Tag Archives: copyright

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.

The Radical Significance of the DU Photocopy case for Global Copyright


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

Is there anything like ‘copying’ fairly?: Rajshree Chandra


Guest post by RAJSHREE CHANDRA: In the backdrop of the on going battle in the Delhi High Court, between publishers (OUP, CUP and Taylor and Francis) and Rameshwari photocopiers-Delhi University (next hearing 8th May, 2013), there are two perspectives to which attention needs to be drawn. The first, of course, is a legal one which allows for course pack to be compiled for dissemination of course and research material, provided they adhere to stipulated norms. What are these stipulated norms? Have DU, and its network of photocopying, infringed these legal guidelines or even transgressed internationally evolved, legally acceptable norms of “fair use”. Continue reading Is there anything like ‘copying’ fairly?: Rajshree Chandra

Aaron Swartz, R.I.P: Swaraj Paul Barooah

Reposting a tribute by Swaraj Paul Barooah which originally appeared on Spicy IP to Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz hung himself on January 11th 2013 and had been facing extensive legal charges for having downloaded 4 million articles from JSTOR which he intended to  make available for free online



Some of us in India may not have heard of Aaron Swartz, a 26 year old activist who was heavily involved in copyright policy issues and issues surrounding technology freedom. He committed suicide on Jan 11th, 2013 and his story is a sad one which is certainly worth sharing. However, what’s also important to note, are the circumstances which may have led his eventual suicide.

While it cannot be confirmed, it appears that his arrest and indictment for charges of downloading academic papers from MIT and JSTOR resulting in possible jail time of over 50 years and 4 million dollars in fines may have been the cause. JSTOR apparently had dropped the charges, but the US government continued the case and racked up a total of 14 counts of felony against him. (Note: it is unclear whether MIT pursued the charges or not). Clearly he was seen as very troublesome by the government and his online activism must’ve had a lot to do with that.
Continue reading Aaron Swartz, R.I.P: Swaraj Paul Barooah

Merry Copyright to you – A jingle for the Oxford v. Rameshwari Case

A group of publishers (Oxford and Cambridge University Press and Francis & Taylor) have sued Delhi University & its agent, Rameshwari Photocopy Service for compiling short extracts from different textbooks into a digest for students to use as part of their study (commonly referred to as “course packs”).

Naturally, students, teachers and even authors of these text books have protested this aggressive law suit, particularly since this is perfectly acceptable under the Indian Copyright Act, which allows for “fair use” and permits any reproduction of copyrighted works, so long as it is done in the course of educational instruction.

This is not mala fide use, nor is anyone selling these ‘course packs’ for profit. Publishers going after students, many of them from economically disadvantaged communities, despite the high cost of textbooks, really begs the question – whither our constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to education? Continue reading Merry Copyright to you – A jingle for the Oxford v. Rameshwari Case

Delhi University Restrained for Alleged Admission of Infringement: True Lies? Amlan Mohanty

Cross posting an intervention  by Amlan Mohanty from SpicyIP since it provides us with a very insightful analysis of the recent injunction obtained in the DU photocopy case. It also refers to  an anonymous link to communication which indicates what the real intent behind the case is.

Delhi University Restrained for Alleged Admission of Infringement: True Lies?

This afternoon, in response to my post announcing a petition relating to the OUP-Delhi University copyright dispute, we received a comment informing us that an order had already been passed against Delhi University a few days ago.
There was also a link to an e-mail allegedly sent to various publishers informing them of this order. The e-mail appears to have been sent from the lawyers representing the publishers. Unfortunately, this was posted anonymously in our comments section so we are unable to verify its authenticity. However, if it is in fact genuine, it raises an entire gamut of interesting questions that the future of this case will hinge upon.

Bootlegging Education – Four Strategies for Fighting Back

Yes, this is what we must do now on a large scale – bootleg education.

Thanks to the conjunction of new heights of intellectual bankruptcy with new regimes of intellectual property, a large scale attack on equitable access to education is upon us. A longer discussion on  ‘Intellectual property’ is required, but the immediate provocation for this post is of course the Delhi University photocopying case. Elsewhere on Kafila, there is a post that links to a petition by authors and academics on this issue. The case, very simply is this: three big corporate publishers, namely Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court, claiming infringement of copyright with regard to course packs used by students. The offender against these giant publishers is a small photocopy shop in Delhi School of Economics. As many legal experts on intellectual property and the Indian copyright law have stated, this kind of photocopying is well within the framework of the law (See some of the discussion here and here).

At the moment, however, I am not concerned with the pure legality of the issue. The question of ‘course packs’ concerns the vital interests of our society as a whole. For there was a time when teaching at the college and university level was  conducted largely through substandard kunjis, or guidebooks – honourable exceptions apart, of course.  Even today we have at least one of the corporate giants (that happens to be among those suing the little Rameshwari photocopier), producing slightly upmarket versions of such guidebooks. University professors willing to write a substandard book a month that fits into some course or the other, are also published by  publishers like these now, euphemistically called ‘textbooks’. In an earlier time, such books of barely passable scholarship (largely plagiarized cut-and-paste jobs) would be published only by dubious publishers.

