Indian court dismisses copyright infringement lawsuit

Athanasios VenitsanopoulosCopyright law, News

The Delhi High Court has sided with Delhi University and Rameshwari Photocopying Services in a long awaited judgement brought against them by a number of publishers.  A copy shop on campus had made copies of sections of books, published by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis for course packs.  The publishers of those books had brought the case against Delhi University for copyright infringement.

Disappointingly the court dismissed the suit. The court has held that the actions of the Delhi University do not infringe on copyright for in classroom use. There is ongoing concern as to whether this judgement has fully considered if these uses are within the scope that India’s 1957 Copyright Act allows for educational uses.

“Copyright, especially in literary works, is thus not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public,” said Justice Endlaw. “Copyright is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public,” he added.

Dr Shiv Shanker Awasthy of the Authors Guild of India expressed his disappointment, lamenting the lack of protection and reimbursement to writers in India. “There is no objection to students’ right to access knowledge but it cannot be unfettered and unlimited. It is the duty of the government to provide us with reprographic and even public lending rights. Writing needs to be professionalised and unfortunately in India authors do not get royalties, and when they do, they are meagre. This is particularly rampant in writing of regional dialects.”

He added: “The publisher publishes and makes money, the distributor, the retailer, and even the photocopy shop-owner make profit from the author’s work.  Why the author is singled out, this is the question which needs to be addressed.”

The publishers indicated they will consider the full judgment once it is made available regarding a further course of action. “It is unfortunate that the court’s decision today could undermine the availability of original content for the benefit of students and teachers” they said in a joint statement.

This is a very unfortunate ruling and one which could have ongoing implications that will adversely affect authors’ ability to be fairly remunerated for all uses of their work. The International Authors Forum will be watching future developments with interest.