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“Copyright is not a divine right”: Delhi HC

Look out, a major IP verdict is in town! In its 94 page judgment, the Delhi High Court has held that under the Copyright Act, acts of photocopying and creation of course material by colleges and students are validated.

This is a major case in intellectual property jurisprudence, and not just in India, but the whole world.Let us have a more intricate, but general look.

If you are or have been a student, you would know how it is when just a small portion or chapter of a very expensive book is in your syllabus. Of course, you cannot afford to buy that book. So you photocopy that portion, right? And you photocopy such small portions from books and compile them for your syllabus.

Rameshwari Photocopy Services
Rameshwari Photocopy Services . Source:

This is what Rameshwari Photocopy Services did. This shop acted as an agent for Delhi University and compiled compendiums for their students by photocopying the relevant portions from their syllabus.

Now, three major international publication houses, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis, filed a suit against Delhi University and Rameshwari Photocopy Services in 2012. They claimed that this act was an infringement of their copyright, and was on an instance of DU and that it was causing huge financial losses to them, as the students had stopped buying their books.

This incited a huge moral and legal debate. Are the rich publication houses justified in their demands? How can an average student afford these costly books for studying just small parts from them? Isn’t education more important than the wants of rich publication houses?

Legal academics formed a society, Society for the Promotion of Educational Access and Knowledge, or SPEAK, to argue in favour of DU and Rameshwari Photocopy Services. A similar society was formed by some students too, called ASEAK.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw dismissed the suit filed by the publication houses. He stated that copyright is not a divine right, and education is a social need and is of primary importance. The Delhi High Court gave a clear signal to the international community- Private wants over public needs!

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