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City anchor: Withdraw suit,let course packs be: Authors to publishers

Over 300 academics and authors have written an open letter to three publishers,asking them to withdraw the law suit filed in the Delhi High Court against Rameshwari Photocopy Service,which is located on the premises of the Delhi School of Economics.

New Delhi |
March 14, 2013 12:57:50 am

Over 300 academics and authors have written an open letter to three publishers,asking them to withdraw the law suit filed in the Delhi High Court against Rameshwari Photocopy Service,which is located on the premises of the Delhi School of Economics.

Signatories to the letter include 33 authors whose names have been mentioned in the the lawsuit by the publishers.

Publishers Taylor & Francis,Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press had moved the High Court against Rameshwari Photocopy Service to stop the practice of photocopying books,especially the sale of “course packs”. Course packs are compilation of photocopies of articles and portions of books prescribed in the syllabus.

The “suit” authors who have signed the letter include Thomas Blom Hansen,Partha Chatterjee,Ayesha Jalal,Christophe Jaffrelot,Veena Das,Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Marc Galanter.

“As academics and authors we believe that the wider circulation of our work will only result in a richer academic community and it is unfortunate that you would choose to alienate teachers and students who are indeed your main readers and we urge you to consider withdrawing this petition,” the letter said.

“As authors and educators,we would like to place on record our distress at this act of the publishers,as we recognise 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.”

While it might be argued that a student can get a book from the library,the authors said: “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.”

The authors contested the claim that “academic publishing is sustained by the investments made by publishers” and that authors made a living out of royalties paid to them by publishing houses. “Most academics are able to write books because they are supported by public infrastructure and money by virtue of being employed by universities or research centres,” the letter said.

While recognising the importance of the copyright issue,Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen,in a separate letter to Oxford University Press,also stressed the need for publishers to balance various interests. “As an OUP author,I would like to urge my publisher to not draw on the full force of law to make these ‘course packs’ impossible to generate and use. Educational publishers have to balance various interests,and the cause of education must surely be a very important one,” he wrote.

In a statement,Raju Ramachandran,Supreme Court senior counsel,whose essays are read by Delhi University political science students,said: “I would also like to make my position as an author very clear that nothing can be more fulfilling for me than the fact that the student community would be reading and discussing my views.”

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