Oxford and Cambridge University Publishers v. Students of India

This is an op ed which was written for the Indian Express  and addresses some of the key issues in the ongoing copyright case filed against Rameshwari Photocopy services and the Delhi university. I am reposting  it here for now. It is a little truncated because of the word limit for newspapers but will post a longer version with comparisons from other countries.

Oxford and Cambridge University Publishers v. Students of India

 Accompanying a team conducting a raid against a photocopying shop outside AIIMS a few years ago a copyright lawyer had a moment of revelation akin to the apocryphal story of St Paul’s conversion  on the road to Damascus when Paul was asked by God “Why do you persecute me?”. In this case even as the photocopier was being arrested he defiantly turned to the lawyer and said “If I don’t sell these photocopies where do you think your doctors are going to come from? The lawyer in question is now a leading expert on copyright and public interest and one wonders whether a similar question posed to the lawyers representing Oxford and Cambridge University Press would evoke a similar change of heart especially if they considered their own route to becoming lawyers. The fact of the matter is that in most academic disciplines textbooks are extremely expensive and unaffordable for the average student and if one attempted to buy all the books which are prescribed for a course it would mean that only very few privileged students would afford an education in India.While one often hopes for a commonsensical change of heart from lawyers and copyright owners one cannot bank on it which is why the law in India has a number of provisions which allow for exceptions and limitation to copyright law. The educational use exception in India is indeed one of the widest in the world and designed to address the needs of education in a developing country. Cambridge and Oxford university press along with Francis and Tailor have filed a copyright infringement petition against Rameshwari Photocopy services and the Delhi university claiming that the course packs that are distributed are in violation of copyright. Describing the course packs as infringing and pirated copies the petitioners have claimed damages to the tune of sixty lakhs. The inflated damages sought is not surprising at all and works within the logic of the assumption that every photocopy is a lost sale but aside from this dubious assumption inflated sums are usually a part of the shock and awe tactics that copyright owners use to establish a test case.

Lets understand how course packs work and then examine the law on the point. Most students will testify that the university library have a maximum of one to three copies of books that are shared by hundreds of students and the course pack is therefore an institutionalized practice to ensure that all students have access to learning materials. This has been the subject of much controversy in many countries but particularly so in the United States, and any one who has studied in the US will know the severe restrictions that are placed on the ability to provide course packs even as students pay a hefty sum for textbooks. One of the clearest exceptions in copyright is the fair use exception which legalizes certain acts without the permission of copyright owners, and within fair use the education exception is what governs photocopying and the creation of course packs. Of the four principles in the US one of them include ‘the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work’. This is a principle that has been used to effectively narrow fair use in the US. Unlike the US which has a set of principles guiding fair use in India we follow the English system of fair dealing which enumerates a set of statutory exceptions and in India there are two important provisions which allow for educational exceptions. Sec. 52(1)(i) allows for ‘the reproduction of any work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction’ or as a part of questions or answers to questions. Further Sec. 52(1)(a) allows for a fair dealing with any work  (except computer programs) for the purposes of private or personal use, including research.  It is therefore very much within the rights of the university and the students to create course packs and to access photocopies of academic texts and articles in the course of instruction. The fact that the Copyright Act in India does not lay down any quantitative restrictions when it comes to personal use or educational use even though such restrictions operate for other  kinds of usages is indicative of the intention of the policy makers to ensure that there is adequate access to learning materials. Rameshwari Photocopy services is integrated within the university system by account of the fact that it operates on the basis of a license provided by the university which mandates the price and nature of services and it would make sense for the university and the photocopiers to have a unified stand since what is at stake is not just the future of a single photocopying shop but the future of access to educational materials in India.  The Supreme Court in the Francis Coralie Mullin case (1981) has held that the right to life in Art 21 is not just about physical survival and includes the right to ‘facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms’. And when Copyright comes in the way of a fundamental right it clear what should be given precedence.

40 thoughts on “Oxford and Cambridge University Publishers v. Students of India”

  1. In USA such suits were targeted against xerox and copying/binding service providers.The same is being tried here.The courts should provide a broad interpretation of fair use and ensure that such practices are permissible. More importantly universities and research institutions should take a clear and firm stand on this and refuse to be bullied by these publishers. Universities pay for books, journals and online databases and publishers use academic labor free of cost in review process. Despite all this they have taken this step.
    Are they testing waters so that they can target all universities and institutions across the country.It is time academics and students understand the implications of expansive copyrights and narrow fair use provisions.


