Indian Court Says 'Copyright Is Not An Inevitable, Divine, Or Natural Right' And Photocopying Textbooks Is Fair Use

from the the-non-divinity-of-copyright dept

Last week there was a big copyright ruling in India, where a court ruled against some big academic publishers in ruling that a photocopying kiosk that sold photocopied chapters from textbooks was not infringing on the copyrights of those publishers. We wrote about this case over three years ago, when it was first filed. It's actually fairly similar to a set of cases in the US that found college copyshops to be infringing -- leading to a massive increase in educational material costs for college students.

The Indian court went the other way. The full ruling takes a fair use-style look at the question, and recognizes that educational purposes are more important than padding the bank account of some big publishers. The ruling is pretty long, but there are a number of good points in there. Here's the one that a bunch of people have been quoting, noting that copyright is not inevitable, divine or a natural right:
Copyright, specially in literary works, is thus not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public. Copyright is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public.
Now that's a damn good quote on copyright law.

The court also talks a lot about how technology has changed over time, and that it shouldn't be held back by copyright.
Today, nearly all students of the defendant no.2 University would be carrying cell phones and most of the cell phones have a camera inbuilt which enables a student to, instead of taking notes from the books in the library, click photographs of each page of the portions of the book required to be studied by him and to thereafter by connecting the phone to the printer take print of the said photographs or to read directly from the cell phone or by connecting the same to a larger screen. The same would again qualify as fair use and which cannot be stopped.

The German Federal Supreme Court in Re. the Supply of Photocopies of Newspaper Articles by Public Library [2000] E.C.C. 237 held that in a modern technologically highly developed nation like Germany, an extensive fast functioning and economic information exchange was vital; that is why the libraries were given the freedom to operate and the reproduction rights of authors were restricted in favour of freedom of information; that it was sufficient to escape liability for copyright infringement if the customer of the library could claim the benefit of the exemption which allowed the copying for personal use, of articles published in a periodical; whether or not the library charges for its service is immaterial;
The court similarly notes the hypocrisy of lawyers who regularly photocopy things now complaining about students doing the same:
What the defendant no.2 University is doing is not different from what is being done in the Bar Association library in the premises of this Court. With the advent of photocopying, the advocates of this Court, instead of carrying books from their residences / offices to this Court for citing judgments therefrom during the course of arguments and instead of giving in advance the list of such books to the Restorer of this Court and the Restorer of this Court also taking out the court's copies of the same books for the Judges to read, and all of which was cumbersome and time consuming, started having the photocopies of the relevant judgments made from the books in the Bar Association Library of this Court. Initially the said photocopying was got done by having the book issued from the library and carrying the same to the photocopier who had, for the convenience of the advocates, been granted a licence to operate from the premises of this Court. Subsequently, for expediency and to avoid the books being taken out of the library, the Bar Association library itself allowed the photocopier to install his machine within the library premises and any advocate could get the photocopy done by having the relevant judgment photocopied within the Bar Association library by paying the cost of photocopy as is fixed by the Bar Association.
It's always nice to see a good copyright ruling -- especially one that will make it easier for the dissemination of knowledge and learning in an academic setting.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 6:31am

    "educational purposes are more important than padding the bank account "

    It's a real shame this is not the prevailing attitude in the us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:08am

      Re:

      You wouldn't download a textbook would you?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        orbitalinsertion (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 10:57am

        Re: Re:

        That's why the legacy gatekeeping industry demanded general purpose USB ports be no larger than the standard A type.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          DannyB (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 1:14pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Limiting the size of USB A-port merely increases the time it takes to download all copies of a textbook through that small port.

          The fact remains that once the textbooks have all been downloaded, the supply is exhausted. They are all now stolen and no copies remain.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 6:45am

    "It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public."

    And those that are for copyright to be enforced will argue that now that people are able to photocopy pages of books for educational purposes without payment to the authors the authors will no longer be able to make a living and won't be able to write anymore books so no more books to benefit the public etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 6:54am

      Re:

      Writing educational books, or other text books for that matter, has never been a means of making a living for those who actually write them, while being lucrative for the publishers, especially when they make needless changes to prevent the use of second hand copies alongside the current edition.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re:

        "Writing educational books, or other text books for that matter, has never been a means of making a living for those who actually write them,"

        Not actually true in all cases. I know someone who writes textbooks for a living, she has a wide and deep education and writing science text books provided & provides her only income while being (left as) a single parent of 4 children. She's worked very hard at it. I also know of someone else who writes textbooks and works as a technical author and editor, and it paid for the kids' schooling. Both those are outside the US, I can't say anything about US textbook authors.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Rapnel (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:07am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'd wager that the publisher/rights holder is doing far and away better on her works than she could ever possibly achieve in a "we own the rights to your works (and control all the knowledges - mwah-hah-hahh)" model. Something tells me she should be doing far better than she actually is.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:38am

        Re: Re:

        > Writing educational books, or other text books for that matter, has
        > never been a means of making a living for those who actually write them


        Welcome to the 21st century! Professors get to select the textbook for their class. So they select . . . ta da . . . their own textbook! They don't necessarily need to have a publisher in a traditional sense, or even have a soft or hardback binding. It could be three ring or spiral bound produced at a local printing shop.

