DU Photocopy Case: Publishers end the protracted legal battle

March 20, 2017

The Delhi University Photocopy case which began in the year 2012, came to an end 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. This battle which continued for 5 years was expected to continue for a few more years. One of the reason of withdrawal could be that a group of Oxford University Students, Alumni and Academicians urged the Publishers to refrain from appealing this progressive decision of the Division Bench so as to make knowledge accessible and affordable for all students.

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 publisher.
  • 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 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 (ASEAK) and Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (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.

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. The Publishers jointly made a public statement that
“We continue to stand by our principles stated throughout this case. We support and seek to enable equitable access to knowledge for students and we understand and endorse the important role that course packs play in the education of students. We support our authors in helping them produce materials of the highest standard and we maintain that copyright law plays an important part in balancing the interests of those creating, curating, and disseminating learning materials with those requiring access to them.

“We look forward to working even more closely with academic institutions, teachers and students to understand and address their needs, while also ensuring that all those who contribute to and improve India’s education system—including authors and publishers—continue to do so for the long term.”

TTo sum up, this decision of withdrawal is likely to benefit students who cannot afford the original copies of the academic books.

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