In a big win for Delhi University students and a landmark judgment for Indian copyright law, the Delhi high court today dismissed a case against a photocopy shop in DU’s north campus which was accused of copyright infringement by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Taylor and Francis.
In 2012, the three publishers lodged a case against Rameshwari photocopy shop, a licensed vendor located in DU’s north campus. They alleged that the shop’s practice of photocopying selected parts of books and compiling a collection of study materials for specific courses constituted copyright infringement under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. At the time, the court passed an interim order preventing the vendor from selling the compilations of photocopied texts.
Students argued that photocopier’s bundles were important for their education given the high cost of the textbooks that they would otherwise have to buy. On today’s verdict, Apoorva Gautam, president of the Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK) told Mint, “I am happy that the court has addressed the students’ concerns, considering that we are a resource crunched country. We had taken the position that a student’s right to such material has been provided for under the Indian copyright law and restricting it would be unreasonable and the court has upheld that.”
DU also supported the photocopier in court, arguing that the material was meeting “reasonable educational needs,” according to a report by the Hindustan Times. The report added that the university defended the vendor saying its actions were for educational purposes and not commercial profit-making, thus exempting it from the copyright act.
Today, the court judged that the copyright act makes exemptions for “fair use” including but not limited to educational purposes and dismissed the case against the photocopier. Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw stated that copyright is not a divine right and also lifted the restrictions that were imposed on the shop four years ago.
Shamnad Basheer, an expert on intellectual property law expert told the Hindustan Times, “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.”