount to copyright infringement has been interpreted by many as a victory for the wider public interest of ensuring affordable access to quality educational material.
The only question of law that arose in the suit filed by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis was whether the making of course packs by the Delhi University by authorizing a photocopying store to make numerous copies of course material drawn from different books amounts to copyright infringement.
What is copyright?
Copyright is the exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.
What does the law of copyright states with respect to the above stated clause?
The court says copyright is not a natural or common law right in India, but is subject to statute. It proceeds to hold that photocopying for academic purposes is not an infringement as Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act permits the making of copies of literary works by a teacher or pupil ‘in the course of instruction’, a phrase interpreted to cover whole academic sessions, from the preparation of syllabus onwards.
Interpretation of law by Delhi HC
The Delhi HC sees the ‘no infringement’ clauses as being consistent with articles in the Berne Convention and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which provide for domestic legislation to permit reproductions for specific purposes, as long as they do not conflict with normal exploitation of the works or unreasonably prejudice the rights-holder.
Urge of Publishers
The publishers have argued, in vain, that universities should not allow unrestricted photocopying, but instead apply for licences through the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation, a registered copyright society.
Need to strike a balance
It is true that academic publications, especially international ones, are expensive, putting them beyond the reach of many students. But the question is whether the balance between the competing interests has been fully preserved in the law. If reputed publishers feel that there is insufficient copyright protection and back out of educational publishing in the country, it will be equally injurious to the public interest.