Delhi High Court on Thursday refrained from passing an order on an appeal filed by some foreign publishing houses against a single judge verdict allowing photocopying of textbooks published by them.
In a decision which brought cheers to a large number of students, the single judge had on September 16 rejected their plea against the sale of photocopies of their textbooks, saying the copyright in literary works does not confer “absolute ownership” to the authors.
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It had also lifted a ban on a photocopy shop located in Delhi University campus from selling photocopies of chapters from textbooks of international publishers to students.
Challenging the verdict, the publishers including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press (UK), Cambridge University Press India Pvt Ltd, Taylor and Francis Group (UK) and Taylor and Francis Books India Pvt Ltd, had approached the division bench seeking a stay on the operation of the directions given by the single judge.
They had said the stay was needed as it was a crucial issue as the verdict had led not only one photocopy shop, but hundreds of them, to sell photocopies. The publishers had alleged that Rameshwari Photocopy Service in DU was infringing their copyright over the text books.
A bench of justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani said, considering the seriousness of the issue, “we have kept the matter for final disposal on November 29.”
“We kept it on a very short date. We shall hear you and pass the order. So as of now, no interim order,” it said.
The publishers have contended that “through this appeal, we seek assurance that copyright law in India will balance the interests of those creating learning materials here in India as well as globally, with those requiring access to them in a fair and sustainable manner.”
The single judge order had come on a plea by publishers, who had moved the high court in 2012 alleging that Rameshwari Photocopy Service on Delhi University campus was infringing their copyright over the text books.
The single-judge landmark verdict, which set a precedent over the applicability of copyright law in educational cases in India, had held that “copyright in a literary work is not an inevitable, divine or natural right” conferred on an author.
It had held that the copyright law was intended to increase and not impede knowledge.
The 94-page ruling had observed that photocopying and creation of course packs to be used in the course of education by students was covered under provisions of the Copyright Act.
The publishing houses had claimed before the single judge that the sale of compilations of parts of books in the form of course packs to students was illegal and in violation of the provisions of the 1957 Copyright Act.
The single judge had earlier passed an interim order restraining the shop from selling copies of compiled course books to students in October 2012.
Although the case was specifically against Rameshwari Photocopy Service, other photocopy shops in the vicinity also stopped the sale of such course packs due to fear of being dragged to court.
Holding students’ interest paramount, the single judge ruling concentrated on the aspect of affordability of low-cost textbooks through photocopying.
It had also recognised the importance of technological advancement, while holding that through photocopying, students could obtain voluminous course material at a low cost and were not required to copy each page, which cannot be held as an offence.
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