Photocopying, Copyright Infringement & Fair Use – The Du Case

We have been following this case rather closely, volumes about which have been written and many a debate sparked because of the chord it has struck with the student community nationwide and the attention it has received from academics, authors and scholars all over. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court’s decision on the matter also has invited considerable debate, which we shall get to soon. But first, a brief primer on the matter;

Rameshwari Photocopying was authorized to sell the students of Delhi University (DU) photocopied excerpts from books as pointed out by DU as course content or study material. The shop operated under a specific license from DU which provided it with the relevant excerpts which the shop photocopied and sold to the students rather inexpensively. When this came to the notice of the relevant publishers, a group including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis, they instantly filed a Copyright infringement suit against Rameshwari Photocopying and DU alleging Copyright infringement of their publications by unauthorisedly photocopying them and consequent damages to the tune of Rs 60 lakhs. An IP raid at the photocopier’s ensued which sparked sharp reactions from the academic and student communities.

In its defence, DU invoked Sections 52 (1) (a) and (h) of the Copyright Act, 1957 containing acts not considered infringement by the Copyright Act. The above sub sections deal with ‘fair dealing of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic work’ and ‘reproduction of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction’. We’ll explain;

The much discussed principle of fair dealing of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic work says that; ‘A fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner…’ (Stanford University Libraries). Further, as per Section 52 (1) (h) of the Copyright Act, 1957, a copyrighted work may be reproduced for educational purposes by a teacher and/or a pupil. So, now you know the two major defences that the DU and Rameshwari Photocopying put up.

With respect to ‘fair dealing’ or ‘fair use’ it is highly relevant to note, that in the recent matter of Cambridge University Press V/s Mark P. Becker (Civil Action No. 1:08 – CV- 1425 –ODE), a United States District Court had set a threshold limit of less than 10% of the total page count of a book, stating that the University would not require a license for reproduction of less than 10% of the total page count of a book. It was speculated and discussed that back in India, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court should set a similar precedent for DU.

It appears from various online sources that the Hon’ble Delhi High Court has ruled against the DU and Rameshwari Photocopying in this matter. What happens next is yet to be known. The judgement is not out yet so we shall withhold our comments on the same for the time being. We promise to come back with our opinion on the judgment as and when it is out.

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