DU Photo Copy Case: IRRO challenges Delhi High Court judgment before the Supreme Court

May 15, 2017

We had earlier published what was expected to be the final note on the DU Photocopy case, when the Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Taylor and Francis (hereinafter referred to as “Publishers”) withdrew their copyright suit against Delhi University and Rameshwari Photocopier. One of the many reasons of withdrawal was that a group of Oxford University Students, Alumni and Academicians urged the Publishers to refrain from appealing the progressive decision of the Division Bench so as to make knowledge accessible and affordable for all students.

However, last month, the Indian Reprographic Rights Organization (hereinafter referred to as the ‘IRRO’) filed a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court challenging the judgment passed by the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court on December 9, 2016.

For the ease of convenience of our readers we have summarized the events of the case till date below –

  • In the year 2012, the Publishers filed a suit for infringement of Copyright against Rameshwari Photocopy Services and the University of Delhi for making photostatted course packs or study material available to the students, without taking any permission from the publishers.
  • The High Court of Delhi granted ad interim injunction whereby the Defendant was restrained from making and selling course packs and also reproducing the Plaintiff’s publication by compiling the same either in the book form or course packs.
  • During the trial, Society for the Promotion of Educational Access and Knowledge (hereinafter referred to as ‘SPEAK’) and Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (hereinafter referred to as ‘ASEAK’) were impleaded as Defendants.
  • In September 2016, the Delhi High Court decided the case in favor of the Defendants and held that “Copyright, especially in literary works, is thus not inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on the authors the absolute ownership of their creators. It is designed rather to stimulate activities and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public.”
  • Aggrieved by the order of Single Judge the Publishers filed an appeal to the Division Bench. In addition to withdrawing the case from the Delhi High Court, the Publishers assured that it was not going to take up the issue before any other higher court, such as the Supreme Court of India.
  • On December 9, 2016 the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court decided the appeal interpreting Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act as permitting photocopying of copyrighted works for preparation of course packs and remanded the suit to the single bench for a fact specific determination on whether the copyrighted materials included in the course packs in this case were necessary for the purpose of instructional use by the teacher to the class.
  • On March 9, 2017 the Publishers withdrew the suit from the Delhi High Court.

On January 30, 2017, the single judge had refused to allow IRRO and the publishers’ associations, FIP and API (who had intervened in the appeal before the Division Bench) to intervene or be impleaded in the remanded proceedings before it, holding that the Division Bench had remanded the suit only for a factual determination as to the purpose of inclusion of the copyrighted works in the course packs and no party except the Plaintiff-Publishers had a say in it. IRRO, FIP and API had, thus, applied to the Division Bench for clarification on the remanded issues. While the matter was pending, in a surprising move, the publishers had withdrawn the suit on March 9, 2017.

The copies of the special leave petition have been served on the Defendants and the matter is expected to come up before the Supreme Court.

For more information please contact us at : info@ssrana.com