Publishers v. Photocopying of Reference books: Defence begins arguments in Delhi High Court
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Publishers v. Photocopying of Reference books: Defence begins arguments in Delhi High Court

Murali Krishnan

The Delhi High Court has started hearing the arguments of the Defence in the copyright infringement suit filed by foreign publishers Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis (petitioners) against Rameshwari Photocopy Services and University of Delhi (defendants) for making photostat copies of reference books published by the petitioners.

The matter is being heard by Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw.

Rameshwari Photocoy Services, which is a Photostat agency functioning in the University, was making available to the students of the University, photocopies of reference books published by the petitioners at the instruction of the University. These Photostat copies did not subsume the whole book but only contained chapters or fractions relevant to the course syllabus. The petitioners had, however, objected to the same and contended copyright violation arguing that the same was causing great commercial loss to them. The Court had granted temporary relief to the petitioners by restraining the defendants from making such copies till the matter was finally decided.

When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul appeared for the University of Delhi. He contended that the act of the defendants fell squarely within the exception carved out under Section 52 of the Copyright Act which permits fair use by students and teachers during the course of instruction. He submitted that one of the reasons for making the said exception was to ensure that students were not inconvenienced into buying books which were unaffordable because many books, particularly those published by foreign publishers were priced very high. Kaul also stated that the entire books were not subsumed within the Photostat copies but only those chapters which were required under the syllabus.

He also sought to distinguish between text books and reference books stating that textbooks were meant for students learning a particular course and was therefore, confined to the syllabus of that course whereas reference books had a much larger audience and encompassed a greater width of the subject matter. He said that only such reference books were being photocopied and not text books. Kaul, thus, contended that the photocopied materials targeted only the students and did not impact the general target audience of the reference books.

While admitting that though photocopying such reference books might be causing commercial loss to the publishers, Kaul argued that it was only a legitimate commercial loss as the Legislature, by creating exceptions by way of Section 52, has allowed the interests of the students and teachers to outweigh the commercial loss which publishers would suffer due to such fair use. He further submitted that around 33 authors whose works were connected with the matter had expressed their “no objection” to such dissemination of knowledge.

The Court heard the matter for an hour before rising for the day. The hearing will resume on October 21.

Earlier a group of academics, authors, students and members of public had signed a petition urging the petitioners to withdraw the case against the defendants.

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