Amicable solution to the Delhi University photocopy row
The recent case filed by premier publishing houses against Delhi University and a photocopy shop in its near vicinity, Rameshwari Photocopy Services, has sparked off a debate across the country regarding the interests protected under the Indian Copyright Act. The Indian Reprographic Rights Organization (IRRO) is a copyright society that grants licenses to various organizations in order to enable them to copy and share information efficiently across the organization while minimizing the risk of copyright infringement. It actively supports a wide array of publishers, authors, artists and visual creators and international rights holders to protect their creative content. It grants licenses for a period of 1 year as per law.
The society has come in rescue of the Delhi University and claims that there is a legal way to photocopy course material which will protect students’ interest without violating Indian Copyright Act. The plaintiffs in this case include big publishing houses such as Oxford University Press, Press of the Cambridge University, Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd and Informa UK Ltd. Their contention being that the DU-licensed photocopy shop has infringed their copyrights by selling photocopied course package of various books as a result of which their business is being negatively affected. A student of DU has the option of either buying the expensive books published by these houses or can get them at a rate far below the original price of the book from the photocopy shop. This the publishers hold amounts to copyright infringement.
The publishers claim that the photocopy shop has been indulging in creating pirated version of books and selling them away to the student at very cheap prices. The esteemed faculty of the University has written to these publishing houses requesting them to take a more lenient stand in order to protect the interests of the students. It’s a known fact that a large percentage of the student community in India are from economically backward sections and are not well off to buy expensive course books. However that does not grant anyone any right to sell off intellectual works of highly acclaimed academia in any unbecoming manner. But the interests of the students can be rightly protected under the Indian Copyright Act which allows for fair dealing practice. The students are not using these copied material for gaining any monetary benefit, but only for academic purposes.
There has to be balance drawn such that the rights of the publishing houses as well as the interests of the students are protected in a such a manner that it wouldn’t amount to any legal violations. Photocopying shops must be prevented from creating course package of books without licenses being granted to them by IRRO. This would ensure that there’s no commercial exploitation and that the interests of the publishers are not kept at bay. Further all such photocopy shops wanting to sell photocopied content to the students at cheaper options must mandatorily apply for licenses from the IRRO by paying an annual fee of Rs. 12000. This also entitles the publisher to have a share of 50 paise for each content taken by the student. And hence better education can be made available to poor students who cannot afford to buy books at exorbitant prices.