TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Right to photocopy- easing the struggle for access to education
Delhi High Court judgement on right to photocopy provides for larger access to education in countries like India where education is not affordable to all. The landmark verdict has set a precedent for the applicability of copyright law in educational cases in India.
- Recently, Delhi HC dismissed the copyright infringement petition filed by three international publishers (Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis) against a Delhi University photocopy shop.
- The publishers argued that the creation of course packs and the photocopying of academic material for the same amounted to an infringement of the exclusive copyright of the authors and publishers. The defendants argued that the reproduction of materials for educational purposes fell within the exceptions to copyright under Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act.
- The crux of dispute was whether course packs fall within this exception.
- The HC ruled that making course packs by photocopying portions of various prescribed reference books for students for suggested reading, does not violate the copyright of the publishers.
Not a moral right
- The judgment clarified that copyright is a statutory right and not a natural right, and hence any right that is granted to owners is also limited by exceptions carved out by law.
- The nature of Section 52 of the Copyright Act is such that any act falling within its scope will not constitute infringement. The Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act treats as fair dealing the reproduction of any work-
- By a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction; or
- As part of the questions to be answered in an exam; or
- In answers to such question.
- The publishers took ‘instruction’ in narrow sense and claimed that it material provision was restricted to lecture and spatially restricted to a classroom. The court rejected this claim and said that ‘instruction’ cannot be narrowly understood and it included entire ambit of pedagogy from the creation of syllabus to teaching and provision of reading materials.
Right to reproduction
- The Copyright Act seeks to maintain a balance between the competing interests of the copyright owners as well as the interests of the public to have access to works.
- Copyright’s basic rationale is that there should be promotion of creativity through sufficient protection along with catering for dissemination of knowledge and access to copyright material through the doctrine of fair dealing.
- The doctrine of fair dealing, which is essential for research and academic purposes, is an exception to copyright holders’ exclusive rights. The Indian copyright law uses the term ‘fair deal’ (where listed purposes are statutorily embedded) whereas the U.S.’s copyright law adopts ‘fair use’ (which is merely illustrative).
- Article 13 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement says, these exceptions must confine to “special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder”. Since the term ‘fair dealing’ is not defined in the Act, the judiciary determines its scope on a case by case basis.
- Hence it would be fair dealing if the students click photographs of each page of portions of the prescribed book.
- Indian law has to take account of the unique socioeconomic context of India, such as our resource constraints. The judgment holds that if any provision of the Act permits any person other than the owner to reproduce any work or substantial part thereof, such reproduction will not amount to infringement.
- Holding students’ interest paramount, the ruling concentrates on the aspect of affordability of low-cost textbooks through photocopying. Not every student can afford to buy expensive books for only a part of syllabus prescribed by the varsity. Though DU has the books in its library but the same cannot cater to large number of students.
- It also recognizes the importance of technological advancement and said that the students are not expected to be sitting in the library and taking notes.
- The judgement is a bold articulation of the principles of equitable access to knowledge — and one that deserves to be emulated globally.
- For a while now, the globalisation of copyright norms through international law (Berne Convention, TRIPS Agreement) has been accompanied by the globalisation of copyright standards dictated by the global north
- Previously, whenever it came to discussing fair use and exceptions and limitations, countries were constrained by judicial precedents from the U.S.
- Copyright holders invest considerably in creating works. If this is ignored while interpreting Section 52(1)(i) as a license for reproducing unlimitedly everything prescribed in the suggested reading, the copyright holders wont be motivated to continue with their creative work.
- If the suggested reading provides for the whole book, does Section 52(1)(i) permit reproduction of the whole book or only reasonable excerpts? The judgment has conveniently avoided any direct reference to this aspect.
- The Court Commissioner had reported that “8 books were found being photocopied cover to cover”. But there was no news if the court was successful in balancing the competing interests of the academic community and the copyright holders?
- How justified it is to cover the private photocopy shop in the university premises within the expression “in the course of instruction” is yet to be seen. If seen in macro view, the judgment infers that university will be given blanket immunity to meet the demands of all the students even by purchasing a single book!
