IN AN IMPORTANT JUDGMENT FAVOURING THE STUDENT COMMUNITY, THE DELHI HIGH COURT HAS HELD THAT PHOTOCOPYING PORTIONS OF ACADEMIC PUBLICATIONS IS NOT AN INFRINGEMENT OF THE COPYRIGHT ACT.
In an important judgment favouring the student community, the Delhi High Court has held that photocopying portions of academic publications is not an infringement of the Copyright Act. The case arose in a suit filed by five international publishers, including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis, holding that the Delhi University authorising a photocopying store inside its campus to make several copies of course materials, compiled from different textbooks, amounted to infringement of copyright. The publishers’ natural worry was that if large-scale photocopying of textbooks, on which they had made huge investments, was allowed, they would lose out on sales and incur losses. While agreeing that taking copies of substantial portions of books would amount to infringement, Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw of Delhi High Court held that photocopying for academic purposes cannot be questioned as ‘copyright is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge.’
It’s a common practice anywhere in the world for the teaching faculty to prepare reading materials and course packs made up of extracts from several academic works for the benefit of the students. A large number of books may be sourced for reference of particular chapters required for study and it is neither feasible nor practical to expect the teachers, students or researchers to buy all of them. The judgment also referred to the technological advancement made whereby these days, students carrying cell phones with inbuilt camera copy pages from text-books instead of sitting in the library and making copious notes and also share them with their friends on WhatsApp and other platforms.
The court was of the view that though Section 14(a)(ii) of the Copyright Act makes reproduction of literary, dramatic or musical work, or issuing of its copies to the public an infringement, if the same was not already in circulation, Section 52(1)(i) permits copying of instruction material for academic purposes. The student community will, no doubt, wholeheartedly welcome the judgment, but its repercussions on the publication and circulation of international titles, especially in the academic field, will have to be studied. The publishers had argued that instead of allowing unrestricted photocopying, the universities or academic institutions concerned should apply for licences through the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation, which is a registered copyrights society. There may be a case for the publishers to approach the government of India to provide reasonable protection of copyright over their books so that they have sufficient incentive to continue the sale of their works in this country. Otherwise, there is a danger of large publishers with valuable and expensive titles keeping away from the Indian market.