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10 Dec 2016

HC backs right to photocopy books - 'Equitable access to knowledge' for all

TT, New Delhi, Dec. 9: Delhi High Court today refused to stay an earlier judgment allowing photocopying of textbooks, saying everyone deserved an equal access to knowledge.
"So fundamental is education to a society, it warrants the promotion of equitable access to knowledge to all segments of the society, irrespective of their caste, creed and financial position," the division bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Yogesh Khanna said.
"Of course, the more indigent the learner, the greater the responsibility to ensure equitable access."
The court said its order applied to all books whether described as "textbooks, guidebooks, reference books" or "course packs".
A single-judge bench had in September ruled that photocopying of textbooks and other education material did not infringe on the copyright of publishers.
In 2012, a photocopy shop had been found to have prepared multiple course packs by compiling chapters photocopied from various textbooks, which it was selling to students at a cheaper price.
International publishers such as the Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Taylor and Francis had moved court alleging copyright violation.
The Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK), a students' group, became a pleader in the case.
In September, the high court ruled that "copyright, especially in literary works, is not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations".
Challenging the verdict before the division bench, the petitioners had contended that the preparation of multiple copies by teachers or students amounted not to "reproduction", which is permitted by the Copyright Act, but "publication".
The division bench disagreed, saying "publication" included an element of profit that was missing from "reproduction" by a teacher who intended to use the material in educating students.
The court, however, directed the restoration of the trial before a single-judge bench on the limited point of whether the copying was being done in the "course of instruction".
The petitioners had demanded that institutions seek a licence from the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation against a fee before such photocopying is done. The court was silent on this today.
The ASEAK welcomed the ruling and said the matter of determining whether the photocopying was for instructional use would warrant an analysis of the course pack with reference to the objective of the course.
The three publishers issued a joint statement saying: "We are also committed to finding ways to enable students and researchers around the world to access these materials on an equitable basis."
They added: "We believe that such access can only be ensured on a long-term and sustainable basis with the support of a fair and balanced framework of reciprocal rights and obligations...."

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