- A publisher would not invest if they are not able to get returns due to practices such as photocopying. The very purpose of publishing is defeated if publishing is not sustainable and publishers are not able to make money,
- Undoubtedly, the judgment, which is a breakthrough in the Indian copyright jurisprudence, is a major victory to access to education in a developing country like India. It will certainly have a far-reaching impact in academic circles as well as on the copyright industry.
- When access to education itself is a challenge, none of the students can be expected to purchase expensive textbooks, especially when syllabi prescribe certain portions from various books.
- However, Universities are expected to cater to students’ reading requirement without prejudicing copyright holders’ legitimate economic interests.
- If the Indian universities honestly utilise funds earmarked for libraries for that purpose and also if the students’ demands can be met reasonably by permitting reproduction of reasonable excerpts has to be further considered.
Connecting the dots:
- Delhi HC verdict on right to photocopy was in news recently. Critically analyse the importance of photocopying of copyrighted materials.
- If the validity of photocopy in name of greater access to education is upheld, the publishers may think twice before selling their intellectual property in India. Do you agree? What are the possible implications of right to photocopy vs. right to copyright?
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- India and it neighbourhood- relations
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interest
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
North East India and India’s Look East Policy
- If we have to see development in India’s skewed regional growth pattern— we shall draw a vertical line down the middle of the map of India: broadly, the region to the west of the line is relatively more developed than the east.
- Since the early 1990s, India has been seeking to situate the country’s troubled Northeast at the heart of what eventually evolved into its so-called ‘Look East’ policy.
- The ‘Look East’ thrust of Indian foreign policy has also grown as Europe and the US have found themselves mired in economic stagnation with no immediate prospect of recovery.
- This has compelled India to look to Southeast and East Asia as priorities for developing trade and commerce in order to keep its own economy in shape and post reasonable growth rates, which has led Indian policymakers and analysts to revise their attitudes on the country’s long troubled Northeast.
- India’s Look East Policy gives an opportunity to India to improve its North East region which is up till now somewhat ignored and there has been no solid strategy for inclusive growth and development of the region along with more people to people contact with the rest of India.
- However, a constellation of circumstances seems to be coming together, which promises to end the status quo—later if not sooner.
Steps towards development
The only connect of north east to mainland India is a thin sliver of land called the “Chicken’s Neck” in West Bengal. What is needed, strategy that marries domestic initiatives along with foreign policy manoeuvres to ensure the immediate foreign territories adjoining the north-east of India—Bangladesh, Myanmar and China— to remain in sync. North East India has more proximity with other countries than with the rest of the India. To realize its foreign policy along with development various steps have been taken in this direction
- The “Sagarmala” project which aims to support port-led development along India’s coastline at an initial investment cost estimated at $700 billion. Not only will it be cost-effective for freight movement, it will also decongest the country’s overburdened roads infrastructure
- The other big move that has fructified recently is the ability of India’s foreign office to mend relations with Bangladesh and make it a key stakeholder in the plans to integrate the north-east with mainland India. Last month, India employed this hard-earned social capital in commissioning a rail link from New Delhi to Agartala in Tripura, which will go through Bangladesh.
- India has been working on Myanmar for access to the port at Sittwe to land its goods headed for the north-eastern states. Once connectivity is granted, then the goods will move along the river Kaladan in Myanmar to a motorable point to the Indian border. This project will considerably reduce the distance between East and North East India.
- There is a tri-nation highway plan in the works proposing to connect the north-east of India to Bangkok through Myanmar; a similar plan also looks to connect with southern China, once again through Myanmar.
- Although India is trying to use the Northeast as a land bridge to Southeast Asia—more for ending the isolation of this frontier region to boost its future growth—India and its economy will largely have to ‘look east’ through the sea into Southeast Asia for trade and human movement for a wide variety of reasons.
- For all these time the region was ignored now we have plans that look to integrate the hitherto neglected eastern part of the country. Once realized, it will correct for regional imbalances, broad-base the growth process and open up new economic opportunities—and presumably more jobs.
- Not only is this good economics, it is also good politics.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss the considerable hurdles and limitations encountered in carrying forward India’s ‘Look East’ through Northeast.
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