In its much awaited judgment in the Delhi University photocopying case (The Chancellor Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford v. Rameshwari Photocopy Services), the Delhi High Court has dismissed the copyright infringement petition initiated in August 2012 by three publishers (Oxford, Cambridge and Taylor & Francis) against a photocopy shop located in the premises of Delhi University. This case, which was being closely tracked by students, teachers and the publishing industry alike, was seen as one with immense significance for questions of access to knowledge. While initially involving only the publishers, the photocopier and the university, the case also saw intervention petitions being filed by a student group (Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge) as well as by teachers and academics (Society for Promoting Educational Access and Knowledge). While the publishers made the argument that the creation of course packs and the photocopying of academic material for the same amounted to an infringement of the exclusive copyright of the authors and publishers, the defendants argued that the reproduction of materials for educational purposes fell within the exceptions to copyright under Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act.
Not a moral right
In his considered and sharply reasoned judgment, Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw examines the gamut of arguments made by both sides and arrives at the conclusion that copyright is a statutory right and not a natural right, and hence any right that is granted to owners is also limited by exceptions carved out by law. The nature of Section 52 of the Copyright Act is such that any act falling within its scope will not constitute infringement. Section 52(1)(i) allows for the reproduction of any work i) by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction; or ii) as part of the questions to be answered in an examination; or iii) in answers to such questions.