DU Copyright Case – Easy Access to education or yet another loop hole

Easy Access to education or yet another loop hole-min

The much-anticipated ruling in the appeal filed by the Publishers in The Chancellor, Masters & Scholars of University of Oxford v. Rameshwari Photocopy Services case was pronounced on December 9, 2016 by the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court. A detailed account on the facts and other developments in the case can be read from our earlier blog posts.

The Appellant publishers preferred and appeal against the landmark verdict given by the Justice Endlaw in September 2016 wherein the court dismissed the Publisher’s suit stating that their actions fell within the exception carved out by section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act 1957.

Throwing light on the subject of fair use, the division Bench comprising of Justice Nandrajog and Justice Yogesh set aside the landmark verdict given by the Justice Endlaw in September 2016, setting a precedent for the applicability of copyright law and education in India. The 58-page judgment pronounced by the Division Bench restored the suit dismissed by the single judge and identified two triable issues in the suit namely:

1) Whether or not the inclusion of the copyrighted work in the course pack could be justified as fair use for educational purpose and

2) Whether or not photocopying of the book in its entirety would be permissible.

The appellants argued that reproduction of copyrighted work for distribution to the public was not legally permissible and would amount to infringement under the law. However, the respondents stood by their arguments and reiterated that their usage was solely for educational purposes and would only fall under fair use and would not amount to copyright infringement.

After a heated round of arguments by both the parties that continued for two weeks, the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court ruled that distribution and use of course packs comprising of pages from the books published by the appellant publishers to students through photocopy shops would not amount to infringement, as long as it was shown that course packs would be used solely for the purpose of aiding the educational institutions. The Division Bench yet again emphasized on section 52 of the Copyright Act 1957 and stated that the interpretation of section52 (1)(i) which permits ‘the reproduction of any work by a teacher or pupil in the course of instruction’ should be given a wider interpretation such that certain acts are not to be considered copyright infringement.

The Court further ruled that there was no limit to the number of pages that could be photocopied from the books of the publishers. However, the basic requirement was laid down wherein photocopied course packs be used for educational instruction only thereby justifying the fair use and standard.

The Division Bench ruled that the case be sent back for trial in order to determine whether the course packs meet the purpose of educational instruction. However, the Division Bench declined to grant an interim injunction in favour of the Appellant publishers, essentially allowing the respondents to continue producing and distributing course packs containing copyrighted materials although required them to maintain a record of course packs photocopied and supplied by it.

The ruling of the Division Bench was welcomed by the academicians and the students at large who claim that the decision would grant easy access to education in India. However, I believe that the Court failed to draw a balance between the interests of publishers with that of students and firmly maintain that the licensing of the copyright through IRRO could have been a more appropriate solution in this case.

In a recent turn of events on January 23, 2017, the students of the Oxford University have sent an open letter to the delegates of the Oxford University Press persuading them not to file an appeal to the Supreme Court against the Division Bench ruling. What will come next remains to be seen.

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