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”