The recent crackdown on the Rameshwari Photocopy Service, aka the D-School (Delhi School of Economics) photocopy shop, has fuelled a debate regarding what’s “unlawful” about photocopying for educational purposes.

Students and teachers, who are upset with the move by a consortium of publishers – Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis – to start legal proceedings against the photocopy shop in D-School feel that the books published by these international companies are far too expensive to be affordable for the average student.

The Cost of education

Susan George, Assistant Professor at Hindu College, University of Delhi, said, “In a developing economy where foreign editions of academic books are just not affordable, the move to curb photocopy shops and duplication of texts will only further hurt the already crippled average student body, which can’t all have access to state-of-the-art libraries and internet book resources.”

Further, students say they are required to refer to readings, usually a few chapters, from a number of books and they can’t buy all those volumes, either due to limited availability or the high cost.

Exception list

According to Study on Copyright Piracy in India, sponsored by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, “Section 52 of Indian Copyright Act permits certain activities which do not amount to infringement. Important in this ‘exception list’ are reproduction of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works for educational purposes, example research, review, and reporting in newspapers, magazines and periodicals.”

Lawyer Prathibha Singh of Singh and Singh Advocates, said that if students require material and photocopy “for non-commercial educational purposes, then it is not an infringement (of the copyright law).”

She also added that there was no written limit to how much, or what percentage of a certain book can be duplicated by a student or teacher.

College infrastructure

The question of access to reading materials continues to be a point of contention. “Indian universities have a lot to improve in terms of general library holdings and infrastructure before we can cut off such modes of access,” George added.

Meanwhile, the Campaign to Save D-School Photocopy Shop on Facebook is picking up. At the last count, 1,080 individuals had signed up. Attempts to contact the publishers over phone and email were unfruitful.


(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 2, 2012)
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