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”

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.

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….”