        Then, each year, the professor updates the textbook. Primarily to destroy or lower the market value of used textbooks.

        Charge high prices for the book, maybe only available in the college bookstore.

        Profit!

        And who said writing college textbooks wasn't a profitable racket?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 10:14am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's 20th century.

          A family member in college, in addition for having to pay for a course, had to pay for access to an empty Wiki. The course consisted of the class entering information into the Wiki so that future classes could be charged for access to it.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 10:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Not all Pros do this, in fact there are many who buck the institutional directives about which textbooks are to be used and provide the students with their own crib sheets.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JBDragon (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 7:52am

      Re:

      In general, the books being sold get a minor change every couple years so that people can't buy a USED book. Which increases Book sales and screwing over students.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 8:48am

        Re: Re:

        Aw, c'mon. Wheelock's Latin 6th Edition (2005) wasn't replaced until Wheelock's Latin 7th Edition (2011).

        Presumably to add Latin emoji's. Plus copyright notices for a few first century BC songs, poems and speeches.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:00am

        Re: Re:

        It is necessary to update college textbooks frequently to keep up with the latest changes.

        Would you want STEM students using an out of date math textbook that doesn't keep up with the latest changes to how the centuries old Cosine or Square Root functions work? Or changes to the Pythagorean theorem?

        What about humanities students not getting all the latest changes to Shakespeare because of outdated textbooks?

        /sarcasm

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Michael, 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Future Hollywood accountants really do need to see those changes to how arithmetic works. Otherwise, a movie could end up on the books as profitable.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 6:58am

    Let me quote this and mark myself insightful.

    Copyright, specially in literary works, is thus not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public. Copyright is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public.

    Still, what is being said here is exactly what the US Constitution says about the possibility of the Congress enacting such laws. And it's exactly what it doesn't do. Except if the one asked benefits from copyright. Then it's a right bestowed by God that's surely enabling and promoting progress and arts. And that before copyright we were all dumb apes that could do nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeremy2020 (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 7:07am

    So...ISDS claim incoming?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 7:53am

    On message?

    a set of cases in the US that found college copyshops to be infringing -- leading to a massive increase in educational material for college students.
    Was that the result? I would have expected that ruling to lead to an increase in the cost of educational material.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Skeeter, 19 Sep 2016 @ 8:16am

    Food for Thought

    Consider this: If a 'Copyright' protects a specific work (a version of a book, a certain film, etc.), and either a new, or the original studio or publisher revises the work, does the work then have to be re-copyrighted?

    Case in point, modern film editing. We are (lately) constantly barraged with old films (Star Wars, Live and Let Die) where the works are being digitally modified, the public is not informed, and the 'new release' is sold as the old Copyrighted work (whether it is James Earl Jones no longer saying 'Luke, I am your father', or Jaws' blonde girlfriend no longer having dental braces).

    Are the courts saying that the old copyright protects the new modified work, or are these new films for purposes of being dumped into the public and not having protection on them? If the first is true, then the movie 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' could easily be turned into a vegetarian ensemble while retaining protection under its original copyright, and the other way seems to say 'the moment you change it, you just made it GPL until you re-copyright the work as a new revision of the original.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 8:23am

      Re: Food for Thought

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      cpt kangarooski, 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:18am

      Re: Food for Thought

      I don't know about other places, but in the US, a copyright applies to the work in the state in which it was copyrighted. A later work, or later version of a work, needs a new copyright, which itself only applies to the new or different material; not to material already copyrighted. As the work ages, the copyrights expire over time. This, revising a work doesn't extend the duration of protection for the whole thing or as it was originally; it only allows new protection for the revisions.

      So for example: the copyright on Empire Strikes Back is from 1980. When Lucas made changes to it in 1997, this didn't affect the original copyright. It only created a new copyright on the new material added. If you carefully went through a 1997 version of ESB and trimmed out the new material, leaving only original 1980 material, that stuff would still only have the 1980 copyright. Its appearance in a later work doesn't drag along the old copyright into the future.

