Hail the Students’ Struggle for its Victory in the Battle against Corporate Publishers : New Socialist Initiative

Guest Post by New Socialist Initiative (Delhi Chapter)

On 9 March 2017 three well-established academic corporate publishing houses, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis withdrew their copyright suit filed in the High Court against Delhi University and Rameshwari Photocopy Shop, a shop stationed at the Delhi School of Economics campus in Delhi University licensed by the University to carry out photocopying work. The suit that was filed in August 2012 on the grounds that photocopying material from books published by the above three publishers by university students, particularly in the compilation of coursepacks, constituted copyright infringement and revenue loss to the publishers. Right from the beginning it was clear this case was treated as a test case to instate a licensing regime, much like one that exists in the US and other First World countries.
Being the absolute primary constituency to be impacted by such a case and its possible outcomes, students of Delhi University were amongst the first to take up the battle against some of the most powerful publishing houses in academia. The ‘Campaign to Save D.School Photocopy Shop’ soon became the ‘Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge’ (ASEAK), reflecting the growing politicisation of the student community on the issue of the knowledge commons in order to resist an increasing attempt across the world to create a market out of it where it didn’t as yet exist. This can be seen in the case of Costa Rica as well where there was an attempt to make photocopying illegal, a move that was successfully opposed on a massive scale by students.
The students of Delhi University, organised as ASEAK, opposed the move through a range of mechanisms, mobilising students from class to class, organising public meetings, taking out protest rallies, campaigning against these publishers at the annual World Book Fair held in New Delhi, influencing public opinion through writing in newspapers, and last but not the least, taking up the legal battle in the courts. NSI hails the struggle of the students that brought to the centre of the debate questions of equity and justice within the arena of production and distribution of knowledge resources, challenging the private property regime sought to be implemented in the sphere of knowledge production by these big academic corporate publishing houses. 
For the last few years the primary site of the battle has been in the High Court at New Delhi. The publishers have received repeated blow after blow in this process as well, leading to their final withdrawal of the suit altogether. The win is a big victory and testament to the struggle of the students, backed by a legal team that has been seminal to the victory, along with support from the academic community. The case, that attempted to strike a ‘balance’ between private profits of the publishers and the rights of students to access materials in the pursuit of their education, has dealt a blow to precisely such a misconception that the two ‘interests’ are in fact of equal concern.
Along with students, who assert their right over the materials they access as part of their fundamental right to education, scholars, often the authors of these materials, have equally come out to state that there is no better reward for their work as intellectuals, as to be read by as many students as can get hold of their work, photocopied or otherwise. The emphasis of the corporate publishers in asserting absolute ownership over the works they publish, in a rare instance where the labour of writing a book is provided at no cost to the publishers, borne by universities, students’ fees and taxpayers’ money instead, is shameful and needs to be rejected at all cost.
NSI congratulates the students, lawyers, academics and concerned citizens who persisted in their resistance against the bullying tactics of big academic corporate publishing houses and calls on the academic community to engage with new ways of producing and sharing knowledge so as to create equitable, just and democratic structures of knowledge production.
EDUCATION OVER COPYRIGHT! KNOWLEDGE OVER PROFIT!

The Radical Significance of the DU Photocopy case for Global Copyright

protest

While the immediate beneficiaries of the Delhi high court’s judgment in the Delhi University photocopy case are obviously the university, the photocopy shop and the students and academics who filed intervention petitions supporting the right to photocopy, the import of Justice Endlaw’s finely reasoned judgment goes well beyond this specific case as well as its impact on access to knowledge in India. The judgment and its treatment of educational exceptions in copyright law is unprecedented and could well become a model of how national IP laws should be interpreted. To understand its global significance we should turn to a short history of norm creation in copyright and its relation to specific national and local needs. 

The Berne convention in 1886 for the first time laid out uniform global norms for copyright protection and established minimum standards that would apply to all signatory states. This was concretised further through the TRIPS agreement in 1994. In addition to laying out the common minimum standard that would define the global intellectual property regime, these treaties also allowed countries some amount of flexibility in customizing their national legislation to respond to their access to knowledge needs. These were by way of exceptions and limitations that a country could impose on the exercise of intellectual property rights, and  it in this tricky terrain that many global IP battles have been fought. Both the Berne convention and the TRIPS agreement allow for fair dealing exceptions in national legislations, and in the case of the Berne convention there is also a special exception allowed for educational uses.  Continue reading “The Radical Significance of the DU Photocopy case for Global Copyright”

Victory for Students and Access to Knowledge in DU Copyright Case :ASEAK

Guest Statement by Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK)

Victory for Students and Access to Knowledge in DU Copyright Case : Corporate Publishers Market ends at the gates of the University

In a rare and incredible order today, the Delhi High Court has dismissed the copyright infringement case filed by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis (Routledge) against Rameshwari Photocopy Shop in Delhi School of Economics and Delhi University. Justice R.S Endlaw in a 94 pages long judgment interpreted educational exception under section 52(1)(i) of the copyright act in broad enough manner to cover the acts of photocopying.

