Photocopying Textbooks Is Fair Use In India: Western Publishers Withdraw Copyright Suit Against Delhi University
from the let's-celebrate-a-rare-win-for-the-public dept
Back in September last year, Mike wrote about the remarkable court ruling in India that copyright is not inevitable, divine or a natural right. As we have been reporting since 2013, the case in question was brought by three big Western publishers against Delhi University and a photocopy shop over “course packs” — bound collections of photocopied extracts from books and journals that are sold more cheaply than the sources. Although the High Court of Delhi ruled that photocopying textbooks in this way is fair use, that was not necessarily the end of the story: the publishers might have appealed to India’s Supreme Court. But as the Spicy IP site reports, they didn’t:
In a stunning development, OUP, CUP and Taylor & Francis just withdrew their copyright law suit filed against Delhi University (and its photocopier, Rameshwari) 5 years ago! They indicated this to the Delhi high court in a short and succinct filing made this morning.
This withdrawal brings to an end one of the most hotly contested IP battles ever, pitting as it did multinational publishers against academics and students.
The Spicy IP post has a useful short timeline of the case, as well as a link to the site’s extremely detailed coverage of all the twists and turns of the saga, which is now finally — and definitively — over. Importantly, the case was:
one that ultimately tested the bounds of copyright law in India. And clarified that while educational photocopying is permissible, there are limits to this as well. And that any copying must comport closely with the intended purpose (“in the course of instruction”). In that sense, publishers have made some gains in at least ensuring that a complete free for all regime is not what is intended by the law. But a circumspect one, where the copying has to fall within the bounds of the educational exception.
Overall, this is a huge victory for educational access and public interest in India. And very welcome in a world that was witnessing a rather one sided ratcheting up of IP norms, at the cost of all else!
That’s an important point. So often it seems that copyright only ever gets longer and stronger, with the public always on the losing side. The latest news from India shows that very occasionally, it’s the public that wins.