  2. Chief Justice Kapadia said at a meeting in New Delhi over the weekend: ‘“Right to life, we have said, includes environmental protection, right to live with dignity. Now we have included right to sleep, where are we going? It is not a criticism. Is it capable of being enforced?”
    Here’s hoping his words will not be interpreted too narrowly by other judges or by himself as regards this photocopying case.


  3. The question which I really want to ask oxford and Cambridge publishers is, why they didn’t start their raid from their own country owned British council library ? Why can we get books photocopied from their library but not from our library ?


    1. do you any clue about the volume in which books are photocopied in Indian universities? It’s humongous, just about noone buys the books even though they could be the backbone of the course in question.


  4. In a country where publication houses make huge profits as a result of lasting colonial privileges (OUP, CUP and Taylor and Francis are indicative enough), especially in areas like english language publications/textbooks, this attempt comes across as nothing but entirely unethical. To take a case from one of these houses (and of course it is hearsay because a lot of things may be said to diminish its veracity and already underpaid staff penalised, especially by those from the particular house itself), they were asked to publish a course book by the broadcasting wing of the indian govt. now, like with most actions of the govt, the matter for this book was only put together some three months before the course had to begin and so the editing process was supposed to be really quick. so, the publishing house agreed to produce this book with minimal editing (they would only fix basic grammar and presentation and would not suggest improvements or even check for coherence, etc) and because such a book may potentially cause harm to their reputation, they asked for 2 crore in payment for this contract. now deducting the meagre amounts paid to editors (who worked overtime and yet received only a monthly pay of 20,000, typesetters-ditto, printing, and distribution as well as salaries of all indian bosses within the company), the contract still made about a 70% profit.

    Also, from my own experience in a publishing house, increasingly the number of books they bring out in paperback is being done away with so that all books (and libraries have to buy these books as also, some of these books are prescribed course books) are now sold in the 550-800 bracket.

    Given these practices and the especially the sort of privilege these big names in publishing enjoy (where an author HAS to publish with oxford if they are to be ‘reputable’ or schools prescribe books that are branded, often at the cost of students), this combined move by these publishers comes an nothing but a rude shock and reminder of their unchecked/continued hegemony in the Indian market and their complete lack of commitment to educational/intellectual precepts and quality.

    On a related note, see perhaps these links on the harvard walkout:

    One may see also how central India has been to the profits generated by OUP on the wikipedia entry on OUP:
    See also the stump on CUP vs Patton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_University_Press_v._Patton
    (though it mostly closes with the perspective of the AAP)

    Long live open access
    (as also permanent black!
    disclaimer: i’ve never been their employee)


  5. nice article. can we plan a letter signed by socially recognised intellectuals , other teachers, students and citizens against this right of students to study educational material at a reasonable cost


  6. This is an exceptionally poor article and I am surprised that either the Indian Express or Kafila would publish it. The author does not explain what a course pack is or what the university was doing exactly. Were they copying entire books? Or a bunch of articles from different books on different authors? Has he read the plaint and does he know exactly what Delihi Univ was doing? Isnt it true that most photocopy places will happily photocopy a book if you ask for it? Whereas in the West, a photocopy place would never do that. The author seems to suggest that because no volume limits are placed on the fair use provision, so no volume limits apply. Really? If that be so, then a university can buy one book, make 50 copies for 50 students in class of the entire book and that would be fine? What this case is about is this – the courts needs to draw a dividing line between what is okay and what is not. Copying an entire book is not ok. Copying a few articles may be. But then, how many articles, to what extent? Thats what the court needs to decide. One has to always draw a dividing line between protecting IP owners on one hand and giving reasonable access to users on the other. The author of this article lives in utopia believing just any kind of wholesale copying is okay. It is not and this kind of approach not only harms IP owners who have spent years preparing the content but is counter productive to Indian students – if you dont protect the IP owners sufficiently, they will withdraw their books from India and we will all suffer.


  7. Dear Stew India

    I am aware of the usual arguments about how the absence of a strong copyright regime would result in the lack of incentivization for authors, a decline in creativity and the death of the publishing industry etc. One could go into a detailed refutation of this but there is a lot of scholarship debunking some of these naive myths and a simple google search will help with that.