The publishers sought to claim damages to the tune of 60 lakh rupees from the shop citing infringement of copyright which the publishers claimed was happening through photocopying of parts of books published by them. However, the publishers themselves stated that this case, for them, was a test case where they wanted to introduce licensing systems across universities in India. These licensing systems intended to control the extent to which material could be photocopied and also direct a share of profit from these reproductions to the publishers. We, the Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK) demanded to be made a defendant in this case as we believed that it is the rights of students to access reading material that was at stake in this case- “Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK) filed IA No.3454/2013 for impleadment in the present suit and which was allowed vide order dated 1st March, 2013 and ASEAK impleaded as defendant No.3.” (from the judgment). Continue reading “Victory for Students and Access to Knowledge in DU Copyright Case :ASEAK”

The new war on piracy

This is a piece that has come out in today’s Hindu

 

Recent reports about the change in copyright infringement warnings on various websites have triggered anxiety among many Internet users in India. While the government has maintained a list of banned websites for quite some time, the warning that one earlier saw merely mentioned that the website had been blocked under directions from the Department of Telecommunications, while the new message warns against the viewing, downloading, exhibition and duplication of the contents of the URL as being offences which are punishable under Sections 63, 63-A, 65 and 65-A of the Copyright Act. It further states that these provisions prescribe a punishment of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs.3 lakh.

Internet users in India, many of whom routinely use torrent sites to access a range of entertainment and other content, are understandably worried about the new punitive rhetoric that underlies the warning. It may therefore be useful to unpack what the law actually says on the point and also examine the impulse behind this rhetorical shift within the logic of copyright enforcement.

Conflating various provisions

Sec. 63 of the Copyright Act, which deals with the offence of infringement, provides that any person who ‘knowingly’ infringes copyright or abets in the infringement of the same may be punished with imprisonment (minimum of six months and extendable to three years) and fined up to Rs.2 lakh. The new warning seems to have accounted for inflation and arbitrarily extended the fine amount to Rs.3 lakh, but that is only one part of its disingenuity. What the warning does is to conflate all the provisions and flatten them as though they all deal with a singular thing called infringement. Continue reading “The new war on piracy”

Pirates in our public library – Why Indian scholars are closely watching a court case in Quebec: Rochelle Pinto

Rochelle Pinto in Scroll.in

In 2005, Sean Dockray did what any sensible government should have done for its students. The American artist set up a sharing-enabled platform for a website then called aaaaarg.org, and uploaded digital copies of largely theoretical and philosophical texts that could be freely downloaded by readers. Before long, many of the researchers, students, teachers, and scholars who used the site began to upload scans of texts in their possession – exactly as Dockray hoped they would.

To readers based in places like India, a collection with this breadth is simply unavailable and, on first sight, unimaginable, as these books often sell at more than three or four times the price of a bestselling novel. Outside of the highly professionalised, and increasingly corporatised atmosphere of the better-funded US, European and East Asian university libraries, scholars have to settle for producing critical research without access to (or sometimes knowledge of) essential material.With aaaaarg.org, anyone with an internet connection could access mutually contributed material, reminding us that research relies on a common pool of ideas.

Since no good deed goes unpunished, Dockray has been regularly pursued with the odd legal notice. Those who punched in the address aaaaarg.org (now aaaaarg.fail) to search for this boon of a resource know that it kept adding or subtracting an “a” to its cry of frustration every six months or so in response to the threats. Aaaaarg.org sometimes took down a few texts, negotiated with publishers, and persuaded a few to back off, aided by reader support. The site is now hosted by free software advocate Marcell Mars as aaaaarg.fail. As a case filed by an unknown publisher is underway in the Superior Court of Quebec, long time users are, aside from contributing towards their legal expenses, hoping that the project does not go the way of other online sites such as library.nu and gigapedia that were forced to shut down.

Read the rest of the article here.

 

Of Gandhi and a Godfatherly Copyright Offer- Part 2: Shamnad Basheer and Lawrence Liang

This is the second part of an earlier post in which we refuted the claims made by the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisation about the ongoing copyright case filed against Delhi University and Rameshwari Photocopy Services. A group of students (ASEAK) and academics (SPEAK) have separately impleded themselves in the suit.

Gandhi, Karan Johar and Cafes?

The FRRO recycles the insidious idea that the cost to students of paying the license fee for course packs would be the equivalent of an ‘evening in a student café’. This naïve assumption could be the result of watching too many Karan Johar films in which all Indian campuses look like Riverdale and all students wear Gucci and Nike. Click here for a contrary perspective

For sure, there are a number of rich Indian students who probably spend way more on cafes than they do on books (forgive them father for they know not what they do). But when we think of articulating copyright norms, what kind of student should serve up as our policy addressee? The urban upper middle class creamy layer student who constitutes but a miniscule proportion of the totality or ones from lower economic strata that constitute the vast majority?

Continue reading “Of Gandhi and a Godfatherly Copyright Offer- Part 2: Shamnad Basheer and Lawrence Liang”

Of Gandhi and a Godfatherly Copyright Offer: Shamnad Basheer and Lawrence Liang

In an op-ed in the Hindu, we highlighted an egregious copyright law-suit slapped against Delhi University and its photocopier by leading foreign publishers. The IFFRO (International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisation) and its partner organisations which collect moneys on behalf of publishers issued a response to this piece, expectantly touting the virtues of acquiring a copyright license from them.

Unfortunately, owing to space constraints, we could only offer a pithy rebuttal to their response in the Hindu.

Below is a more elaborate version of our rebuttal.

(For those who came in late, here is a short jingly version of what this law suit is really about)

For those interested in tracking the case, see updates on SpicyIP

An Irrefusable Offer:

In their response, the IFRRO and its counterparts once again offer the option of a tantalizingly cheap copyright license, repeatedly stressing the “reasonableness” of their offer.

Continue reading “Of Gandhi and a Godfatherly Copyright Offer: Shamnad Basheer and Lawrence Liang”