Continue reading Bootlegging Education – Four Strategies for Fighting Back

Authors and academics for equitable access to learning material

Three large academic publishers – Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis – have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court claiming copyright infringement with regard to the course packs used by students of Delhi University in a number of disciplines.  It is clear from DU’s stance in court that they are  distancing themselves from the  photocopier, thus clearing the way for the Court to pass an injunction staying the sale of course packs. It is absolutely critical now  for academics and authors to step up our campaign in support of our students’ access to learning materials:

Please sign the on-line petition at the link below:

“…As authors and educators, we would like to place on record our distress at this act of the publishers, as we recognize the fact that in a country like India marked by sharp economic inequalities, it is often not possible for every student to obtain a personal copy of a book. In that situation the next best thing would have been for multiple copies of the book to be available in the library so that students are able to access these books without any difficulty. But given the constraints that libraries in India work with, they may only have a single copy of a book and in many instances, none at all. The reason we make course packs is to ensure that students have access to the most relevant portions of the book without which we would be seriously compromising their education….”

Academic Publishers – An Insider’s perspective: Anonymous Contributor

I am posting an email I received this morning by someone who works at a leading multinational academic publishing house and hence wants to remain anonymous which raises very important points relevant to the ongoing debate about copyright, photocopying and the practices within academic publishing. (Thanks to anonymous contributor for this)

Also for more detailed discussions please see the following posts at spicyip by Amlan Mohanty (1, 2,) Shamnad Basheer (1, 2) and Prashant Reddy 1

Hello Lawrence,

In his Op-Ed in today’s Hindu, Sudhanva Deshpande referred to your work, and soon, I stumbled upon your articles at Kafila and the general discussion on the blogosphere. As someone who worked for a few years in a leading multinational academic publishing company, I thought I might — if this doesn’t sound too pretentious — offer some more ammunition to you. What I have to say may not be immediately relevant to the DU case, but I hope you’ll have the time to read. Continue reading Academic Publishers – An Insider’s perspective: Anonymous Contributor

Copyrights versus The Right to Copy – A Normative Perspective: Rajshree Chandra


For those not familiar with the recent spate of events at Delhi University; and for those who may have missed Lawrence Liang’s post, here’s a bird’s eye view: Impatient with an old gargantuan University’s obsolete ways, the authorities have attempted a make-over. As in all make overs, the old structure is retained but glossed over with cosmetic changes so as to appear ‘new’. So we have new hip courses, new syllabi content for old courses, new reading lists, new reading packages, new exam system, semesters and so on. Making all transitions possible of course, is a team of make-over artists. At one end of the set up are photocopiers like Rameshwari Photocopy Service located within the renowned Delhi School of Economics and Sociology; and at the other end, we the teachers. Reading material – by way of recommended articles, papers, chapters – was provided to the photocopiers by University faculty, who then made copies of them, segregated them year wise and instruction wise. The first page specified the semester for which the reading material was relevant, the ‘max marks’, the course objective and the syllabus all clearly outlined. Only after they were thus meticulously detailed were they spiral bound with the customary blue plastic cover and voila! Teachers and students alike had accessible reading and teaching material for all the new jazzed-up-courses. Emails circulated by departments instructed the college departments to use and recommend these dossiers; phone numbers of relevant photocopiers were given; and before long an entire chain of dissemination of this ‘new knowledge’ was established. It was all ‘official’. But more importantly, it was affordable, effective and terribly efficient. There was just one problem – it was in violation of the copyright law! The Rameshwari photocopiers were the new pirates!

Continue reading Copyrights versus The Right to Copy – A Normative Perspective: Rajshree Chandra

Fair Use and Course Packs: A Comparative Perspective : Danish Sheikh

Guest post by Danish Sheikh

The first day of law school, we were handed 5 sets of non-aesthetically pleasing  spiral bound sheets of paper.  They contained a jumble of articles from eclectic sources; varied in size from a 150 pages to this-is-going-to-sprain-my-arm; and when relied on by the instructor, were absolutely indispensable.  The course packs were provided by the university at a reasonable fee, and soon became an integral part of our legal education.  True, there were occasional classes where a textbook was imposed on you by the professor, but again, it was often possible to track down a helpful senior’s tattered copy. Only if you got truly unlucky did you have to deplete your dwindling student resources to fork out money for a 500 page hardbound tome.

Continue reading Fair Use and Course Packs: A Comparative Perspective : Danish Sheikh

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. Continue reading Oxford and Cambridge University Publishers v. Students of India

Meet Ashok Kumar the John Doe of India; or The Pirate Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

The internet has been abuzz with  news of all the major ISPs in India blocking popular websites including piratebay, vimeo, dailymotion and pastebin etc. This is pursuant to a Chennai high court order available here and there are a number of unanswered questions about the validity of the blocking of the websites including whether the DOT were entitled to ask for a blocking of the site on the basis of the orders, how the ISPs chose these particular websites since the order itself does not mention any particular website. This is not to mention the larger question of how the last ten years has seen the dubious rise of John Doe orders as preemptive measure against copyright infringement.

For those unfamiliar with John Doe orders, they are ex parte injunctions ordered against unknown persons. Just to put this in context, ex parte injunctions are not the easiest things to obtain since they are based on the denial of  another person’s right to be heard. So even for cases of violence against women getting an ex parte restraining order is not easy. In contrast the last ten years we have seen the ease with which one can obtain these orders for copyright infringement cases. Continue reading Meet Ashok Kumar the John Doe of India; or The Pirate Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

The Patriot Act of Intellectual Property

I was at a meeting recently to discuss what is now being termed, as The Patriot Act of Intellectual Property. Some of the leading economic powers including the US, European Commission and Japan have been negotiating an agreement, the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which attempts to redefine IP enforcement. The Bush administration is particularly keen that they finalize this agreement before the end of his term. At the moment the substantive content of the agreement is not known, and the few details that are available are only because of a leaked document of the US government available in Wikileaks.

Continue reading The Patriot Act of Intellectual Property