    This case is indeed about where one draws lines so what I will do instead is to excerpt portions of the petition so you get a sense of what course packs are ( they are well course packs) and you can decide whether this falls on this or the other side of the line

    Click to access extract%20from%20DU%20petition.pdf


    1. OK. My point was that in an article for a national newspaper, you should inform – tell em what is a course pack and what are the facts of the case. The doc you uploaded suggested front to back copying of entire books as well as a course pack of 400 pages +. I would tend to think that is crossing the line though Im not entirely sure myself. Your article also suggested that since there are no volume limits prescribed, for educational purposes, you can copy as much as you want. However, I think this case is a good development as it will give guidelines as to what is acceptable and what is not. I do also ask the question – for regular degree students (as opposed to researchers), why do we need these textbooks at all? Why not listen in class and take notes. Or make copies of the notes that one good student makes (as everyone did in NLS!!!). As to your point on the benefits of copyright, there is no doubt the issue is one of degree and not kind. It cannot be that you are advocating no copyright protection at all. Its simply impossible that that would not hurt creativity. Its a question of how much protection.


      1. Dear Stew India and Suresh

        The limitation of an op ed is you have eight hundred words to make an argument. I have a more detailed journal piece that examines the history of exceptions and limitations for education which may be of interest. It is available here


        On the quantum, Amlan Mohanty has done a very useful analysis of the percentage of books copied in the present case, and here is a sample of course pack no. 1


        Transforming India: Social and Political dynamics of Democaracy 7.01
        The BJP andCompulsions of Politics in India 5.97
        Parties and Party Politics in India 3.25
        Ethno-nationalism in India: A reader 5.55
        Nehru and the Language Politics of India 8.92
        The Political Economy of Federalism in India 2.77
        Politics in India ?
        The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India 3.8
        The New Cambridge History of India (IV) The Politics of India since Independence 4.43


      2. Fair enough, Lawrence, but I could only respond to your post.

        On the quantum, if I understand it right, the objection is not to photocopying per se. It is to the mass copying and marketing. Of course, asking each student to track down each book and photocopy the relevant pages is asking a lot, particularly if the class size is signifcant and that is typically the case in the Indian scenario. It would be asking a lot even in the US scenario.

        Personally, I think OUP and CUP should have attempted to talk to the concerned professors to find an acceptable solution before launching a lawsuit. They still should try to talk to Indian academics to find a solution because this problem (reading for a course covering material from multiple books and/or articles) is not going to go away.

        I’ll make two additional points. One possible solution for expensive books which does not involve photocopying is leasing. I think BITS Pilani had a scheme like this 20 years or so ago. (It may still be going on.) Basically, the university would buy copies of the more expensive books and lease it to the students enrolled in a course which used that book. The students returned the book at the end of the semester and the next batch would then use it and so on. In effect, this is what the second-hand book market does but leasing is more systematic.)

        The second point concerns the disgraceful state of our public and university libraries. I feel that the problem of photocopying may not be as intense if we had good libraries. Unfortunately, we don’t. It is not a good sign when the best accessible libraries in the metropolises — even in Delhi — are the British Council or the USIS. (There are good libraries like the one in the Parliament annexe which are inaccessible for ordinary mortals.) I do hope in all this noise about photocopying *some* thought is given to upgrading our libraries.


  8. @ Stew India- hits the nail right on the head.

    In my recently concluded experience as a DU student , low quality publishers peddle ‘affordable’ books with dubious authors and lip service to original authors*- whose works are ad verbatim copied on a large scale, leading to a rise in ‘guides’ and other sources for study.

    A certain % of the proceeds from photocopying of their works must be made over to the publishers especially in the case of ‘course packs’ where there is scale of operation.

    Generate bills – those Re 1 and 2 coins amount to a large amount of unaccounted money, simpering photocopiers want to use ‘student budgets’ as an excuse to prevent a major chunk of their unaccounted for income from being eroded.The affordability argument is also made by many students who’d splurge on recreation but wouldn’t bother to buy a decent* book.

    *usually with the big bad publishing houses.


