Memorandum To The Vice Chancellor: Campaign To Save D School Photocopy Shop

Posted on November 9, 2012 in Specials

By Anshul Kumar Pandey:

Below is the text of the memorandum that the Campaign to save D-School Photocopy shop submitted to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi after taking out a protest march protesting against the suit filed by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Publication on Rameshwari Photocopy Shop demanding Rs 60 lakh in damages incurred due to “unauthorized” copying and distribution of the parts of their books.

7 November 2012
The Vice-Chancellor
University of Delhi
New Delhi — 110 070

Dear Sir,
We are students of Delhi University who are seriously offended by the action of three large international publishing houses, namely Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group, who have filed a legal suit (Case No.: OS 2439/2012) against Rameshwari Photocopying Services (photocopy shop situated on the premises of the Delhi School of Economics) and Delhi University based on the claim that the reproduction of photocopied Course Packs constitute copyright infringement. Moreover we are greatly disappointed with the weak stance the University has taken that has resulted in the Delhi High Court issuing an order of injunction on the production of Course Packs.

Course Packs comprise photocopied sections of books that are prescribed as necessary readings in our syllabi. These course packs are the only affordable way to access all our essential readings. The Indian Copyright Act provides an exception in the context of education. Sec 52 (1) (a) and 52 (1) (i) of the Indian copyright act recognize that activities in furtherance of education such as creating course packs (by photocopying chapters of books etc.) are permissible and do not amount to copyright infringement. Such an exception in the educational context was introduced in the Act by the framers of our constitution keeping in mind the special importance of education in a developing country such as ours. Its rationale, to ensure equitable access to educational resources to all, continues to be relevant given the levels of socio-economic disparity that persist till today. Further, the Act does not specify any quantitative restriction on the amount of text to be reproduced. We do not believe, therefore, that the production of course packs amounts to any copyright infringement. Such valid educational exceptions to copyright infringement also exist in several developed economies such as the US and Canada.

We also want to stress on that fact that Rameshwari Photocopy Service, like the many other photocopy shops contracted by Delhi University on its various colleges and campuses, is bound by the contract they sign with the University. Quoting from Delhi University’s own written statement submitted to the Court in the said case, on page 4, para 7 you state: “The facility of photocopying limited portions of works for educational and research purposes could have been provided within the library had the University adequate space, resources and manpower at its disposal. Instead it granted the facility of photocopying to Defendant No. 1 (Rameshwari Photocopy Service) keeping the interest of students in mind. And keeping in view the law of the land and permitted Defendant No. 1 to photocopy pages of chapters of single copy books, out of print books, not to be issued books and rare books on getting requests from faculty members, researchers and students.” Since it is clear that Rameshwari Photocopy Service is carrying out an important function in making essential reading material accessible to students and researchers, Delhi University must stand by Rameshwari Photocopy Service and not attempt at washing its hands off the issue.

Moreover, this contract implies that DU contracted photocopy shops cannot charge students, coming from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, more than a stipulated amount (40paise/page in the case of Rameshwari Photocopy shop). This ensures that students’ right to affordably access readings is protected against the excessive commercial gains that a photocopy shop owner might seek to make.

Finally, the bullying tactics of the above mentioned consortium of international publishers must be resisted by Delhi University. It has come to our knowledge that the publishers are demanding DU sign a licensing agreement with the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation. This will lead to an increase in the cost of photocopying and will also set restrictions on the proportion of a book that can be photocopied. However, since the photocopy of course packs does not amount of copyright infringement as per our own law, there is no reason we should be made to pay any extra license fee or limit the proportion of a text that may be photocopied. An increase the cost of photocopying will lead to the effective exclusion of many students from access to the essential readings for our courses. Moreover it would be an impediment to academic freedom that is essential to the life of a University.

Given the critical importance of the issue at hand, and the existence of a strong legal defence in favour of students’ right to access and reproduce educational material, we register our great dismay at the weak stance taken by the Delhi University in the Delhi High Court that has led to an order of injunction being passed by the Court prohibiting the production of course packs. Although the written statement submitted by the Delhi University in the Court presents a defence of the practice of photocopying, it was rife with grammar and other errors which ensured that the opposite attorneys were able to allege that two sentences (see page 14 para 21) amounted to an admission by Delhi University that the creation of course packs was indeed an illegal activity. We strongly condemn this callous attitude of the University that is bound to have serious impacts on the students. It is imperative that Delhi University admits to the responsibility of ensuring that students’ interests are adequately represented in Court proceedings.

We demand:

1. That the University counsel take a strong and consistent stand in Court in favour of students’ interests

2. That the University pleads in Court that it was misunderstood and file for a review of the Court order in the next hearing.

3. That the University counsel takes a determined and united stand with Rameshwari Photocopy shop counsel on the issue of course packs not being any infringement of publishers’ copyrights, and admit that production of course packs are covered by the contract signed between the University and Rameshwari Photocopy shop

4. That the University must not enter into any license agreement with any of the publishers, or their collective or with the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation regarding the issue of photocopying of texts, which may result in any increase in the cost for photocopying for students or any restriction on the amount/proportion of a work to be photocopied, as this would amount to curbing the entitlement provided in Sec 52 of the Indian Copyright Act.

5. That the defunct Delhi University Press, which at present is reduced to producing answer sheets for examinations, be revived and be actively used for providing affordable education material to students and other University members.

6. That Delhi University (including all its department libraries) refrain from purchasing any books from Oxford Univ. Press, Cambridge Univ. Press and Taylor & Francis Group until they withdraw their case.

The Undersigned