Delhi university prevails against copyright infringement allegations

In September 2016, the Delhi High Court found Rameshwari Photocopying Services, a kiosk inside the Delhi School of Economics, had not committed any copyright infringement against three international publishing giants – Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw made the following statement as he delivered his judgment:

”Copyright is not a natural right…especially in literary works…it is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public… it is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public.”

The suit was originally brought forth by the international publishing houses in 2012. The kiosk was said to be photocopying course packs from various books that had been published by the houses; they sought for an injunction to restrain Rameshwari Photocopy Service as well as the Delhi University from photocopying anymore material claiming that the act was copyright infringement.

Both Rameshwari and the university defended the actions on the basis of the lack of books to cater for the large number of students and the fact that not all students could afford to buy the expensive books.

The High Court defended their verdict by making mention to Section 52(1)(a) of the Indian copyright infringement act. The subsection sates that:

A fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (not being a computer programme) for the purposes of (private use including research).

Hence the act exempts these published ”literary” works from being referred to as copyright infringement.

After the verdict on the case was made public, the publishers’ issued a joint response expressing their disappointment with the judgment:

”Whilst the verdict is not what we had hoped for, we note the court’s decision on the matter. We brought this case to protect authors, publishers and students from the potential effects on the Indian academic and educational book market caused by the widespread creation and distribution of unlicensed course packs by a copy shop operating from within the premises of the University, where a legitimate and affordable licensing scheme is already in place. The court was of the view that with the advancement of technologies, the students are not expected to be sitting in the library and taking notes.

If the facility of photocopying were to be not available, they would instead of sitting in the comforts of their respective homes and reading from the photocopies would be spending long hours in the library and making notes thereof. When modern technology is available for comfort, it would be unfair to say that the students should not avail thereof and continue to study as in ancient era. No law can be interpreted so as to result in any regression of the evolvement of the human being for the better.”

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