  9. Raunak,
    This is not to put your credibility as a student in question, but exactly what level of student were you? Specifically, you a recent graduate or a researcher?
    –becuase while some undergraduate students can possibly get along with buying originals of the few books they need on pocket money given by generous parents (note here that undergraduate study doesn’t get govt funding, so anyway poorer students have it pretty tough), research requires hundreds of books per semester. Given the pressure on most libraries in central universities in this country, you cant possibly expect people to queue up in wait. ‘copying’ in its various forms then remains the only option. as for budgets and what they’re spent on I wonder why you assume the tone of moral outrage. Even if I take the amount UGC gives as scholarship to Mphils (which on paper has incresed to 5000/pm but is only about 3000 in most universities even now), and the number of books a researcher expected to read (at least 80 per semester, i.e. 15-20 per month-and these are only for prescribed courses and not other related books), the stipend wouldnt be enough to cover even 10% of book costs (and I’m not even talking of other costs like food and lodging). It strikes me as very strange then that you would assume such outrage at other things people spend on, as frankly, i dont know about you, but I’ve encountered in central univs at least 80% of the students do not have supplemental incomes/parental support. So really, the question is that when we talk about people who photocopy as people who can afford books and surveys that claim the same, I’m not so sure which people we are talking about.
    Also, even as a somewhat privileged student, while i may be able to buy 10-20% percent of my books, you are effectively denying me access to the rest.
    and the question is really that of access here, isnt it, especially in a country in which a)the kind of disparity you are talking about is so huge, b)global north-south power/knowledge flows, c)which related to point (b) colntinuing colonial privileges enjoyed by most-british/amer- publishing houses, and d)where higher education has only very recently begun to respond to questions of privilege and escpecially those constellated around caste?

    should higher education -or any institutional/formal education- then go back to being the privilege of the definitely rich?


  10. I detest paperbacks. I’ve gone through my entire engineering life of four years studying photocopied notes of exceptional students. This is because we students understand that far better than the ‘standard’ paperback editions which go way above our heads. Had those ‘exceptional’ students known that their work was being used by a plethora of engineering students and had they claimed a copyright violation, then they’d have made far more ‘profits’ and sales than any of the paperback editions.


    1. You’d need an eidetic memory to do that – or at least a photographic one – and how many students have one? As to your second (actually, first) point: nope, an individual copying a text by hand would not constitute a breach of copyright. Section 52 (1)(o) of the Copyright Act excludes from the copyright regime “the making of not more than three copies of a book (including a pamphlet, sheet of music, map, chart or plan) by or under the direction of the person in charge of a public library for the use of the library if such book is not available for sale in India”.


  11. The Supreme Court in the Francis Coralie Mullin case (1981) has held that the right to life in Art 21 is not just about physical survival and includes the right to ‘facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms’. And when Copyright comes in the way of a fundamental right it clear what should be given precedence.

    How does a restriction on photocopying prevent someone from reading, writing or expressing oneself in diverse forms? So far as I can see, a government can infringe on someone’s right to read only if it bans something or physically prevents access in some way (as for instance, to prisoners).

    But that is not what we are talking about here. Yes, books can be very costly and so beyond the reach of a particular individual but is that an infringement of the right to read, write or expressing oneself in diverse forms? Taken to the logical conclusion, such a broad interpretation of “rights” means that all books should be sold at a price of zero: Any price strictly greater than zero will price out someone or the other. And not just books: CDs, DVDs and anything else which can potentially be construed as interfering with “reading, writing or expressing oneself in diverse forms” ought to be sold at a price of zero.

    You are a lawyer and I am not but if this is what the Supreme Court meant in Francis Mullin, then I am sorry I don’t agree with it.

    Please note that so far I have taken no position on the issue of whether we should have copyright at all. That is a different matter. Certainly there are arguments against having copyrights and patents. In recent years, this position has been argued forcefully by the economists Michele Boldrin and David Levine in their book Against Intellectual Monopoly. However, I don’t think there is a consensus on this issue either amongst economists or amongst lawyers.


  12. Stew India and Raunak, please don’t speak in our name – those in academia who hope to be published or are published. For our precious intellectual labour on scholarly books and chapters we receive a paltry sum of money as fixed one time payment (less than what I would get for writing a half page article in a magazine) or even more paltry sums as royalties over the years. You would fall off your chairs if you knew how little authors matter in the larger scheme of publishing (all except a few stars and meteorites at the top of the food chain). For one book I wrote in, a scholarly, limited-audience type of book – published by an international conglomerate from London – I received zero payment. In another case, I wrote a couple of chapters for a textbook which became required reading not simply in my own university but across the country – one can safely say this book sold like hot cakes. For this one I received a laughable one-time payment – let’s say a tenth of one month’s salary of the editor who worked on my manuscript. And my case is absolutely the standard, not the exception. As I said, speak not in our names. And the solution is NOT to put the books out of the hands of students by forbidding photocopying, since whether the students read from the original or the photocopy, the only people getting rich are the publishing giants. The only people we would be rewarding by making photocopying illegal is those at the top of the hierarchy in publishing firms. Make no mistake, this lawsuit is about protecting the interests of the Goliaths, not the Davids.


