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Photocopying books for students does not infringe copyright: HC

by Legal DesireSeptember 17, 2016

In a judgment that will bring relief to students across the country, the Delhi High Court has held that photocopying of sections of various prescribed reference books, even in form of “course packets”, for the use of students does not violate the copyright of the publishers.

The bench of Justice R S Endlaw, in a 94-page judgment released Friday, dismissed a suit filed by five major publishing houses and held that since the Copyright Act allowed for reproduction of the books “for purpose of education”, the photocopying of books by Rameshwari Photocopiers, located on Delhi School of Economics premises, would not constitute infringement of copyright.

The suit filed by Oxford University Press; Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom (UK); Cambridge University Press India Pvt Ltd; Taylor & Francis Group, UK; and Taylor & Francis Books India Pvt Ltd had sought an injunction against the photocopier as well as Delhi University for preparing “course packets” consisting of portions of reference books required for studies in various disciplines. The publishers had claimed the university was utilising the photocopier for a “commercial purpose”, as the packets were being sold to students in violation of the copyright laws protecting the rights of the publisher.

The court declined to accept the arguments and held that “the words — in the course of instruction within the meaning of Section 52(1) (i) supra would include reproduction of any work while the process of imparting instruction by the teacher and receiving instruction by the pupil continues… Resultantly, reproduction of any copyrighted work by the teacher for the purpose of imparting instruction to the pupil as prescribed in the syllabus during the academic year would be within the meaning of Section 52 (1)(i) of the Act.” Section 52 of the Copyright Act prescribes the exceptions to infringement. The provision states that “fair use” of the work under copyright protection will not constitute infringement.

The bench held that the “University” was the same as the “teacher” defined under the Act, and the grant of permission by the university to a particular photocopier to create “course packets” from the “master copy” of the relevant extracts of various books made Rameshwari photocopier “a contractor to whom the defendant no.2, University, has outsourced its work of providing photocopying service for its students”.

The bench also observed that the act of preparing photocopies was similar to the practice of allowing students to issue books from the library and get the relevant pages photocopied for themselves. The court observed that students “can never be expected to buy all the books”.

The bench also observed that while international agreements on copyright law had given broad definitions of infringement, they had also left it up to individual country’s legislature to define the exceptions to copyright violation.

What publishers say In a statement, the publishers said, “We will be considering the full judgment when it is made available, and shall decide the next course of action after consultation with our legal teams.”

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