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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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→