    1. You are arguing a separate issue though and a good one. It cannot be a reason not to protect copyright. If that be so, why not you write another one and put it on the Internet for free. Tell your colleagues to do the same. Smash the stranglehold of the publishers. Make an effort to cover entire subjects and tell students they dont need the books or the coursepacks. I never read books or coursepacks in college, just notes. Then go back to them and tell them if you want to publish our stuff, you better pay us well for it. That’s a legitimate way of doing it. It’s possible now to sell directly as an e-book in fact and as this picks up, the balance of power will shift more in favor of authors. Your point cannot be an excuse for wholesale copying.


      1. Bang on, Stew India. The planetwide anti-DRM tribe – and I’m part of it – is doing a fair deal of pathbreaking work, but I’m afraid our Indian authors haven’t caught on to the fact that there is often more money to be made from simply placing books on the Net and leaving the till open for donations than from getting avoidable hypertension dealing with paper-based publishers.

        The counterargument to this is, of course, about how many college/university students have access to the Net and can download and read at their own opportunity. It’s a good contention, and inarguable in the present context – but it’s not going to be sustainable for very long, because the Net is catching up with students (or students are catching up with the Net).

        Since the publishers are not going to give up – they’re like supertankers, taking forever to change tack to save themselves even after they spot a reef that could rip through their bottomline and sink them – the Net is the saving grace. Online publishers can encrypt a digitised text till the cows come home, but there will always be ways to decrypt them and/or jailbreak e-readers.


  13. The market (yes, that big bad thing called the market) is already providing the solution. Proliferation of e-books is effectively undercutting the power of big publishing houses. Just as the big music labels were ruthlessly cut down by emergence of Napster, mp3 and ultimately the rise of the mobile phone.

    This debate is passe. Any number of books are available for free in the e-book format. Google books is another treasure trove.

    Authors can directly publish books now, for free or for a price, for niche or large audiences.

    I would be surprised if students in the next 5-6 years would not be completely freed of buying any books at all.


  14. Some statistics thanks to Rijul Kochhar. This is a list of just one of the courses in the MA Sociology syllabus along with the price of the books. The total cost of the books for this course alone comes to a staggering Rs. 82,000, helped of course by the unbelievable bur true (check flipkart) price of the David Cheal book, but assuming that we delete that book we are still left with a hefty bill of Rs.23,353. High even for those who want to splurge by skimping on books wouldn’t you say

    1. Mead, George Herbert, On Social Psychology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964, Selected Chapters.
    Rs. 1,272
    2. Luckmann, Thomas ed., Phenomenology and Sociology, Selected Readings, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1978, (Chap.12).
    3. Schutz, Alfred, On Phenomenology and Social Relations, Selected Writings, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, (72-78).
    Rs. 1573
    4. Schutz, Alfred, The Stranger: An Essay in Social Psychology, in Collected Papers, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964.
    Rs. 6610
    5. Berger, Peter L. and Thomas Luckmann, The social construction of reality, London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1966, Part 1.
    Rs. 728
    6. Peter Berger ‘Marriage and the social construction of reality: An exercise in microsociology of knowledge’ in in David Cheal (ed.) Family: Critical concepts in sociology, New York: Routledge, vol.1.
    Rs. 59,479 !!!!! (emphasis added)
    7. Goffman, Erving, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Prentice- Hall, 1963.
    Rs. 709

    8. Garfinkel, Harold, Studies in Ethnomethodology, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984, (Chaps: 1, 2, 5).
    Rs. 1515
    9. Simmel, George, On Individuality and Social Forms, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971, (Chaps: 3).
    Rs. 731

    10. Radcliffe-Brown A.R., Structure and Function in Primitive Society, London: Cohen and West, 1971, (Chaps: 9, 10).

    11. Levi-Strauss, Claude Structural Anthropology, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963, Selected chapters.
    Rs. 1562

    12. Levi-Strauss, Claude, The Savage Mind, London, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1966 Selected Chapters.
    Rs. 3031

    13. Parsons, Talcott, On Institutions and Social Evolution, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982, (Selected Chapters).
    Rs. 1799
    14. Luhmann, Niklas, The Differentiation of Society, New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, Chapter 3.

