In a stunning development, OUP, CUP and Taylor & Francis just withdrew their copyright law suit filed against Delhi University (and its photocopier, Rameshwari) 5 years ago.They indicated this to the Delhi high court in a short and succinct filing made this morning.This withdrawal brings to an end one of the most hotly contested IP battles ever, pitting as it did multinational publishers against academics and students. The law suit was filed as far back as 2012 and it dragged on for 5 long years.
Leading publishers sue Delhi University (DU) and Rameshwari for copyright infringement in 2012. Alleging that the creation and distribution of course packs containing excerpted copyright content violates copyrights in several of their books.Delhi high court immediately grants interim injunction in favour of publishers, preventing DU and Rameshwari from photocopying and creating/distributing course-packs.A society of students (ASEAK) and academics (SPEAK) intervene in the dispute and are heard by the court.The Delhi high court hears the main matter on merits and rules in favour of DU and students, holding that the photocopying for the purpose of creating educational course packs falls within the bounds of the educational exception in the Indian copyright act (section 52(1)(i)).
Publishers appeal to the division bench
Publishers appeal to the division bench of the Delhi high court. While taking issue with some of the findings of the trial judge, the division bench nonetheless upholds the ultimate finding that the photocopying is covered under the terms of the educational exception contained in section 52(1)(i) of India’s Copyright Act. The court however rules that each instance of photocopying has to be tested individually against the terms of section 52(1)(i) which mandates that copying has to be “in the course of educational instruction”.
Therefore, the Delhi Division bench remands the matter back to the single judge of Delhi (trial court) to decide whether each of the alleged instances of copyright fell within the bounds of the educational exceptional or not.IRRO (a collecting society of publishers) files an application to be impleaded in the Delhi trial court. Court refuses and the IRRO appeals to the division bench.Publishers file an application this morning asking that suit be withdrawn.
End of an Era/End of a Saga
But one that ultimately tested the bounds of copyright law in India. And clarified that while educational photocopying is permissible, there are limits to this as well. And that any copying must comport closely with the intended purpose (“in the course of instruction”). In that sense, publishers have made some gains in at least ensuring that a complete free for all regime is not what is intended by the law. But a circumspect one, where the copying has to fall within the bounds of the educational exception.
Overall, this is a huge victory for educational access and public interest in India. And very welcome in a world that was witnessing a rather one sided ratcheting up of IP norms, at the cost of all else. One hopes that the coming years will see a more progressive partnership between publishers and academics/students and the embracing of newer models of creation and content distribution, open access and the like.