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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Filed Under: copyright, course packs, education, fair use, india, photocopying

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  1. 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.


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

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