    Not Available
    15. Rabinow, Paul ed., The Foucault Reader, London: Penguin Books, 1984 (ps. 51- 120,170-289).
    Rs. 369
    16. Foucault, Michel, The Archaeology of Knowledge, New York: Pantheon Books 1971, (Chaps. 1,2).
    Rs. 685
    17. Bourdieu, Pierre, The Logic of Practice, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990 (Book 1, Chaps: 3,4,5,6,7,8).
    Rs. 1419
    18. Bourdieu, Pierre and Loic Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, Selected chapters.
    Rs. 152

    19. Butler, Judith, Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity, London, Routledge, Chapter 1.
    Rs. 319
    20. de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall, University of California Press, Berkeley 1984, Part III: Spatial Practices.
    Rs. 929


    1. Lawrence,

      In the list you give, very few require the purchase of the entire book – just a few chapters. In some cases, (for instance, the David Cheal edited book) the article referred to is just a republication of the original article. (In this case, Peter Berger’s article was originally published in the journal Diogenes.) You are thus exaggerating the cost.

      A little digging unearthed something called the Copyright Licence Agency which in the UK seems to govern the creation of “course packs.” (That is, if a university has the licence and possess the relevant book/journal, then material from that book/journal can be used to create a “course pack” subject to certain conditions. The CLA has a document which gives examples of “good practice” and “bad practice” and people interested may want to take a look: it’s here. As I said in my previous comment, the publishers should sit down with academics and librarians and find a solution because the problem is not going to go away.


      1. If you see the list of ‘infringing’ materials in the petition, they include single chapters from an anthology of essays which is the precise problem. This should not even count since it is allowed use. I agree with finding a solution, but as with any other law- if publishers are unhappy with the exceptions that are available then lobby with the government for a change of law. There are many laws that we are not happy with but have to live with them or hope that they will change.

        Para 7 of the petition claims that ‘No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press’. This is just not true in law. The mere assertion of an absolute claim by the copyright owners does not make public interest limitations such as those in Sec 52 disappear

        Para 7

        It is submitted that each legitimate copy of the Plaintiffs’ publications bear relevant and appropriate copyright declarations [©] with respect to the work. Further, the copyright notice page which appears at the beginning of every legitimate copy of such publications published by the Plaintiff No. 1, contains a notification stating: “No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization”. A similar notification is present
        on the copyright notice page of every legitimate copy of any publication by the Plaintiff No.2 and the Plaintiff No.4 as well. As a result of these declarations, every person who purchases any of the Plaintiffs’ publications is necessarily and immediately constructively notified and/or is deemed notified of the Plaintiffs’ exclusive legal
        rights residing therein.


  15. Interesting how some responders appear to have completely ignored my suggestion that a certain % of photocopying proceeds be made over to the publishers whose books are photocopied, and somehow read my comment as being in favour of a ban.


    1. Raunaq, it won’t work. Publishers today are taking the Walmart road to profits – appropriate the small guy’s territory, not a take a cut from the small guy. The India office of the largest publishing house in the world, for example, has had for the past two years a stated marketing policy of infiltrating ASAP the ‘kunji’ market in the periurban and semiurban areas. You can see where our distinguished threesome are going with making an example of Rameshwari Photocopy Service.

      As Suresh’s written, “the problem is not going to go away”. My take is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Right now, we’ve merely got a cartel of three publishers. The others are waiting to see how it goes: but I think they’ll jump on board sooner rather than later because, liberal stink or not, profits are profits.


  16. Raunak, no one is ignoring what you’ve said,
    just taking issue with the underlying assumptions of your misplaced sense of moral outrage.
    another rain check-academics have much too often received letters from CUP (and also OUP) thanking them for having given CUP (or OUP) permission to reprint their essay when in fact the houses never even asked for permission, let alone received it.

