Rameshwari Photocopy case: Delhi HC to hear publisher’s appeal tomorrow

The publishers have challenged a Delhi HC ruling, which allowed Rameshwari Photocopy Service to sell photocopies of textbooks and course materials to students


Dharam Pal Singh, owner of Rameshwari Photocopy Service. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Dharam Pal Singh, owner of Rameshwari Photocopy Service. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

New Delhi: International publishers, including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group, on Wednesday moved the Delhi high court appealing its order, which upheld students’ right to photocopying course materials for educational purposes.

The publishers have challenged a Delhi high court ruling passed on 16 September by justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, which dismissed a plea by a group of international publishers seeking to restrain Rameshwari Photocopy Service, a shop in Delhi University (DU) campus from selling photocopies of textbooks and course materials.

Consequently, students buying photocopies of textbooks and course materials for university exams was held to be within confines of the Copyright Act, 1957.

The landmark verdict, which set a precedent for the applicability of copyright law in educational cases in India, held that “copyright in a literary work is not an inevitable, divine or natural right” conferred on an author. It added that the copyright law was intended to increase and not impede knowledge.

Explaining their move to appeal, the publishers said, “The decision to appeal has been taken after careful deliberation, particularly regarding the longer-term interests of students, educators, academics, authors and the publishing industry, and it is fully supported by the Association of Publishers India, the Federation of Indian Publishers and the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation, which also represents authors.

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...”

“We agree that equitable access to knowledge is important. But such access would not exist without the efforts of content creators, authors, illustrators, designers, publishers and everyone else involved in the creation of original content, and their rights must be respected”, they added.

“We fully understand that it is not possible for every student to buy every book they require. That is why we have long invested in local publishing options that aid in the development of low-cost editions, course-packs, adaptations and reprint titles, as well as supporting local and university libraries—all of which provides access to the best-in-class learning material at a fraction of the original cost.” a joint statement by the publishers and others who have appealed the ruling said in a joint statement.

The 94-page ruling observed that photocopying and creation of course packs to be used in the course of education by students is covered under provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957.

Holding students’ interest paramount, the ruling concentrated on the aspect of affordability of low-cost textbooks through photocopying.

It also recognized the importance of technological advancement, while holding that through photocopying, students can obtain voluminous course material at a low cost and would not be required to copy each page, which cannot be held as an offence.

The legal tussle began in August 2012, when publishers, including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group, brought a case of copyright infringement against Rameshwari Photocopy Service, a licenced vendor in DU’s north campus.

The publishing houses claimed the sale of compilations of parts of books in the form of course packs to students is illegal and in violation of the provisions of the Indian Copyright Act.

The court had passed an interim stay 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.

The matter is likely to be heard by a division bench of the court on 6 October.

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