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“Who Is Afraid Of Copyright Infringement?” Campaign To Save D School Photocopy Shop

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By Anshul Kumar Pandey:

Delhi, Wednesday, 10th October 2012: A Public Meeting organised by Campaign to Save D School Photocopy Shop, was held at Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. This event was a part of the long drawn campaign on the issue of ‘copyright infringement’ provoked by the clamping down on photocopying by the Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group. The public meeting saw the attendance of several authors and people associated with the field of writing and publishing and discussed a range of issues and matters related to authorship, workings of the publishing industry, the Delhi University system of promotion and its nexus with publication houses. The meeting began with an introduction of the campaign and the law suit taken up by the three publishers against Rameshwori Photo Copy Shop on the “course pack”. In spite of the spontaneous nature of the campaign the need to caution against taking this as a stray incident was emphasised by Mr. Usman, a representative of the campaign.

Prof. Nivedita Menon signing the Photocopied Copy of her book “Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics beyond the law” at the protest organized by Campaign to Save D-School photocopy shop at Delhi School of Economics. Photo by Anshul Kumar Pandey

Touching upon the workings of the publishing industry Mr. Sudhanva Deshpande, Managing Editor, LeftWord Publishing expressed that he also works with the publishing house and emphasised that many from the publishing world are also with the campaign of the students and that the three publishers Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis group are not representative of them. Appreciating the organising of the public meeting on the issue of ‘copyright infringement’ Mr. Deshpande further stated on the ecosystem that needs to be in place for publishing of books to happen, knowledge is required to be shared and spread widely as possible and it makes sense to have a system where books are read and discussed.

Besides those present for the meeting, a number of authors/ speakers who were unable to attend the meeting also send their statement to be read out in solidarity with the campaign. Nandini Sundar, Sociologist and Activists in her statement picked up from The Law Suit Para 17 filed by the publishers and said “Para 17 is the worst since it insidiously invokes the rights of the authors. For one, authors of academic book s are paid such small percentages in royalties and the print runs are so low, that this is scarcely a matter of concern for them. Second, the primary interest of authors is having their books read and being prescribed in courses. Any academic author would tell you that they would much rather have their books widely photocopied than not read at all… ”

Professor Satish Deshpande Head of Department, Sociology signed his book “Contemporary India” as a part of the public meeting. He emphasised that the social obligation of the academic writer is not with the publishing houses but rather the books are being written with public funding and support from public academic institutions.

Echoing similar views Prof. Nivedita Menon spoke from the point of view of University Promotion System and the Publishing houses. She shared that there is no academic writer that she knows of who is not livid with the actions of the publishers. It is their action that is illegal. She further stated “You (students) pay us, the publishers does not pay us” and further stated that the publishers should not speak on our behalf. She shared the letter of protest and said that the 99 percent of the academic writers would endorse the actions against the erring publishing houses.

Public intellectual and author, Arundhuti Roy who couldn’t make it to the meeting had sent a signed photocopy of her latest book Broken Republic and also conveyed her ‘best wishes to the campaign’.

Uma Chakravarty, feminist historian who could not be there for the public meeting sent her signed photocopied book The Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism. She also sent in her statement “For an academic the photocopying revolution is as important or even more so than the Neolithic revolution and the Industrial Revolution for history. All my works are mine, my labour and the more it is read the more fulfilled I am as scholar. Copyright can go to hell”

Subhash Gatade, activist and columnist signed his book The Saffron Condition and expressed his solidarity with the campaign. Dr. Aditya Nigam after signing a copy of his book The Insurrection of Little Selves reiterated the need to look at long term solutions to fight the might of the likes of Oxford University Press. He expressed the need to form a consortium with small publishers and work out a modality of copyleft where the profits of the publishing houses are also not adversely affected and also the academic writers have the option of shifting from publishing houses like them.

Ravi Sundaram, Senior Fellow, CSDS expressed his solidarity by signing a copy of his book Pirate Modernity and stated that the incident is not a one off stray incident but rather a new trend which will lead to privatisation of the education system. Prof. Ujjwal Singh, Department of Political Science DU, voicing similar concerns also donated his signed photocopied book The State democracy and anti-terror laws in India.

Sudha Vasan, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology spoke on the need to resist the monetary value assigned to books on the pages, quality of cover etc. She stated that “the value of book is decided by the number of readers (of the book) and the discussions initiated by the book”. Voicing an earlier discussion on the same issue “Eklavya’s burden” Sudha spoke on the accessibility to education and books and the trend which has been since centuries of denying certain people of certain caste, gender etc.

Lawrence Liang of the Alternative Law Forum and Prof. Shamnad Basheer of National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) Kolkata, also reiterated that the issue is not of a singular lawsuit and eloquently emphasised on the life of literature as not encompassed within the four corners of law and legality but rather that thoughts are free-flowing and does not recognise the such set corners. They said that efforts were on to students and authors in the law suit since they will be affected the most through the outcome of the case.

The public meeting concluded with the speakers and authors donating their photocopied books to the Ratan Tata Library for greater reach and accessibility to the student community. A consistent mobilisation being needed, the meeting concluded with a call for a regular conglomeration on the issue which will be held every Wednesday, 3:00 p.m. in DSE campus.

Statement by Prof. Amartya Sen (Nobel laureate) in support of the campaign against the consortium of three publishers.

I am very distressed to learn via my friend Partha Chatterjee about the attitude of the OUP on the use of photocopied course packs for the benefit of students. I do not sign join letters but I would like to state that I am personally distressed as an OUP author to learn about this policy decision. I hope something can be done to make the academic arrangements for the education of students less difficult and more sensible.

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