    Why should the burden of sustainability fall on authors and students alone-to the increased profit of transnational publishing businesses?
    Do you really have any idea about academics and publishing in India?
    These houses have to do nothing, just brand an author’s labour of love with their mark, and yet they are allowed to claim to much in return?-and they pay their employees shit, so dont even start about their costs…
    obviously, the issue of publishing cannot be seen outside larger issues regarding the very nature of democracy and its relation to questions of political economy.

    as for arguments being made about publishing online or as ebooks, easy to say. all authors/academicians need to show the brands they’ve published with-unlike with teen romances or vampire fiction, they’re not books likely to be popular or even likely to be measured by their popularity. there is a huge lot of pressure on academics to publish with big/reputable houses. and may i add, given that these houses are as bad as the other (almost working like a cartel), you have to accept 5-7% royalty, you have to turn over not just e-copy rights but also translation rights to these houses, and mostly, you dont even get informed when a reprint is issued.
    irrespective, authors often at risk to themselves make a lot of their work available online and even send entire author copies to petitioning students. but this is simply not possible because of the pressure (number, expectations, low salaries?, status of education as lower priority) on the academia.
    things are changing but not as wonderfully as you expect. and given the kind of lobbies and political power big corporates enjoy, things can hardly be half as hopeful as somnath, stew india, et al. seem to be suggesting
    And then there are authors like Mankiw-who was Bush’s advisor, so least said the better.


    1. Seeta,

      Google Books alone has more than 20 million books scanned. Google estimates that there are 130 million unique books, so we are well on our way – dont forget Moore’s law! There are lots of other platforms, like Manybooks that offer free online books.

      Add to that the growing ubiquity of mobile and tablet devices at low cost (Micromax Funbook is available for 5k), and the concern here is more for the threat of an ageing dinosaur rather than a flame-throwing draggon.


    2. Seeta, I’m afraid I’m going to add to your hypertension a bit by venturing that you’re speaking through your (proverbial) hat when it comes to the e-book quasi-codex (and I’m using the word ‘codex’ in its archaic meaning: ‘book of statutes’). You can publish whatever you want on the Net, from short shorts to megatonne tomes without ever having to approach a publisher. Sure, you’ll find a thousand e-publishers on the Net offering to buff and polish your text and post it on their sites after taking a haunch of the profits – but these are just the advance profiteers hoping to make a buck from greenhorns in an emergent system, even though that system is largely free. If you’ve got enough confidence in your writing skills – or even if you’ve got just confidence, period – go ahead and publish on the Net. There are enough free sites – or you can cough up roughly Rs. 12,000 a year for your own (hosted) site and publish there.

      There are no e-publisher cartels. You don’t have to turn over copyright. You don’t have to turn over translation rights. The issue of ‘reprints’ doesn’t arise on the Net: once your text is on the Net, it’s on the Net – forever.

      Yes, some newspapers are giving paywalls a shot. Things are just not working out very well for them.

      Also, there’s no point in going up in flames about publishers paying “their employees shit”. They don’t; they pay their employees pretty well, in fact. They just don’t pay their freelance editors – who have far more experience but can’t stand the we-sell-soap atmosphere of most publishing houses and therefore prefer the freedom of working from home – very well, even though the freelancers do the bulk of the (content and copy) editing work.

      The problem with publishing e-books is that a writer can’t get away with busting the cardinal publishing rule: plagiarism. Your text is wide open to scrutiny, often by those better than your peers. There is no getting away with tricky referencing (or, as often happens in paper books – increasingly these days) no referencing at all. Your book gets the reception it deserves, not the reception that a publishing house has laid out for it.

      I guess the point I’m trying to make is that writers ought to be a bit circumspect about complaining about the iniquities that publishers are up to, and have long excelled in, and, at the same time, declare themselves helpless to dissociate from these publishers because of the “huge lot of pressure on academics to publish with big/reputable houses”. What pressure? Since writers are being paid chickenshit anyway – well, many of them, not all: I know, and know of, terrible writers who were paid a bomb – they have the choice to stay either true to themselves or sell out to the fatcat publishers.

      Oh, just to answer the inevitable question before it crops up: Am I intimate with publishing in India? Yes, I am.