      See 17 USC 103(b).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:43am

        Re: Re: Food for Thought

        … in the US, a copyright applies to the work in the state in which it was copyrighted.
        But when you say this, you should probably mention the 17 U.S.C. § 106(2) derivative works right.

        That is, the copyright is granted for a specific work. But the the Chapter 5 Remedies may be obtained against infringing derivatives of that specific work.


        (cpt kangarooski—— you need to estimate the level of sophistication of your readership! The question to which you responded didn't look like it was coming from someone who has even the average Techdirt reader's familiarity with U.S. copyright law.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Eldakka (profile), 20 Sep 2016 @ 9:24pm

      Re: Food for Thought

      IANAL, but, as I understand copyright under the Berne convention (I _think_ it as Berne anyway...), copyright is automatic and does not require any sort of registration.

      Writing this message here gives me an automatic copyright (or possibly techdirt if that's it's terms of service etc) in this message.

      I send an email I automatically, without having to do anything apart from writing the message, have a copyright.

      Therefore if the original copyright holder changes a work, adds/subtracts anything to it, whether it's a derivative work or regarded as a new work, they have copyright in it without having to do anything at all. THere's no form to fill out, no agency/body to notify, nothing.

      All that registering a copyright does, is:
      1) gives you stronger evidence that you actually do have a copyright - you might be challenged in court as to whether you really do have a copyight, well, if you can produce the original documents that predate someone else who's trying to claim they have it that's good enough, or you can produce the registration (that predates whatever a dispute's date beginning is) that's even better. But you don't have to have a registration to have a copyright.
      2) If you want to claim statutory (as opposed to actual) damages, you can only claim statutory damages from the date of registration. But you can still claim actual damages pre-dating registration.

      /em waits for a lawyer to blow his argument away.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adam, 19 Sep 2016 @ 8:35am

    Time...

    at one point does copyright expire on the content, not the work? If 1 chapter of a work is published today.. and another chapter added every year for 100 years, if the original chapter does not change, does copyright still apply to chapter 1? or are those books considered new works and only the new chapters protected?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 8:38am

    That'l teach the mafiaa to stop payment to India!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:07am

      Re:

      It is inconceivable in the US. But some world leaders and legislators might recognize that their future is more tied to the education of their children, the innovation of their high tech industries, than to the greased palm bribes of corrupt foreign mega media companies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 9:03am

    In before another Whatever rant about how "enriching" and "encouraging" actually means withholding knowledge from students and how not paying people will suddenly invalidate and nullify thousands of years of mathematical and scientific fact.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Mayor, 19 Sep 2016 @ 11:25am

    COPYRIGHTEOUSNESS VS COPYSELFRIGHTEOUSNESS

    As Psychiatrist Dr. Edwin Fuller Torrey stated in his book, The Death of Psychiatry, teachers need to be certified in the Behavioral Sciences (i.e., be able to assess and instruct in INTRApersonal and INTERpersonal behavior!), IF WE EVER HOPE TO CHANGE THE ETHOS OF ADULTS!... AND!... OF SOCIETY! And so far, we can't even get teachers certified in APPLIED AND THEORETICAL TEACHING (what the teacher is about!... and regardless of the subjects being taught!), and APPLIED AND THEORETICAL LEARNING (what the students is about!... and regardless of the subjects being taught!)! And some wonder why so many in society hold the views of the world that these do!
    .
    Please!... no emails!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 1:41pm

    Of course, it's a ruling in a country with the caste system, which the courts there seem to feel are natural and a divine right. When you understand how totally screwed up their view of human rights are, you come to understand that their court rulings are meaningless in any civilized way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 1:55pm

      Re:

      The courts? Discrimination against lower castes is illegal in India.

      Like in the US and other western countries, it recognizes that discrimination exists, and so you get what the west calls "affirmative action", "employment equity" or "positive discrimination." They get some guaranteed political representation and some quotas on government jobs and university education.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 3:30pm

      Re:

      So they do officially what the US and several other countries do unofficially. Cool, guess we can toss out all court rulings as 'meaningless in any civilized way'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 19 Sep 2016 @ 3:57pm

      Re:

      Ah, so that's how you attempt to dismiss this. That's cleverer than I expected, though ultimately nonsensical.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2016 @ 5:38pm

      Re:

      Ah, resorting to the Jacques Nazaire-patented "Wright's ruling doesn't count because gay marriage and hackers" strategy.

      Funny how you didn't complain about their view of human rights when the courts there started pushing for harsher punishments for copyright infringement. Wonder why is that?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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