      1. Err.. You’ve completely missed the point.
        The point of the repute attached to publishing houses is just that-not the money, but the repute (hence the caution that academic books arent popular fiction-not mostly and thus have very little chance of gaining repute in numbers).
        Unless your books are published by the big names, you might as well not have published. Where in the university system is it acceptable thus far to point at a manuscript published online?
        As for who gets paid what, that’s so not the point i’m making- i’m only saying that to discount the all too familiar argument made by publishers…also, I’ve been a freelancer too. and an intern with an indie publisher. Freelancing pays little, there’s no security, etc. and the indie guy always made me haggle every month when it was pay time. I literally had to make a scene to get my money and even then I got less than half. So definitely, working with a bigger publishing house ensures a timely cheque-how big or small can be debated endlessly.
        Also, please note I’m not discounting authors’ responsibilty (therefore the mention of greg mankiw but then again you may not know about him even if you are an insider).
        The way I see it, the better and truer academics do try to open source some of their work, but its a fine balancing act. Not between possessing/money and generosity but between credentials that help your continued presence in the university space and participating in more democratic forms. An academic who thinks about democratic questions has all the more to prove her worth via the estd channels of repute as she will always have not only the University admin but also often the Indian State waiting for her to slip…
        But then I’m physically unfit what with my bp and everything, so all these could just as easily be phantasmagoric hallucinations of the idealistic kind.
        As for declaring themselves helpless, no one has done quite that, if you have at all followed the trajectory of events around this debate.


  17. Quote 1:
    * The affordability argument is also made by many students who’d splurge on recreation but wouldn’t bother to buy a decent* book.*

    –> Notice the words ‘also’, and ‘many’.

    This is w.r.t. students who have the means but don’t ever bother buying decent books- with the excuse of them not being affordable.

    Combine the above explanation with the main suggestion, and perhaps your issue with my remarks would subside.

    Quote 2:
    * Low quality publishers peddle ‘affordable’ books with dubious authors and lip service to original authors*- whose works are ad verbatim copied on a large scale, leading to a rise in ‘guides’ and other sources for study.*

    As regards the ‘plight’ of authors, I’m aware of it, with the experiences of a ‘contractually disappointed’ author in my immediate family.

    –> Industry practices like the ones you’ve mentioned, creating fake authors and then reproducing works of original authors merit Legal action.

    However, when one doesn’t combine risk with their ‘labour of love’ & legal based vigilance of contractual cross obligations, one will not get the kind of returns that one thinks they deserve.

    With the kind of line you’re taking, may I suggest that the good old profit motive is driving you too.


    1. arguments like yours, even with the addendum of words like ‘many’ and ‘also’ are verbatim reproduced in surveys funded by publishing houses that seem to suggest that copying books is just a matter of convenience for errant/too cool students who want to splurge on movies (shock), pubs (more shock) and what not.
      so the problem is that inspite of such concessions as made in the name of authors in own family, you sound way too much like a mckinsey survey.
      also, since we are quoting now, i’ve never encountered ‘simpering photocopiers’. most photocopiers i’ve encountered are all too efficient, helpful and exist on the margins of huge scale economies of publishing.
      as for bad publishers and guide books or whatever, i have no experience with those, so you must be right about their legality-but the point is just that-they are already persecuted/deserving of persecution under existent legal norms so i dont know why you even brought those up right now, if not to create a special effect of drama and dark, oh-so-dark underdealings and grey markets.
      what oup, cup and t & f are attempting is to create another law that voids students’ rights to study.
      you can go on admonishing certain sections of students for wanting to spend on other things-itself problematic cause that’s what they’re being exhorted (and expected) to do within our liberal/globalised and ‘up and coming’ economy-but the point is that even allowing publishers a cut is going to push budgets way beyond 70% students’ pockets-as the north american experience tells us.
      and what is the line i’m taking, pray inform me? also you might want to tell me where i’ve mentioned ‘fake authors’?


  18. Hallo Lawrence, why not evoke the power of shadow libraries here? you argue that it will be possible in 15 to 20 years that we could be carrying in our pockets a card with 37 million books of the Library of Congress collection. So it seems that every person on earth can have the full library. The publishing industries are fighting a loosing battle. Their business model of making money from public funded research via “reputation” publishing will not work. The production relations are increasingly fettering the productive forces :).


    1. Jeebesh, the effectiveness and pleasure of shadows is precisely because they don’t come out into the limelight, and while sometimes we have to do things in the limelight, we do them knowing that we have to walk a certain line. Dancing on the other hand is best done in the dark ;) and dont worry there are many plans being hatched of dancing in the dark


  19. Just to give you 1 sense of why MBA education is costly – each student in the PGP of the IIMs is given a brand new set of original course books when they step in. And management books don’t come cheap. I can imagine the amount of money those books might be costing. One of the costs that the students bear through the lenient voluminous loan which they have to pay any which ways…


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